Friday, January 27, 2012

Answering reader's questions: What I Eat

When I posted this easy black bean soup recipe earlier this week, someone posted a comment asking about my nutrition habits. Maybe I should be more skeptical on talking about this on the blog since nutrition is such a personal thing for every individual and everyone has different schools of thought surrounding what is "right," but I felt like since I haven't talked about it too much, I should shed a little light on what goes on in my world of food.
From Anonymous:
Do you count calories? If you so how many do you eat a day? Do you eat 3 main meals or 5-6 small meals?
Yes, I count calories. And I track my food at Over the last 4-6 months I haven't tracked very much, but I am trying to get back into the habit because of my 3 month plateau. I am a firm believer that tracking your food intake in some way is essential for good, solid weight loss. I lost most of my weight when I was tracking my food every day.

Sure, it sucks to have to try and figure out every single thing you eat and put it into some website or app, but it is so important not only because it is so easy to "forget" about that cookie you had at lunch and go for the cheeseburger at dinner. In other words, it keeps you accountable - even if you are the only one looking at it. Here are 3 keys to food tracking:

  1. Track every bite, lick and taste (I may have stolen this from my WW friends, sue me)
  2. Estimate to the BEST of your ability. Obviously if you are eating food you haven't prepared, you have to use your best judgement and track to your best guesstimate.
  3. Be honest with yourself. Did you really only have 1 oz of chips or did you sneak a few more as you were putting the bag away? I know it may not seem like a big deal at the time, but if you do that 3-4 times through out the day the calories can really add up.
As for the amount of calories that I eat per day, I try to stay within a range. I try to stay between 1600-1900, but my sweet spot is really around 1,800. My BMR is around 2,100 so if I eat a little over my 1,900 goal I try not to freak out because I usually exercise enough in a week to counteract it. Of course, if I do this multiple times a week, I'm not going to lose any weight.

I've never been a person that could eat 1,200 calories a day. My body would never let me get away with that. I don't starve myself (and probably couldn't even if I tried - not enough willpower). If I am legitimately hungry, I eat. Of course, I try to have a lot of sensible snacks (almonds, fruit, veggies) on hand so if I do get hungry I don't blow my day.

My typical Monday - Friday day consists of 3 main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and 2 snacks. I try to spread my calories out throughout the day, but I do typically eat less for breakfast (~400 calories) and more for dinner (~600). Here is approximately what I ate today.

Breakfast (320 calories)
1/2 cup oats with 1/2 cup (soy) milk, 1 small apple chopped and 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds

Lunch (580 calories)
Black bean soup with 1/4 avacado and 1 oz tortilla chips, 1 small apple and fiber one peanut butter granola bar (which was so uneeded)

Dinner (490 calories)
Wrap with 4 oz slow cooker buffalo chicken, 1 tablespoon shredded cheese, lettuce and pickles with 5-6 carrots and sweet potato oven "fries" (1 sweet potato)

Snack 1: banana (approx 3 hours after breakfast) - 100 calories
Snack 2: Plain Greek Yogurt with 2 teaspoons honey (varies; either 4 hours after lunch or 1 hour before I go work out) - 150 calories
Snack 3: ~10 almonds (work as been crazy so I've been eating lunch at 6:30 a instead of 8, so I was extra hungry before lunch) - 70 calories

1710 calories total for the day

What I haven't been good about is following this same schedule on the weekends. On Saturdays my schedule is different because I usually go for a long run and eat a larger than normal breakfast or for certain distances I eat two "breakfasts" (smaller one before, more substantial one after). I'm learning not only do I have to plan my meals Mon-Fri to be successful, but Friday night through the weekend too.

Overall, I basically eat what I want in moderation. I strive to have balanced meals with a lean protien, a complex carb and plenty of green veggies. I have found that staying away from sugar helps my cravings substantially, so I save sweets for true "on occasions" and I try to not get into the habit of saying "it's just one piece of cake" all the time.

I don't think anything I do is rocket science. It's really just as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Of course the mental aspect is much more difficult than the science of it.

If you have a question about what I do or the habits I've developed to loose almost 100 lbs, feel free to leave a comment and maybe I'll write a post about it.