Simplify, Or How “Healthy” Meals Prevent You From Reaching Your Weight Loss Goals
I simply HAD to take a picture of this beautiful breakfast. Not only because it was yummy (it was), but because it so beautifully simple – all macronutrients and components laid out. Egg whites for protein – check, sweet potatoes for complex carbohydrates – check, avocado for healthy fats – check, and shredded spring mix for veggies – CHECK!
Not a gourmet meal by any means, but rather, a simple solid functional meal. I love those. 🙂
Are you “eat the same thing every day” kinda person? I personally looooove variety and fine dining. My friend has eaten the exact same thing for breakfast for many years – two eggs over easy on toast, coffee. Every. Single. Day. Another friend has a staple lunch of salmon, brown rice and broccoli.
I can’t even. I love Italian’s creations in the kitchen. His pizza and his lasagna are to die for. Yet, while neither of the above mentioned meals is exactly rocking my senses, there is something to be said for SIMPLIFYING your meals, when it comes to the number of ingredients, and the methods of cooking.
I aim for SIMPLE meals 80% of the time.
Because the more complex the meal is, the more ingredients it has, the more likely we are to overeat it. Our taste buds LOVE novelty and variety. Ever heard the expression “there is always space for ice cream”? There IS actually truth to that. You are full, but you are full on dinner. Introduce a NEW flavour, and all of a sudden your appetite is back. This is also a reason it is so easy to overeat at an all you can eat buffet – so many ingredients. So much variety. Must. Try. Them. All.
“I eat so healthy, yet I am not seeing any results” is a common sentiment from clients. Smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, protein and veggies for dinner – seemingly, I am doing everything right. What could be the culprit?
Note that eating healthy and losing weight are not necessarily related to each other. For MOST of us, eating healthIER often results in weight loss, at least initially. Eventually, you eat healthy, and maintain (healthy for you) weight.
But, let’s say, you are looking to lose quite a bit of weight, and healthier choices represent quite the departure from what you used to eat only few months ago. No more greasy breakfast sandwiches for you, it’s all about fruit smoothies now!
Let’s take a closer look at the smoothies.
– 1 scoop of protein powder (protein)
– 1 cup of spinach (vegetables)
– 1/2 cup of fruit or berries (carbs)
– 1 cup of unsweetened nut milk or water (pretty macronutrient-neutral liquid)
*Checks all the boxes, nothing extra. You’d obviously adjust portion sizes if you are trying to put on weight, and possibly add healthy fat to up the satiety factor.
Compare it with:
– 1 scoop of protein powder
– 1 cup of spinach
– 1 banana
– 1 cup of orange juice
– 1 tsp of cocoa powder
– 1 tbsp of maple syrup
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– 1 tbsp greens+ powder
– 1 tbsp walnuts
etc. etc. etc.
While the second shake seems like it’s surely better for you, choke full of greens, healthy fats, and all that good stuff, the calories climb quickly, and before you know it, you have a liquid breakfast with the caloric equivalent of 2.5 meals on your hands. This is a possible downside of getting smoothies at a smoothie place also, rather than making it at home, as commercial shakes tend to have more ingredients, and way more fruit.
Yogurt bowls and acai bowls get out of control very easily as well as the toppings of granola, nuts, seeds, puffed rice and every single thing sweet and crunchy is thrown on top. Instead, consider the same approach, when preparing your yogurt in the morning, or overnight oats the night before:
1 source of protein + 1 source of fat (if you are using nonfat yogurt) + 1 source of complex carbs + 1 serving of vegetables/berries
How about eggs?
Ever had one of those skillet breakfasts at a diner? Four eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes, avocado, tomato salsa, black beans, and shredded cheese. And the kitchen sink.
I like to go back to components, and aim for ONE of each. Where’s my protein? Where’s my fat? Carbs? Veggies? I can then mix and match – if I am having whole eggs, I’ll skip cheese and avocado. If I feel like avocado, I’ll opt for egg whites. A whole sliced tomato on the side? Great, I don’t have to throw red pepper into the eggs.
I think most folks know that McDonald’s salad is not necessarily the epitome of healthy meals. MOST caloric content comes from the dressing. A Wendy’s chicken salad I ordered sometime last week came with TWO gigantic pouches of dressing. I used about a third of one pouch, I think.
Dressing aside (haaaaa), the sheer number of ingredients can rake up the calories.
The salad bar at Whole Foods poses a challenge. Let me loose, while hungry, and I will come back with a monster salad creation with kale, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, cherries, blue cheese, shrimp, chicken, boiled eggs, croutons, dried cranberries and two types of dressing.
Instead, here’s a solid simple salad I had for lunch today:
– two handfuls of greens (veggies)
– a deconstructed salmon fillet from the night before (protein)
– 2 tbsp of peanuts (fat)
– homemade balsamic dressing (fat)
– hunk of bread with homemade hummus on the side. 🙂 (carbs + fat + protein)
Curries / Stirfries
For those of us who love to cook, dinners can have similar fate.
The more sophisticated the recipe, the heavier the meal ends up being. There is a reason why bodybuilders eat super boring plain chicken-plain rice-plain broccoli meals again and again – the macronutrients are easy to manipulate with standalone ingredients. If you have ever tried to estimate calories or even servings of protein in a bowl of Thai curry or a stir fry, you’ll know what I mean. Was this one serving of vegetables? Or two? Did I get enough chicken in there to count for one palm size serving?
So, what does all of this mean? Are you destined to eat plain boiled eggs and potatoes for the rest of your life?
Not at all.
However, IF you are a foodie and a cook, AND you have trouble meeting your body composition goals, consider simplifying your meals 80% of the time. Consider a “modular” approach – a batch of protein, a batch of complex carbohydrate, a batch of vegetables, and healthy fat. One of each – and, voila.