I wish I would have understood the importance of proper nutrition when I was younger.  It took me over ten years to really figure this out!  It would have saved me a lot of time and effort when I was younger if I would have realized that the biggest changes in body fat come less from your workouts and more from the food you are eating.  Your nutrition is going to be the most important part of this program and the area I want you to spend the most time and effort on.  Training and cardio are important too, but they come second to nutrition, and I would argue a very far second.    I used to be a marathon runner and I could never understand why I was not losing weight even though I was running so many miles.  I thought I was eating healthy but never paid very close attention to the foods I was eating.  Once I took courses on nutrition and understood more about whole foods, meal timing, and macronutrients (healthy fats, lean protein, and complex carbs) I really started to see changes in my body.  I am going to share with you everything I know and practice myself when it comes to nutrition.  Here are some tips I want you to follow to help you stay on track with your nutrition:

Here is a general guideline for the types of foods you will be purchasing at the grocery store.  You want to aim for foods that are usually on the perimeter of the grocery store and that are as close to their natural source as possible.  When you look at the ingredient list, I typically try to stick with foods that have 5 or less ingredients (that is not a hard rule, some foods on this list have more than that, but it is a general guideline I go by).

As you can see from the grocery list linked at the bottom of this page, there is a huge variety of foods to choose from.  The key is to get creative in the kitchen.  A lot of my recipes are made by taking my favorite family recipes and “cleaning them up”.  I look at the regular recipes’ ingredients and compare it with the list below to see what I can omit and substitute from the list below to make it healthier.  This helps me keep the foods I like in my diet, but also helps to keep me in shape year-round.  During this program, you are going to have to cook and spend some time in the kitchen, but I promise you that once you start seeing results you will be happy with the decision to follow this plan.

Playing around with spices can help so much.  For example, I do not like ground turkey very much, but when I add Trader Joe’s taco seasoning to it, I could eat it every day!  Another example, I do not like how chicken breast tastes when it is baked, but I love how it tastes when it is grilled or broiled.  You are so much more likely to stay on track when you really enjoy the foods you are eating.  Eating healthy does not have to mean you have to eat boring foods every single day.  I would not lead you astray here.  I promise that if you spend a little bit of time getting creative in the kitchen and learn what seasonings and flavors you like, you are much more likely to stick with this way of eating long term.

You do not have to spend a fortune to eat healthy.  We do most of our grocery shopping at store like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and other local grocery stores.  When possible, we buy produce from local farmers markets too.  In this video here you can watch a video I made about how to shop healthy at Walmart.

out your meals for the day.  I recommend planning the next day’s meals out the night before.  Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it during the day.  Cooking your meat and carbs in bulk can save you a lot of time in the kitchen.  I almost always make large meals for dinner and use them for my lunch the next day so that I have a quick, easy, and healthy meal already cooked.

Write it out.  I have found that when I do not write out my plan, I am much less likely to stick to it.  Here are a few tricks that you can try: write your meals out on a simple piece of printer paper and tape it to the fridge, set alarms on your phone to go off and remind you of your next meal, or use a check mark system where you have a list of your meals and check them off throughout the day.

Sugar Cravings. Sugar cravings are a very real thing, especially if you are used to eating a lot of sugar.  Remind yourself that it takes ten days to create a habit, and so if you can commit and get really focused during these first few days, the sugar cravings will be a lot easier to handle when you are done.  Here are some things you can do to help you with sugar cravings: drink hot tea (I love Egyptian Licorice flavor from Yogi brand), use water flavor packets (I prefer True Lemon because they do not use artificial sweeteners), keep Quest Bars on hand (microwave one for 15 seconds and it tastes delicious), chew dessert flavored gum, eliminate temptations from your cupboards and make sure to stick to the attached grocery list when you go to the store.

Support System. Try to include your whole family in these changes. If you are making separate meals for everyone it can be much harder for you to stick with it.  If you have a spouse or kids who are reluctant to make healthy changes with you, here are some tips you can try:
-Make a few of the recipes on this program to show them how delicious healthy foods can taste.
-Start a “2-bite rule” where everyone in the family has to at least take two bites of everything on their plate.  If they do not like it, they do not have to eat it, but two bites are required.  If your kids are older they might give you a hard time on this one, but be adamant and persistent. Two bites never killed anyone.
-Try slowly adding vegetables into their foods.  You can add spinach to fruit smoothies and you cannot taste it at all (add blueberries to hide the green color if you need to). You can also easily blend bell peppers and squash into things like spaghetti sauce and soups.  Grated zucchini can be a great filler to add to hamburger patties or meatballs.
-Show your spouse the cost of eating out at restaurants and convenience store purchases and compare that to the lower cost of making your food at home.
-Sit down with your spouse and kids (if age appropriate) and watch the documentary Food, Inc and Food Matters. These are available on Netflix and PBS.org.

Small bites add up.  This one took me a while to really understand, and once I paid attention to this I started seeing results a lot quicker.  Things like: a handful of goldfish crackers, the remaining parts of your kids’ PB&J sandwich or adding even a little more than one serving of peanut butter to your protein shake can each add 100-200 calories at a time.  This might not seem like a lot, but if you are having little bites and nibbles often throughout the day it can certainly impact your progress.

On The Go. If you need to, keep a ‘healthy food secret stash’ in the glove box of your car.  This really helps me to avoid fast food and convenience store purchases.  I like keeping things like: almonds, Quest bars, mini rice cakes, and water bottles.  Here is a video I made showing you what I keep in my own car.

Water. It is crucial that you are getting enough water in each day.  I aim for a gallon, but at a minimum you need to get at least half your body weight in ounces.  So, for example, if you weigh 150 lbs you need a minimum 75 ounces of water, and up to a gallon (which is 128 ounces).  If this is challenging for you, I suggest using True Lemon to add to your water or squeezing fresh lime and lemon juice in your water.

Reading Food Labels. When I was first trying to lose weight, I started to get in the habit of reading ingredient lists before I put any item in my shopping cart. If what you are buying comes in a package, turn it over and check out the ingredient list before you decide to purchase it. If there is a long list of ingredients, particularly ingredients that you are not familiar with or cannot pronounce, I try to stay away from those items. Foods marketed towards kids are particularly guilty of this. Marketing companies are really smart, just because the packaging makes it look healthy does not mean it always is good for you (or your kids).

Make sure you are using the grocery lists provide here when you go to the grocery store: http://nataliehodson.com/grocery-list/