Nutrition is a super important part of having a healthy lifestyle. I’m going to keep this as simple and as easy as it can be. Make modifications according to allergies and doctor recommendations. At the bottom of the page, I will give you a handful of recipes to try.
A healthy lifestyle is made up of exercise and a healthy diet. Diet simply refers to what you regularly eat. If your diet is primarily fast food, we can assess that it’s a low quality diet. If you’re making your own food at home, then perhaps it’s of a better quality but we have to dig deeper. The goal is to move you away from eating food from restaurants (just for right now) and eating food that you make yourself. The reason for this is control. Control what you’re eating. Control what you’re making.
At this point, you should assess your kitchen if you haven't done so already. Get rid of all the junk food, all the sugar, white flour, etc. This kitchen purge is going to help you so much. I feel like I need to emphasize that again: this kitchen purge is going to help you so much! After the kitchen purge, you need to restock your kitchen. Read on and be smart with your purchases.
NOTE: If you have any questions about nutrition, take note of what you eat for a week and see a nutritionist.
Before we really get into all the details on nutrition, let’s talk about what we DO NOT want to be eating. The basic elimination items are: sugar, processed food, refined food, artificial foods, and most dairy. These are the big 5 problem items. If you start by eliminating these, you’ll be on the right track.
Sugar is one of the biggest monsters for food eliminations because it can just feel like it’s in every damn thing. Our bodies do need a certain amount of sugars to break down into glucose, store as glycogen, and used for energy and muscle contractions, etc. We tend to get these sugars from fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, NOT from sugar cane or honey or any other sweeteners. When we consume sugar it affects our insulin levels, our bodies may not know what to do with the excess sugar and end up storing it as fat, and it generally indicates low fiber content. We want fiber because it slows digestion time, provides bulk to our foods, and assists in waste elimination (pooping).
Processed foods are any food item that comes in a package, contain a long ingredient list, and the nutrients are usually artificial or refined. Fruit, vegetables, meat, whole grains, legumes don’t require a long ingredient list and should not be artificial or refined. They may come in a bag or a container to keep it all together. Imagine if a bag of dry beans didn’t come in a bag. That bag of lentils should only contain lentils. The 1lb of shrimp you picked up at the meat counter should only contain shrimp. If it comes in a package, contains a long ingredient list, and it’s full of artificial or processed foods - JUST SAY NO.
Refined foods are foods that have been through the manufacturing process and lack their original content. The biggest culprits of refined food are white flour, white sugar, table salt, white rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, corn oil, corn syrups, and cornmeal. Make sure you read labels because these are found in a lot of products out there. These items will make you pack on the fat and provide very little to your daily nutrients.
Artificial foods, as you may surmise, are food items that don’t occur naturally. Artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and high-fructose corn syrup are just some of the biggest culprits out there. People have a lot of adverse reactions to artificial foods and they don’t even realize it. These fake food items are only there to add a fake flavor or color, trick your body into enjoying the food more (MSG does this), and add shelf-life. There is generally no nutritional value to anything artificial.
Most dairy should be avoided. I say “most” because there is some acceptable dairy. I don’t like that eggs are considered a dairy item because I think they should be a meat item, but regardless to my thoughts they are an acceptable dairy item. They contain a good amount of protein and fat, and they have healthy cholesterol (which helps lower bad cholesterol). The dairy I’m speaking of, to be avoided, contains lactose. Lactose is a sugar that can promote inflammation and it can spike blood sugar levels. Milk, especially, is very processed. Milk, cream, cheese, cream cheese is all very processed and is not the best source for calcium. There are a few exceptions that you can have occasionally, like once a week, and that would be plain Greek yogurt (for the probiotics) and hard cheese like parmesan and asiago. Definitely eat eggs. You can get better calcium sources from leafy greens, almonds, seeds, beans, and fatty fish. You can also take a probiotic supplement, a calcium supplement, and just eliminate cheese altogether. A lot of results are seen when people cut out dairy (but keep the eggs).
This book constantly refers to macros, but what are they? Macros refer to the macronutrients within food, primarily carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The average dietary breakdown is 55% carbs, 20% fat, and 25% protein. If you are using a tracker, you can plug this in and it should automatically generate some numbers for you. If you’re doing this by hand, then we have a little bit of math to do.
Caloric Intake for Loss
Carbs g = (BMR - 200) x 0.55
Fat g = (BMR - 200) x 0.2
Protein g = (BMR - 200) x 0.25
Caloric Intake to Maintain
Carbs g = BMR x 0.55
Fat g = BMR x 0.2
Protein g = BMR x 0.25
These are the numbers you should aim for to stay in a healthy range for weightloss. This is why we want to track our food. We want to remain aware of what we’re eating and if we need to figure out how to fill certain macro voids. If you’re planning on changing your dietary habits (e.g. Vegetarian, paleo, keto, vegan, whole30, south beach, etc), adjust your percentages accordingly. I recommend getting a book that outlines your chosen specialty diet so you have more information (including macro breakdown), more recipes, and you understand how to eat.
One thing I want you to do is start reading the nutritional value label and ingredients. What is in your food? What’s the value of the food (macros, calories, etc)? Are there hidden ingredients in your food that you were not expecting?
A calorie is the amount of energy it takes to burn the food in a single serving. One reason why we want nutrient dense food is because it tends to have lower calories while providing cleaner fuel for our body, making us feel full. We look to superfoods and healthy fats for nutrient dense food sources.
When looking at the nutritional value label, you’ll find carbohydrates, fats, and proteins listed. What are these macronutrients? Carbohydrates are made up of sugars, starches, and fiber that gets broken down into glucose, within the body, and provides energy. You can get plenty of good carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Bad carbs are found in refined, processed foods. It boils down to choosing nutrient dense food sources. Fats come in a few different varieties and provide the body with energy. Fat comes listed as saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and trans fat. Trans fats are considered to be unhealthy because it can raise your bad cholesterol levels. This type of fat is found in fried food, processed meats, chips, canned frosting, crackers, and frozen junk food (pizza, pie, etc). Saturated fat tends to contain natural MCT oil and can be found in coconut oil, red meat, poultry, and dairy. You can have this, but eat in moderation. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered the healthiest fats because they can help lower your bad cholesterol. Check the list of healthy fats in the next section. Proteins are essential for building and maintaining muscle, tissues, blood, skin, creating essential enzymes, and controlling hormone production. Proteins can be found in meat, dairy, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and some vegetables.
Superfoods & Healthy Fats
You have probably heard the terms “superfood” and “healthy fats” get thrown around within the last 20 years. Superfoods are foods that are nutritionally dense and are considered super healthy. Healthy Fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats that help with heart health, lowers bad cholesterol, and can even help lower blood pressure. Should you be eating these things? Yes! These are common foods. The best way to consume them is to prepare them yourself.
I want to give a shout out to one saturated fat - coconut oil. This is considered to be a healthy fat in moderation because of the natural MCT oil contained within. MCT is medium-chain triglycerides and can help with weight management. The following is a list of some superfoods, followed by a list of healthy fats.
Nuts & Nut Butter
Plain Greek Yogurt
Peanuts & Peanut Butter
Dark Chocolate (70% or more)
Coconut Oil (saturated fat)
Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
Nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia, hazelnuts)
Peanuts & Peanut Butter
Fatty Fish (salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines)
As you might have noticed, these are all fairly raw with the exception of a few things like nut butter, peanut butter, and plain Greek yogurt. The superfoods may contain natural sugars, but are not packed with sugar. Once food becomes processed, fillers and additives are added, sugar is added, and the nutritional value starts to decline.
Perhaps you’re starting to get some ideas on what foods you should be getting at the grocery store. I want you to try different types of vegetables. I want you to try making something that you’ve never made before. This is how we expand our knowledge and skill sets. Just because you want to eat healthy does not mean the food is going to suck. In fact, it can be quite tasty.
Water is essential for humans. Everything in the body requires water. Your healthy lifestyle journey needs to include an increase of water. This is going to improve brain function, flushing the body of toxins and waste, improve the skin, and help hydrate you. The general rule of thumb with water is 0.5 oz to 1.0 oz per pound. If you weigh 200 lbs, then 200 x 0.5 = 100 and 200 x 1.0 = 200. Your water intake needs to be 100 - 200 oz a day.
Some people claim that they don’t like water. It doesn’t matter, you need it. If you need to tweak the taste, you can pick up MIO or some other water additive that you can add to your water. Start out by aiming for your low water intake number.
Drink your water!
When making changes it’s important to start from the ground up. Limit yourself to black coffee (no sugar or cream), hot tea, regular water, and sparkling water. No soda, no juice, and nothing made from a powder mix. It’s best to eliminate all alcohol, but if you want a drink then you can have a glass of wine a week or one pint of beer a week.
Types of Healthy Diets
Not all diets are created equally. Some diets are altered due to food allergies. Some diets are altered due to body intolerance like lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance. It shouldn’t be surprising that some people do better on vegetarian diets, while others do better on paleo or just regular clean eating. Remember that the word diet simply refers to the average foods one consumes.
These diets all have their different scopes, benefits, and macro ratios. We will cover general clean eating, paleo, keto, vegetarian, low carb diets, and Mediterranean. If you are interested in any one of these particular diet types there is plenty of reading material out there. Do some further reading to find out if it’s something you would like to pursue. Make sure you ask yourself if it’s sustainable for you because you don’t need to waste your time with a temporary fix.
General Clean Eating
General clean eating is an all-inclusive way of eating, meaning you get all your food groups available to you. What you eliminate are processed foods, refined foods, and artificial foods. There is an emphasis on lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and veggies, and healthy fats. These things are considered “clean” since they aren’t processed or refined or artificial. The macro breakdown is 55% carbs, 20% fat, and 25% protein.
Clean eating is supposed to increase your metabolism, improve digestion, result in weight loss, and also has a beautification factor. It can help lower blood pressure, regulate the immune system, lower cholesterol, and can help manage type 2 diabetes. This diet is highly regarded since it is sustainable for most people.
Paleo is a popular type of low carb, high protein diet. It is a slightly restrictive diet. What you eliminate are grains, legumes, starches, sugars, and most dairy; you also get rid of processed foods, refined foods, and artificial foods. This may seem like a lot, but you can still get all your carbs through fruits and veggies. The macro breakdown is 35% protein (high), 40% fat, and 25% carbs.
Paleo is great for those with a thyroid condition, chronic illnesses, autoimmune disease, pre-diabetic or diabetic, and those requiring a low inflammation diet. It is considered a specialty diet because it’s not sustainable for everyone. It is very beneficial and sustainable for those with the mentioned health conditions.
Low Carb Diets
There are other low carb diets besides paleo with some slight variations such as Atkin’s, South Beach, Whole30, Dukan, and even two of the following diet types - Keto and Mediterranean. It’s best to read about these if you want to look into the wide variety of low carb diets available. There is plenty of information available at the bookstore and through online sources.
Mediterranean is a type of low carb diet that is based around diets from the Mediterranean region of the world. It is somewhat restrictive. Red meat is not eaten often. Avoided foods are sugar, refined oils, refined grains, processed meats, and processed foods. The macro breakdown is 30% protein, 50% carbs, and 20% fats.
It’s been shown that Mediterranean diets can help reduce strokes, improve heart health, prevent type 2 diabetes, and can cause weight loss. This diet is highly regarded since it is sustainable for most people
Keto has picked up over the last few years and a trendy diet to try. It is a restrictive diet. What you eliminate are sugar, grains, root tubers, most fruit, legumes, processed foods, unhealthy fats, alcohol, refined foods, and artificial foods. The goal is to put your body into a state of ketosis. The macro breakdown is 65% fat (high), 25% protein, and 10% carbs.
Keto is very sustainable for people with epilepsy. It can also help people who are pre-diabetic or diabetic, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. This is a specialty diet since it is not sustainable for everyone and is often used short-term by people for weight loss benefits.
A vegetarian diet eliminates meat from your diet. It can allow for eggs or fish and seafood. Typically the protein you would normally get from meat is received from legumes, nuts, and seeds. The extreme form of this is veganism, which removes all animal products from the diet like gelatin, dairy, etc. The macro breakdown is 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat.
Vegetarianism can help reduce cardiovascular disease, reduce cancer risks, reduce pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and result in increased metabolism. This diet is highly regarded since it is sustainable for most people.
Meal prepping is a great way to take care of your meals. If you find a few meals that fit within your macros, you can make a few servings ahead of time, place them into reusable containers (or use divided meal prep containers), and pull them out as needed. I like to meal prep my dinners because after working out, I really don’t want to spend time cooking.
The best time to meal prep, if you decide to do so, is on a weekend. This is generally when you have more available time. If you want to pick up meal prep containers, you can find them in any kitchen supply aisle where you would find Gladware, Ziploc containers, or the like. They are usually containers with 2 or 3 dividers. They are usually very affordable.
Cheat Days, Replacement Foods, & Holidays
Some diet plans give people a cheat day. This is NOT one of them. You’re making a lifestyle change, not a temporary one. For the first two months, absolutely be 100% strict with this new change. Those first two months are going to start laying the foundation for good habits. After that you need to be 99.9% strict with your new lifestyle changes. I want you to stay with everything and be adamant about what you’re eating, but if you decided to switch your plain Greek yogurt for strawberry Greek yogurt (which has more sugar in it) that’s okay if it’s infrequent. If you want to have that one after dinner mint because you have some nasty garlic breath, okay. Just don’t let it become a regular thing.
I know people who have tried diets that include cheat days. Atkins is a popular diet that includes cheat days, in case you’re wondering. The problem with cheat days is that so many people get hyper-focused on that one day, like it’s something magical. They want to cram in so much crappy food in that one day. The people I know who have a planned cheat day tend to hyper-focus on it, tend to put the weight back on after they reach whatever goal they have. They might hit a certain pant size or a certain weight on the scale and they stop. They stop everything and they start gaining the weight back. They don’t hold themselves accountable for the food they consume or the sudden lack of exercise.
Instead, if you go out to a restaurant, try to make the best decision possible. It’s more like making the best of a bad situation. Perhaps you allow yourself to have a fatty piece of meat or you have a little processed cheese or something. Enjoy it for that meal, but don’t allow it to become your norm. If you can manage it, just tell the waiter “I can’t have that”. That’s a totally acceptable thing to do.
Another issue to address is food replacements. If you decide to not eat any grains, perhaps you’re trying the paleo diet, then accept that you’re going to be limited with any bread-like foods, pasta, breakfast cereals, etc. Some people can’t wrap their minds around not having sugar. You don’t have to replace those foods. You can and there is a healthy way to do it, but don’t go nuts.
I’m bringing this up because I have family members who absolutely go nuts with food replacements regardless if they ever plan on using the products or not. Don’t be crazy like that. There are some food replacements out there that you should avoid - like 0 calorie mushroom noodles which have no real purpose. You are allowed to eliminate foods from your diet. People with food allergies do it all the time.
If you want some basic healthy food replacements, here is my short list.
Instead of This
Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini (Spiralized)
Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Coconut Milk, Cashew Milk, Soy Milk, or Some Other Non-dairy Milk
Raw Honey, Splenda, Stevia
Almond Flour, Bob Redmill’s Paleo Flour
Homemade Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Homemade Veggie Tots
Natural Sea Salt, Himalayan Salt
Butter, Ghee, Coconut Oil
Holidays (including birthdays) are a big culprit of derailing people trying to change their dietary habits. Don’t let the whole day be a free pass. Instead you can let yourself have “a little extra” during the main holiday meal. If you have a slice of cake on your birthday, that’s fine. Don’t eat the whole cake and make sure your lunch or dinner is something you can have.
When I first started my own journey, I started the day before my birthday. Guess what? I didn’t have cake or pie or anything like that. I wasn’t supposed to and I stuck to it. Four days after that I didn’t have cake or anything when my sister’s birthday rolled around. It was odd, but I was proud of myself for being steadfast. When the big holidays roll around (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) I try to have a healthy dinner, but I allow myself to indulge in a slice of pie or cake. I might even have two slices. I don’t often allow myself these indulgences, so I’m not really worried about falling off the wagon. My family is sizable, so when we have a big family holiday dinner I make sure that I bring some kind of appetizer that I can eat. This helps me stay on track while still participating.
Vitamins, Supplements, & Fancy Powders
As you begin your journey it is wise to start taking a multivitamin, but not obligatory. If you’re interested in taking vitamins or supplements, I recommend asking your doctor first. Many people aren’t sure what the difference is. Vitamins are essential for the body to operate and we usually get them from food, but sometimes we are still lacking which is why we take multivitamins or individual vitamins. If you get the comprehensive wellness blood test, you’ll be able to have a better idea of which vitamins you may need.
Vitamin A - Helps with vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell function, and immune system.
The B Vitamins (8 of them) - The B vitamins are energy powerhouses and also help form red blood cells.
Vitamin C - Important for skin, bones, and connective tissues. It also promotes healing and the absorption of iron.
Vitamin D - A main building block for bones. Helps the body absorb calcium. It’s important for development of your nerves, muscles, and immune system.
Vitamin E - Boosts your immune system and metabolic process.
Vitamin K - Helps your body make proteins for healthy bones and connective tissues. It also makes proteins for blood clotting.
Supplements are non-essential, but can be beneficial such as natural energy boosters, natural internal deodorizers, increased brain function, better skin, reducing stress, etc. There are a wide range of supplements out there and it’s important to do your research. If you’re taking any medications, you need to make sure there aren’t any conflicts. It’s okay to avoid supplements if you’re not comfortable with them.
Fancy powders, when you’re starting out, should be avoided. When I say “fancy powders” I’m talking about protein powders, pre-workout powders, post-workout powders, and other specialty powders that you’re going to find at your local GNC. If you want a fancy powder, you can use a supergreen powder for use with green smoothies.
When it comes down to exchanging unhealthy habits for healthy ones, snacks can really throw you for a loop. The best plan for snacks is to have a game plan. You should put some serious thought into what you can and cannot have for a snack and how often you’re going to allow yourself to snack.
There are a few reasons why we snack.
Dehydration - If you are dehydrated, sometimes your stomach and brain don’t interpret it as a need for water. Instead, you might reach for a snack and not feel satiated after you consume it.
Habit - You might have trained yourself over the years to snack when you do a certain thing like watch TV or play video games or when you’re on the computer or even when you’re bored. You may not even realize how often you snack during these times - a good reason to begin tracking what you consume.
Low in a Macro - It is possible that your macros are off-kilter and your body may be needing more of something. If you eat a lot of fried food or processed food or sugar, you probably have a high carbohydrate intake. You may be needing more healthy fats and/or proteins.
Pleasure or Social - We snack at social events and for pleasure. This may be trying some new appetizer at a holiday party, popcorn at the movies, chips and dip during a game night, or waiting all year for that special holiday something like a pumpkin spice latte.
Hunger - You might be legitimately hungry, but most of the time this actually tends to be the last reason for snacking. Typically, we snack for one of the other reasons more often than this reason.
It’s for these 5 reasons that we need to plan our snacking. You can snack, if you’re smart about it. There are ways to reduce snacking. These are going to be very simple and very effective ways to deal with over-snacking.
Reduce your snacking with these smart tricks:
Pot of Tea - You can make yourself a pot of tea. I suggest picking up a 32oz French press and a variety of loose leaf teas. This gives you a delicious pot of tea and it hydrates you. There are a ton of online resources for loose leaf tea (so much better than bagged) like Adagio Tea or the Literary Tea Company or David’s Tea or even through Amazon. Green tea varieties, herbal teas, and yerba mate can count towards your water intake for the day!
Dark Chocolate - You can allot yourself 1 square of dark chocolate each day. The dark chocolate should be 70% or more. This is great for after dinner.
Limit Eating Hours - You can limit your window of eating. If you typically eat dinner at 6pm, perhaps your time frame ends at 7pm You can have beverages after that time, but no food. This can also help with digestion because you give your body time to actively digest what you have consumed. When you go to sleep, your body wants to slow the metabolism. You disrupt this natural process when you eat right before bed. Limiting your eating hours to at least 2 hours before you go to bed can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Choice Snacking Times - Pay attention to yourself and take note of when you desperately want a snack. Perhaps you always want a mid-morning snack and a snack right after you get home from school or work. Those would be your choice snacking times. Find a snack that you can have during those times that will fit your macros and satiate your hunger.
Certain Cravings - There are certain cravings that actually indicate a need for other things. If you crave chocolate, you may be in need of magnesium, so try nuts, seeds, veggies, or fruits. If bread/pasta/carbs are what you’re craving, you may need nitrogen, so reach for something high in protein. If you crave something oily, you may need calcium, reach for dairy or green leafy veggies. If you crave something salty, you may need chloride or silicon, reach for fatty fish, goat milk, nuts, or seeds. If you crave something sweet, you may need chromium or carbon or phosphorus or sulphur or tryptophan, so reach for a lean protein or a cruciferous veggie or berries or an apple. These swaps will work if you can nail down what you’re actually craving. This isn’t for the indecisive snacker.
At this point, you may be asking yourself what can you have for a snack? Can you eat anything fun? This is why planning is key. Be aware of your macros, even when you snack. To help you come up with some ideas, below is a list full of possible snacks to satisfy your hunger.
100-calorie pack Nuts
1 packet Nut Butter
100-calorie pack Peanuts
1 square Dark Chocolate 70% or higher
Lean Meat Stick
Lean Cold Cuts
Hard Boiled Egg
Simple Mills Bar (grain free)
Goth food isn't totally a thing, or at least it hasn't really been explored in great detail. The majority of this is trendy black food items and stuff that doubles as Halloween party food. What I would start considering "goth food" is naturally black food (squid ink, black seeds, etc), dark red fruits and veggies, purple fruits and veggies, meat with exposed bone...stuff like that. Does it have to always look like a skull or have a spiderweb on it or be bat shaped? No. That's a nice thing for parties, but for everyday food it's a little much.
Stay away from activated charcoal as a black coloring. If you take medication or vitamins, it will absorb that and clear it from your body. It's fine as a novelty item, but don't consume it regularly.
There are a lot of gothic gardeners out there. If you are one of them, perhaps you can grow a goth salad bowl or something. Some quick growing salad plants are: Devil's Ear Lettuce, Aurora Orach, Merlot Lettuce, Orchid Cream Nasturtium, Tete Noire Cabbage, Black Nebula Carrot, Black Spanish Radish, and Red Beauty Radish.
Below are a few healthy, kind of goth recipes (not the eggs or the meal prep, but you get it).
I do want to give a shout out to: