Eat the rainbow
You don’t need complex advice – just the knowledge of a five-year-old. “When it comes to fruit and veg the goal is ‘eat the rainbow’,” says Brian St Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition (opens in new tab). “Many of the benefits of vegetables come from their phytonutrient content, which is what gives the veggies their array of colours. To maximise the various benefits of the different phytonutrients, it’s best to try to get a mix of coloured vegetables daily (or at least weekly). For green, think asparagus, broccoli, spinach and kale, for red peppers, tomatoes and onion.” Yes, you should be ordering aubergine and radishes too.
Look at food as a spectrum
Forget about cutting out whole groups of foods, even the ones you think of as unhealthy. “Instead of classifying foods as good or bad, view food on a continuum from better to worse, or from ‘Eat more’ to ‘Eat some’ to ‘Eat less’,” says St Pierre. “Then aim to get 80-90% of your foods from those first two categories, with 10-20% of your foods from the ‘Eat less’ category. This way, you still get to enjoy some indulgences without worrying about it having a negative impact on your health or body composition – and you can eat well consistently for the long term, rather than perfectly for a week and then terribly for a week or two.”
Portion sizes are in your hands
No elaborate weighing and measuring required – you already have what you need to measure appropriate portions. “Your palm size automatically adjusts for whether you’re bigger or smaller,” says St Pierre. “A guy should eat two palm-sized portions of protein at each meal, two thumb-sized portions of fat, two fists of veggies and two cupped handfuls of carbs. Remember, though, this is supposed to be a flexible approach – so adjust as necessary.”
Eat slowly until you’re satisfied
Something this easy sounds like it should come with a catch. It doesn’t. “Eating slowly allows you to do many things,” says St Pierre. “You get to savour and enjoy your meal, plus you end up drinking more water so you are better hydrated. It can improve digestion and allow you to feel full with less food during meals, as well as help you eat less at subsequent meals. It does this by allowing you to notice when you’ve eaten enough to satisfy your hunger, because you’ve given your body and brain time to assimilate the incoming info from your mouth, stomach and intestines about what and how much you’ve eaten – which takes at least 20 minutes.”
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Eat 5-8 portions of protein daily
It’s the simplest way to get results. ‘Protein is the single most beneficial macronutrient for body composition, performance and health,” says St Pierre. “This is because protein helps to keep us full, making it much easier to eat fewer calories without increasing hunger – managing hunger is one of the hardest parts about losing weight. Protein also helps us keep our muscle when losing weight, ensuring we are maximising the loss of body fat. And it requires more calories to be burned to digest protein than either carbs or fats.”
Expand your food prep skills
“Teach yourself to cook a few forms of protein, a few forms of vegetable and a few ‘smart’ carbs – for instance, squash, sweet potatoes and chickpeas,” says St Pierre. Then learn a few flavour profiles. “For instance, for Italian-style cookery you’d add oregano, basil, capers or fennel to your dishes, while French cookery often includes tarragon, thyme or rosemary. It’s easy to make healthy, tasty and varied meals, and you can mix and match ingredients however you choose.”
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