When I discuss nutrition with my clients, it often means being bombarded with over-complicated questions about specific nutrients, timing of meals, foods they “heard were bad”, and a host of other complex topics. There’s so much (mis)information out there about nutrition that it is often times overwhelming figuring out what to follow.
The advice I give to those clients?
Stop worrying about those things. Simplify your nutrition.
I wanted to share that same information with all of you, so I picked what I think are three of the most common and easiest adjustments you can make to your diet that will provide big results with little stress.
If you struggle with your nutrition, or particularly if you are just starting out on the path to good health and fitness, here is the best way to simplify your nutrition in three easy steps.
Let’s say it again. Drink water.
Do you drink soda? Juice? Sports drinks? Iced tea? Stop.
Just drink water.
A while back I wrote an article about why you need to stop drinking your calories (you can find it here) and why sticking to water is the best way to go.
The most important reason is that your body needs water for a litany of physiological processes. Without it, that same body will not function as efficiently as it’s supposed to.
“Sure, sure, but who cares? How does drinking water make me LOOK better?” Right. There’s that too.
Let me first point out that water contains exactly ZERO calories. Which means you can literally drink as much as you want and never have to waste one second worrying about it contributing to weight gain.
Drinking more water also has the tendency to make you feel less hungry, which means that you’re less likely to overeat throughout the day. Less overeating means less calorie consumption and therefore greater potential for weight loss.
Try this: Go buy a reusable water bottle. Fill it up. Drink three of those every day for the next five days. By the end of that period you’ll not only feel generally better, but you’ll also probably have picked up the habit of drinking water consistently throughout the day, which will help you stay away from those other high calorie beverages you’ve been downing.
Have you heard of the term “perimeter shopping”?
Picture your local grocery store in your mind. How is it laid out?
Typically grocery stores are just big boxes with a bunch of aisles filling the middle. But what’s on the outside of those aisles? What’s on the perimeter of the store?
Take a walk around. It likely starts with the produce. The fresh fruits and vegetables. Then maybe the fresh meat, poultry, and seafood. Then the dairy and eggs. All of these food products are almost always located on the perimeter of your grocery store.
Now are you catching on?
Perimeter shopping is simply buying the majority of your foods from the perimeter of your grocery store, because this is typically where the healthiest, most nutrient dense foods are found.
All that stuff in the center? Pop Tarts, potato chips, breakfast cereal. Avoid it. You’d be surprised how many meals you can create simply by perimeter shopping. If that’s not an easy way to simplify your nutrition I don’t know what is.
That’s not to say there’s NOTHING useful in those inner aisles. You’re going to have to venture in there to get things like whole grain bread or pasta products, nuts and seeds, beans, and canned vegetables. But for the most part, your cart should be full of whole, fresh, real foods that you find on the perimeter.
“Perimeter shopping is simply buying the majority of yours foods from the perimeter of the grocery store. This is typically where the healthiest, most nutrient dense foods are found.”
Avoid added sugar
If there’s one tip that gets into the actual specific ingredients in your food and what you should be staying away from it’s this: avoid added sugar.
It’s hiding everywhere.
Next time you go shopping, take a good look at the nutritional labels on the foods you buy and see if you can spot the sugar. It might surprise you how much is in the foods you eat every day.
Yogurt? 11 grams per container. Fiber One bar? 10 grams per bar. Ketchup? 4 grams per TABLESPOON (keep convincing yourself that you only use 1 tablespoon of ketchup).
And that’s not even counting all the foods that you KNOW are loaded with sugar but eat anyway.
An increase in the amount of sugar people eat is believed to be one of the major causes of the obesity epidemic in the modernized world. And chances are pretty damn good that if you’re reading this you definitely do NOT want to be doing things that contribute to obesity (which also often results in wonderful things like diabetes and heart disease).
A little sugar from fruits or low-fat dairy products is fine (don’t avoid those things just because they contain sugar). But you can simplify by avoiding processed, packaged foods with added sugar.
So there you have it. The best way to simplify your nutrition in three easy steps.
If you’re overwhelmed trying to decipher what your next nutritional step should be, try implementing these three things first before you worry about all the other information out there. Chances are as long as you’re staying consistent with your exercise, you’re going to make some progress just by making these small adjustments.
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