What diet are you on?
What things do you not eat?
Do you ever eat carbs or junk food?
What do you eat before you workout?
These are the top four questions I get asked most often, always in the gym. I don’t diet, so how do I stay healthy and in shape without restricting myself? Here is a photo log summarising what I ate today in Santa Monica, USA, which answers these questions.
I go through phases where I do either protein smoothies or yoghurt and cereal. But one thing is certain: I make sure to eat breakfast every day to kick-start my metabolism and get a good intake of nutrients. Here in the US I’ve found a really good Organic Bran Flakes cereal by 365 which is low in fat and sugar but high in fibre. For my yoghurt I go for low-fat Greek, and pay attention to the sweetener used. Chobani and Wallaby are considered two of the healthiest brands of Greek yogurts in the US.
I used to be your “I’ll have the large veggie salad with non-fat dressing please” kind of girl. Stuffing myself full with greens and feeling ravenous two hours later, desperately looking around for something to snack on that would stave off the hunger pangs without actually containing any calories.
These days my favourite lunch food is a healthy wrap. Select your protein, select your veggies, select your dressing, then bundle it all up in a whole-wheat tortilla, and voila! You have a hearty, nutritious lunch. As for my protein of choice, I generally go for grilled chicken/turkey or scrambled eggs but I’ll mix it up by ordering red meat every once in a while as long as it’s from a reputable source and relatively lean.
(A.k.a “Fika”, the Swedish Coffee Break)
They say breakfast is the best meal of the day, but between my boyfriend, K, and I, “coffee is the best meal of the day”. (Black, please.) And what goes well with coffee? Something sweet, of course! (“Oh, you Europeans.”)
Yes, I eat “junk food”, although I prefer to use terms like “treat” or “reward”, because they have much more positive and deliberate connotations. So every once in a while I’ll treat myself to a cookie shared with K, a bite of a coffee cake, a Swedish cinnamon bun, an ice cream (my favourite!)… Are these “cheat meals”? If so, then I cheat on a regular basis. And I’ve found that this has zero impact on my health and weight as it’s balanced out by my otherwise healthy-eating and rigorous exercise regimen.
I pay particular attention to meals leading up to physical activity as these need to sustain me throughout the workout without making me feel heavy or bloated and avoid a sugar crash. Protein smoothies such as my ABC Smoothie or Mint Chocolate & Strawberries Smoothie are great pre-workout snacks.
Sometimes I’ll have a bite of a protein bar during my workout or right after to give me a quick energy boost. I like luna bars, which apparently are one of the better low-sugar, low-fat whey protein bars out there. If I feel like having a more natural bar, I’ll go for a RX or Lara bar.
If I could, I’d have sushi every night. I LOVE Japanese food. I generally end up indulging in this luxury once or twice a week. However, it’s easy to go over-board on sauces, tempura, and rice so I’ll try to avoid rolls and just stick to 6-8 pieces of nigiri and a few pieces of sashimi.
I cook a lot as well – Thai food of course, but also Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean… it all ends up being fusion in the end! But more importantly than the type of cuisine is the practicality and the nutrition: since meals tend to take place late at night after evening workouts, they have to be quick to prepare and light enough that I’m not still full by the time I go to bed. I also pay more attention to the macronutrient composition; post-workout meals need to be rich in protein and lighter on the carbohydrates.
A typical dinner here is half a plate of mixed veggies drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and 8oz grilled chicken for myself, and for K the same thing but wrapped up in whole-wheat tortillas + chicken salad and guacamole.
Also known as dessert, no day is complete without two pieces of dark chocolate. And not just any kind: A high-quality, 70-85% cacao content, preferably containing notes of vanilla, such as Lindt Excellence.
I eat chocolate every single night, and the surprising thing is, when I started logging my nutrient intake using the cron-o-meter app, I analysed my nutrient intake over a two-week period and realised that the largest contributor to several of the minerals I was ingesting was, believe it or not, dark chocolate. So I will happily continue to have my nightly indulgence! In fact, here is a great chocolate mousse recipe that I reward myself with from time-to-time.
As you can see, I don’t diet. I understand that my body functions at its metabolic peak when it doesn’t think it’s in a state of impending deprivation. So I don’t restrict myself. Instead, I try to eat a healthy balance of nutritious food, from all food groups, evenly-spaced throughout the day in small meals to maintain stable energy patterns.
Is there anything I don’t eat? I don’t have any forbidden foods. But there are things I try to avoid: I’ve noticed high-fat foods give me a stomach ache, so I try to avoid greasy/fried food, heavy sauces, lots of cheese etc. I go for low-sodium whenever possible, and monitor my sugar intake (including artificial sweeteners). I take my coffee black, and always drink water with my food. In short: I eat the things I like, in moderation, and avoid things that don’t make me feel good. Onions and bananas are really healthy for you but I can’t stand them, so I don’t eat them.
There you have it, what I ate today photo-logged in six small meals and all your questions answered!
(For the record, I always feel flattered by these nutrition questions. Thank you.)