Food Priorities & Meal Construction
Nothing has made me more acutely aware of the changes made between the beginning of 2013 and now than scrolling through everyone’s social media posts. On January 1st, I saw SO many “getting back on track” meals and “super healthy” snacks while I sat and munched on some post-workout peanut brittle (it’s a thing). There seemed to be lots of juice cleanses (that’s another post for another day but suffice it to say, not a fan), “detoxes”, and other huge sweeping changes made to signify starting anew. I’m all for a nutritional “reset” if you’re able to do so without obsessing, feeling like shit about yourself, or restricting yourself into willpower exhaustion. I’ve done it - it was a huge learning experience and I learned lots of things that I probably wouldn’t have figured out without going through such a process.
BUT, this isn’t a post about detoxes vs. other methods, the ridiculous media coverage and focus on “losing weight” or anything like that. Rather, all of this attention being paid to eating has simply made me think about the way I construct my meals and how I eat. It also means I get an increase in questions on how I eat for my particular goals (getting strong, staying the same weight or close to it, and not being super lean) so I thought I would share how I approach constructing my meals - it may work for you, it may not, but it’s just simply what I’ve found has worked for me. In particular, I've gotten a few questions about how to up protein intake throughout the day and this approach definitely worked for me!
I don’t base what I eat around a list of “can” and “cannots” - I simply eat what makes me feel good most of the time, avoid the things that make me feel less than stellar, and indulge when I want to and without guilt (again, that’s a different topic). I eat according to
1.) what makes me feel good
2.) what I like to eat
3.) what helps me reach my goals - the categories or topics aren’t mutually exclusive and often times, they are all the same things .
Here is my basic process for constructing what I’m going to eat (note: I don’t really actively think about this, it just sort of happens):
1. Post-training meal or not? I tend to load the majority of my carbs directly after my workout so if I’m working out in the morning and need to pack food, it’s going to be very carb heavy and lower in fat.
2. Protein: I prioritize protein every time I eat something - I pick my protein source based on what I have (I usually make several to have throughout the week) and build my meal around that. I aim for about 30g per meal (about 170g-200g per day) so protein makes up the majority of my plate.
3. Fats: I struggle to eat ENOUGH calories and my recovery is noticeably awful when I don’t get enough fat. I usually keep it simple with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, cheese, coconut, or avocado.
4. Veggies: After deciding on the protein and fat, I decided on a few veggies. I do NOT tolerate a ton of veggies well so I don’t eat a ton of them. Eating veggies is important but frankly, they aren’t exactly calorie dense. It’s going to be difficult to get the calories you need by only shoveling broccoli in your face all day.
As I’ve mentioned before, I keep it relatively simply with food. I usually make a bunch of food on Sunday (more about my meal planning & prep here) and simply combine whatever I’m in the mood to eat. Overall, this method of “constructing” works well for how I eat (paleo-ish if it fits your macros approach) and in talking with others, focusing on making meals this way has been helping for those trying to up their protein intake and add some good calories to their day.
Questions? Give em to me!