I recently had a very interesting conversation with a friend around his diet. He felt like overall his diet was pretty good, but he couldn’t articulate why he felt that way. I got curious (I am always curious) and after doing a bit more digging he came to the conclusion that he actually had no idea on what basis he could evaluate his diet.
Clearly, it’s tough to know how to improve if we don’t even know how we are currently doing! I pondered the question a little more and put together 6 criteria on which to evaluate your diet. You can use them as a way to get a sense of where you stand and what you might benefit from working on.
These are just a starting point; there are obviously many other topics I could have delved into, but in terms of best return on investment, I believe that if you have these 6 key points covered you are doing pretty well.
Feeling a little lost or overwhelmed? Please reach out! I’d love to chat with you about it.
How do you feel after eating?
Feeling overly full probably indicates that you are overeating, so you are more likely to be gaining unwanted weight.
It could also mean that you are waiting too long between meals - try adding a snack and diminishing your portion sizes during actual meals so you don’t feel like an overstuffed pillow.
Feeling anxious or guilty after eating is also a red flag. If this is you, please reach out so we can talk about it!
2. How predictable are you?
Do you tend to eat the exact same thing every day? To be honest, there is nothing wrong with being a creature of habit - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Moreover, studies have shown that adopting good habits (like healthy eating) means that these behaviours become automatic, so you don’t have to use willpower to keep going.
Problems arise when you never deviate from your self-imposed meal plan or when the idea of switching it up in the kitchen causes stress and anxiety (if this is you, please reach out! I am not an expert in that field but I may be able to point you in the right direction).
Introducing a little variety in your diet will help expand your palate, reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies and possibly help you save money, too! (what if your go-to apples are not on sale but there’s a crazy deal on pears? See where I’m going with this?)
Looking to get more tips around switching up your diet? Download the cheat sheet I created!
3. How much veggies are you getting?
I know The Simpsons have drilled into your head that “You don’t make friends with salad”... (believe me, my friends used to love to tease me with that one when I was vegetarian). But bottomline is, nearly everyone could stand to eat a bit more vegetables in their day.
Veggies are a great source of vitamins and fibre, both of which are essential to keeping you healthy. They also typically contain fewer calories than other foods for the same volume, which is something to consider if you are wanting to lose weight but would rather not be hungry all the time. For example, 200g cauliflower is about 50cal (10g carbs, 4g fiber) compared to 200g of cooked white rice, which would come in at 260cal (57g carbs, 1g fiber).
For more tips on how to eat for volume while dieting, click here!
4. How much are you drinking?
Taking a good look at your drinking habits also plays into evaluating your nutrition. Everybody’s hydration needs differ slightly, but I encourage you to track your fluid intake over a few days to get an idea of your starting point. In general, we want to aim your bodyweight (in kg) + 15oz. For a 155-lb person (70kg), this means (70+15) 85oz, or roughly 2.5L a day.
Feel free to include all liquids consumed aside for alcohol, which is a diuretic, but I encourage you to pay attention to the calories you might be drinking unbeknownst to you. This could be pop, that London Fog you pick up every afternoon when your day in the office is dragging on, that energy drink you down on the way to the ski hill on Sunday morning, or that organic fruit juice you picked up on the weekend. Sure, it’s organic, but it’s still very sweet, and you would be better off eating your fruits and veggies, especially if you are wanting to slim down.
As for alcohol, I invite you to have a good honest look at your consumption. Realistically, how much are you drinking each week? And for what purpose? Our relationship with alcohol can often be a bit messy (in every sense of the term), and you may not understand it clearly until you take a break for a bit. Why not take a month off alcohol? Your wallet and perspective will thank you!
A note on caffeine: You may have noticed that you could include the caffeinated beverages you are drinking into your daily fluid tally, but this does not mean you have free reign on java. Just like with alcohol, I’d encourage you to examine your caffeine consumption and see how you are using it, and at what times in the day. Caffeine after lunch time can disrupt your sleep come night-time so at the very least, keep it a morning habit.
5. How much are you cooking?
Even if you make sensible when eating out, you are still way more likely to overeat when you’re not cooking for yourself. Moreover, prepared foods send to be much saltier than at-home meals, which can be a problem if you are susceptible to blood pressure problems, not to mention bloating and water retention.
Grocery store-bought, prepared options are a lesser evil, but they are generally speaking still not as desirable as cooking at home, because of the additives generally included to preserve freshness, as well as the aforementioned sodium content.
Not to mention that in my opinion, cooking is a basic life skill that everyone should develop a minimum proficiency in! If you really have no idea where to start, remember that in this day and age, everything is googlable - and this is coming from someone who learned to carve a chicken on You Tube!
6. Is it serving you?
The last but possibly most important question to ask yourself when evaluating your nutrition is how does it align with your goals? This of course includes your health and fitness goals (because clearly, if you say you want to get healthy and fit for a big hiking trip you got planned this summer, but are counting on the vitamins from pineapple on the Hawaiian pizza you wash down with beer every night to get you there, then we gotta talk), but also your personal and financial goals.
For example, if your goal is to save some money for an upcoming trip, but you are eating out every week, then your diet may be to re-evaluate.