What do you eat?
Ah, the question of all diet/health/fitness questions, and one I’m often asked. That’s this week’s Feel Fit February topic.
When I’m in a lean-and-muscular phase, friends and sometimes even strangers want to know how I train and what I eat. What I find funny is they always seem to expect some simple, easy answer. Let’s just nip that in the bud right this second.
IT TAKES DISCIPLINE, ASS-BUSTING WORKOUTS, AND SACRIFICE TO BE TONED AND MUSCULAR!
It’s not just what I eat or how I work out. It’s all of the above. Plus religious calorie counting.
And hey…this is a long post. Just warning you. Don’t try to read it on your phone while driving! Please come back, though, when you do have time.
My Food Philosophy
I used to think I was a healthy eater, until I read It Starts With Food (ISWF) and completed my first Whole30 in August 2012. Well, I did eat relatively healthy, but my choices were not made as consciously as they are now. Let’s just say eating salads for lunch (mindlessly)—after mornings fueled by coffee, Coffeemate, and copious amounts of Splenda—does not a healthy diet make.
I really love this quote from ISWF; it resonated greatly with me, and sums up my new food philosophy:
“The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.”
Before Whole30, I hardly ate refined carbs like bread and pasta, and after Whole30, that hasn’t changed. They don’t do much for me, and being first-generation Greek-American, I was raised on whole foods and a mostly-Mediterranean diet. My body actually craves lean protein and veggies; that’s what I ate as a kid.
But my consciousness, well, that is another story. I’m happy and proud to say I’m a more enlightened, conscientious eater because of Whole30, not only in terms of what I choose to eat, but in acknowledging the process through which the animals and plants I consume arrive at my table.
FOOD: Alive, then not. For me. And most of you.
Let’s talk about that for a minute. Consciousness.
It’s time for us as a society (in the U.S., especially) to wake up and realize that the food we think is “safe”—almost everything not labeled “organic” in the grocery store—is not the same food we were eating 30, 40 years ago. Not even the fresh produce. The amount of additives and preservatives (and pesticides) in nearly everything we eat is not only mind-boggling, it’s downright terrifying. I could write not just a whole post, but a whole blog on this subject. I don’t want to spend too much time on it here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say something.
Our food is making us sick. But it can also make us better.
For those of you who are vegans, vegetarians, and fully raw eaters, I commend you. In my heart, I desperately want to be a veggo/pescetarian, but my body. Needs. Meat. I did 30 days without it once, and I never felt so weak and tired and hungry. I swear, though, if I had to kill the animals I intended to consume, it would be a different story. I could fish, and have gutted and cooked my own catch. But deer, cows, pigs, chickens? I don’t think so.
Since watching Food, Inc., and reading It Starts With Food, I’ve made a commitment to purchase and eat only organic, pasture-rasied, humanely slaughtered meat, as well as eggs from pasture-raised chickens whenever possible. Now that I know the full impact factory farming has on animals and the environment, I will do anything I can to not support it.
As I continue sharing exactly what I do eat in this post, the only thing that really matters, that I hope you will take to heart, is this:
Eat whole, organic, non-GMO food as much as you can. Read labels. Eat as close to natural as possible.
A Typical Breakfast
Between 8:30am and 10:30am: I start every day with coffee with unsweetened almond milk and Vanilla Creme liquid stevia, and sometimes I have water with breakfast. I can’t drink water when I first wake up…it makes me nauseous. After I get some food in my stomach, I’m fine, and I pretty much only drink water with my meals.
The one thing I cannot live without is fresh, organic eggs. On rare occasion I’ll skip brekkie, but usually I have eggs with ham, turkey, spinach, or kale. Sometimes smoked salmon if I have it. I have two almost every day; I tend to throw leftover dinner items under my eggs in the morning. Try it! Eggs go with everything.
I’m very fortunate that on the days I’m in the office, our cafeteria offers made-to-order omelets. I have egg whites with spinach, onions, mushrooms, green pepper, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
I used to have this omelet with processed turkey, or turkey sausage, mozzarella cheese, and even salsa. During my first Whole30, I cut them (and the additives they contain) out and I never went back. I’m still just as full without them—and the horrible chemicals and extra calories.
When I’m craving pancakes (IHOP Harvest Grain ‘n’ Nut pancakes are the one grain-based food I do crave a few times a year!), I make paleo pancakes. Get ready, they’re going to change your life!
I first learned about protein pancakes from fellow #FeelFitFebruary cohort, Erika of Style Activist. She posted a recipe for Banana Protein Pancakes that I made and loved, but shortly after I made them the first time, I jumped into my second Whole30, and was looking for a pancake recipe that, just maybe, could also be Whole30-safe. I found a recipe for paleo pancakes on The Paleo Project and adapted it as follows. Even my husband is smitten with these protein-based pancakes, and whips them up like a champ!
- 5 eggs
- 3 bananas
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- Ghee (for pan)
Blend bananas, eggs, and almond butter in food processor or blender until slightly frothy. Brush teflon pancake skillet or pan with ghee. Pour batter on skillet over medium heat, brown on each side. Top with almond butter, fresh fruit (or agave nectar, or grassfed butter for non-Whole30 eaters).
The portions above will serve three-to-four people. For couples:
- 4 eggs
- 2 bananas
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
A Typical Lunch
Between 12pm and 3pm: 99% of the time, it’s a salad, either from Dean & Deluca, or put together in the cafeteria at work. If I’m having lunch at a restaurant, I always order a salad, which is usually a mixture of romaine and field greens, chicken or salmon, and some or all of the following ingredients: avocado, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, carrots, capers, onions, olives, walnuts, egg, bacon, or melon. Dressing is either only balsamic vinegar, or balsamic and olive oil.
I could eat a salad every day for the rest of my life and never ever get bored. I love the coolness of it, that you can eat loads of lettuce and it’s like 20 calories, and that I never feel heavy, tired, or guilty in a couple hours.
A Typical Dinner
Between 6:30pm and 8:00pm: I like to have lean protein in the form of baked or pan-seared fish, shrimp, pork, chicken, or beef. Accompanying my protein is usually a cooked fresh vegetable…I love greens of any sort with sautéed onion and/or mushrooms. Sometimes it’s asparagus, or zucchini and squash, or more rarely sweet potatoes (or Korean sweet potatoes) with cinnamon. If I don’t have a cooked vegetable, I’ll throw my protein into a salad and toss with olive oil and vinegar.
I also try to adhere to a no eating after 8pm rule during the week. Keeps me from snacking and provides a nice 12-hour fast. I usually go to sleep around 11:30pm or midnight, and tend to only need about seven hours. If I get peckish between dinner and lights out, I have herbal tea.
A Typical Weekend Splurge
I eat very healthy from Monday to Friday, but I do like to live a little. Sometimes I’m good at limiting splurges to one weekend day, sometimes (especially during the holidays), not so good. Ideally, according my my trainer, you should have a splurge meal, not an entire splurge day. I agree with that; I know I can do some serious caloric damage after an entire day of splurging. So during the week, I’m all paleo. I usually have a couple drinks with the hubs on the weekend, unless I’m on Whole30.
There is a local restaurant I adore; I’ve been there so often over the last three years that they know exactly what I like: two dirty martinis (with bleu cheese-stuffed olives) and the following salad. (Or my new favorite cocktail, vodka and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice). I so wish I could stick to paleo-perfect red wine, or even lighter white for happy hour, but since I discovered I have sulfite sensitivity, I can only drink wine if I pop an anti-histamine after. And then I still have an eczema attack. Not good, not pretty. Vodka is about the only alcoholic beverage that doesn’t bother me.
A wedge salad may not seem like much of a splurge, but for me it is. Since learning about Whole30, I’ve cut nearly all dairy from my diet. Not because it bothered me, but because it’s just extra calories and fat I really don’t need. I don’t buy cheese or yogurt for eating at home anymore; I only have it maybe once a week…a little feta on a salad while dining out; homemade creamy garlic/ranch dressing and bleu cheese on the wedge; a Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Latte.
Before I give you the lowdown on what I eat pre-workout, or when there are too many hours between meals, I need to preface this section with this: if you commit to Whole30 to the letter, you will not need or even want snacks after about the third or fourth day. Having a little good fat—like avocado, ghee, or olive oil—with your protein and veggies not only makes you feel full, it makes you feel fuller, longer than meals with carbs/starches/sugar. You really don’t need to snack.
I tend to go for snacks like these to tide me over:
- 1/2 avocado
- Organic Medjool dates
- Almonds or cashews
- Roasted, seasoned seaweed (OMG, new fave!)
- 2 tablespoons organic, fresh ground almond butter
- All natural turkey breast or roast beef
- Hard-boiled egg
- Apple with almond butter
- Baked apples
- Almond milk, banana, almond butter (or blueberry) smoothie
- GTs Raw Kombucha (Gingerade or Trilogy)
- Fresh vegetable juice (carrots, beets, ginger, celery)
Where are you on the food consciousness spectrum? What’s your food philosophy?