Let’s face it. . .
for most guys going to the grocery store is a nightmare. With endless aisles and shelves of foods we can barely pronounce combined with labels touting products as “natural” and “healthy”, the entire experience can be stressful for some to downright traumatic for others.
Now consider the fact that you are single, with no significant other to brave this pilgrimage with you, and just calling to order a pizza becomes a much more appealing option.
But halt! That pizza may look delicious on the commercials between innings, and even though the Yankees scored 6 or more runs last night so that large two-topping you were eyeing is now 50% off today, there is a better way!
Falling into the trap of ordering take-out multiple times a week (or should I say multiple times a day?) can be a real quick way to cancel out all the hard work you’ve been putting in at the gym and seriously test out the weight capacity of your bathroom scale.
“But Coach Joe, we already talked about how terrifying going through grocery store hell can be, how can I pick between these two seemingly awful choices?”
Gentleman, I will reveal to you the secret to feeding yourself like the fully-grown adult that you are. We can even do so in a relatively pain-free yet healthy way. And I promise, attracting someone long enough to accompany us in this journey we call life is going to be a hell of a lot easier if we don’t have to conceal the beer belly we developed during the legendary “single days”.
So what is this ancient wisdom I have that will keep us healthy and happy, while still feeling and eating like a man?
The answer my friends, is in simplicity.
Just as we discussed earlier, the grocery store is overwhelming because of the sheer number of options. Like anything else in life when we are presented with too many options we respond in the least productive manner, doing nothing and resorting only to what we know and are comfortable with.
So we simplify.
We pare down all of these options to a select few basics that we can use to create a variety of foods that are not only nutritious, but also delicious.
In the following sections I will walk you through some key products that you will have on hand in your kitchen so when the Yankees do score 6 or more (and they certainly have been) and that pizza goes on sale, you can laugh it off and resort to these staples.
With the assumption in place that you are not some incredibly talented chef who makes gourmet meals regularly (and because my own cooking vocabulary and skill set is quite limited) we will be keeping everything here to the bare minimum. Like we said, the goal is simple.
Keeping that in mind, we have four things to focus on.
- Healthy Carbs
- Healthy Fats
If we can get a little bit of these at each meal, we are going to be far better off than if we were just guessing or if we settled for that greasy pizza.
By focusing on these four things, we can bypass the stress and math-related problems when it comes to calorie counting, macro counting, food weighing and measuring, and many other headaches that come along with weight control.
And although we will be measuring foods, the device we will be using will be with you no matter where you go. Rather than add stress to your life by telling you to weight out every single thing you eat and do the math to fit them into specific formulas at each meal, we are just going to use your hand to estimate portion sizes.
How It Works
By matching up our goals with the four main focuses we listed earlier, nutrition becomes much less of a homework assignment and can regress to being simply enjoying eating food.
Here is how to measure:
• Your palm will determine your protein portions
• Your fist will decide your veggie portions
• Your cupped hand determines your carb intake
• Your thumb determines your fat portions
And that’s it! No scales, no intricate math formulas, no silly Instagram hashtags proving how elite this style of eating is over everything else.
Just you, eating real food.
“But Coach Joe, how much of these things do I eat? Am I really limited to only eating things the size of my hand?”
Fear not, my friends.
The answer to both of these valid questions will again lead us back to our platform of simplicity.
All you need to survive in this new system of eating is the ability to count to two.
Based on our four main focuses from earlier, men will eat:
- Two palm-sized servings of protein
- Two fist-sized servings of vegetables
- Two cupped hand-sized servings of carbs
- Two thumb-sized servings of fats
Using these portion sizes is a fantastically simple starting point. If you are a bigger guy and want to lose weight, eat a little less.
If you are a little guy and want to gain weight, eat a little more.
Michael Pollan refers to what he calls the American paradox in his nutrition books, which is that “the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.”
So my solution to this is to stop worrying!
Follow this system, dial it in for your own personal needs, and we will eventually get to where we want to be.
What To Eat
“But Coach Joe, all of this makes sense but you still haven’t told us what to eat? The grocery store has 1000’s of options and I have no clue what I’m doing.”
Believe me I understand this thought. There are still times that I walk into a grocery store and cower in fear. But we must stick to our guns! Our plan is simple, and simple we shall stay.
Protein is going to be our main priority when it comes to measuring our meals. By consuming a sufficient amount of protein, we will be able to:
- Stay more full, for a longer period of time
- Burn calories simply by digesting it
- Recovery from workouts and repair/rebuild muscle
- Maintain muscle while in our body burns fat
And as far as where to get our protein from….Here is my top 5 list:
- Chicken – as easy to cook and super lean. A staple in every kitchen.
- Turkey – Similar to chicken in how lean it is, as well as cooks well into many different styles of cooking.
- Fish – Aim for wild caught if financially able. There are tons of healthy fats in many fish that most people are deficient in.
- Eggs – Eggs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that the human body thrives on. Just make sure to account for this in your fat intake as well.
- Beef – Red meat has run the gamut for whether it is healthy or horrible for you, but I’m here to tell you that in moderation it can be a great addition to a fit guys fridge. Plus who doesn’t love a good steak every now and then?
Bonus: For the vegetarians out there, there are definitely good protein sources for you as well! Aim to get plenty of beans, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds, and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, peas, and asparagus.
Veggies are our next priority on the list.
They are going to be your best friend when it comes to getting and staying full.
The best things about eating loads of veggies are that they:
- Take up a large amount of stomach space with few calories
- Are loaded with nutrients your body needs
- Are packed with fiber, which helps your digestive system stay healthy
- Can be easily packed and taken on the go as a snack or as part of a meal
There is absolutely no top 5 list needed for vegetables.
That is simply because I want you to eat as many as possible, as often as possible.
Some are naturally going to be higher in some vitamins and minerals and lower in others, so shoot for a variety.
I know many guys struggle to get vegetables into their diet for a number of different reasons, but there are plenty of ways to sneak them in and barely notice.
- Blend spinach or kale into a protein shake. The taste and texture aren’t noticeable and you still get the benefit.
- Load up your morning eggs with any vegetables you like! Veggies go great with breakfast and start your morning off on the right foot.
- Simply line a baking sheet with whatever veggies you enjoy and cover with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and you have cooked vegetables prepared for the whole week.
- Try to make veggie pasta! In many grocery stores you can buy a spiralizer and turn zucchini, squash, or asparagus into pasta that can replace those enormous calorie pasta dishes we all love.
- Load up sandwiches. I’m not a huge Subway fan but they have the right idea when it comes to loading up as many veggies as possible on a sandwich.
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap as of late in the world of nutrition myths and misinformation that we live in. I’ve written about it before and I’m going to write about it again now, carbs are not bad. They are not evil, unhealthy, the devil, harmful, or whatever other title they have been wrongly given.
Eating too many calories is bad, and that can come from carbs, but it can come from any source of nutrition. If you somehow managed to eat 5000 calories from vegetables you would most likely still gain weight.
However with carbs it usually isn’t the “healthy” carbs that are getting out of control for us, it is the “unhealthy” ones. Think of pizza, candy, baked goods, anything sugary, the list goes on and on. I’m not saying you can never eat these things, but when it comes to losing weight calories are king and it gets really easy to go overboard with those mentioned above.
So what do carbs do for us? Why do I need to eat them?
- They are our bodies preferred energy source, inside and outside of the gym
- They are our brains main fuel as well. Human brain’s use around 25% of the total energy in the body and up to 60% of the glucose.
- They allow the good bacteria in our intestines to thrive and help digest what we eat
- They help protect our lean muscle, because our body will use protein from our muscles if not enough energy is available
And as far as sources of good carbs?
- Sweet Potatoes – Loaded with complex carbs, fiber, and vitamins to allow your body to stay fuller longer. They are great after a workout to quickly refuel and kick you into recovery mode.
- Brown Rice – Definitely the cheapest source on this list, I recommend stocking up on giant bags of rice that will last for a long time. Rice is also loaded with fiber and long-lasting energy. Quinoa is a close cousin of rice that has a little higher protein as well.
- Oats/Oatmeal – Oats are amazingly easy to prepare and will keep you full for hours. You can combine them with almost anything to get whatever flavor your body is fiending for.
- Berries – Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, any of them! They are all loaded with vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants that your body most likely is lacking in.
- Bananas – One of my favorite foods to eat before a workout because of how quickly and easily digested they are. They are one of the best sources of potassium, which will help prevent cramping in an intense training session. The best part is that they are incredibly cheap and you can bring them with you anywhere.
Last but certainly not least are the healthy fats in our diet. For a long time fats also got a bad rap in the nutrition industry but I believe that myth has passed (hopefully?). Just as with carbohydrates, there are easy ways to get WAY too many fats in your diet without realizing it.
Many foods on the list of “unhealthy” fats also crossover to the unhealthy carbs list. Fried foods, baked goods, processed snacks, imitation butters and oils, among many others.
Our bodies need fats for many things, among them:
- Providing energy, fats are a great source of fuel for our body because they are so calorically dense
- Allowing proper absorption of many nutrients
- Helping to produce certain hormones
- Developing and preserving the brain over time
And what are some good sources of fats? My favorites are:
- Avocado – Including over 20 different vitamins and minerals. They have what is called monounsaturated fat in it, which has been linked to lowering cholesterol and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Nuts and Seeds – Another great source of monounsaturated fats, these foods also provide a substantial amount of fiber. Be careful however as these are easily overeaten, a serving size is about a small handful.
- Fatty Fish – The term omega-3 has made its way into the majority of people’s vocabularies but many could not tell you what it is. Without getting too into detail, our diets have become too rich in omega-6 fats (grains, red meats, processed foods) that we need more omega-3s to balance them out. Having a ratio that is too high in 6’s can result in inflammation, blood clotting, and increased risk of many life-threatening diseases.
- Peanut or Almond Butter – Who doesn’t love peanut butter? Unless you are among the unlucky who are allergic, almost everyone in the world can’t turn it down. Nut butter are a great source of potassium, as well as magnesium and some fiber. Again, another source to be careful of serving size because the calories can add up quick.
Where to Go From Here
So that’s it! It is time for you to go out and fly, little bird. Just like we talked about before, nutrition shouldn’t be such a complicated and scary venture. The more we can simplify things down the better.
Plan for your goals and body type, choose some different combinations here, and with a little consistency you will see some big results.
Take this knowledge, learn from others, and just eat.