As a personal trainer, I wear many hats. My personal training clients typically come to me for help with their workout regimen, but I end up giving them a lot of nutrition tips along the way. Some clients want to lose few extra pounds; others simply want to perform better at work and in the gym. Either way, making healthy eating a habit is an important step toward achieving their goals in personal training.
Here are some of my top tips as a personal trainer for healthy eating:
Use your phone. My favorite fitness app is My Fitness Pal. All you have to do is tell it what you eat each day, and the app will provide you with detailed nutritional information, including your caloric intake. (You’ll be shocked when you realize how much you actually eat.) You can also record exercise in My Fitness Pal and use it to track your weight over time. Did I mention it’s free?
Increase your fiber intake. Dietary fiber is a critical component of any healthy eating plan, yet few people understand its importance or include enough of it in their diet. Fiber can make a meal feel more satisfying, leading you to eat less, and it keeps your blood sugar on a more even level by slowing down the absorption of glucose. Fiber also feeds the beneficial bacteria in your colon, which produce organic acids that provide fuel for the liver and may increase your metabolism. Most adults need 25 to 35 grams of protein a day, which you can get from fruits and vegetables. If needed, psyllium husk and chia seed are good supplemental forms of fiber. If you take fiber supplements, make sure to drink plenty of water (which you should be doing anyway) to prevent constipation.
Eat healthy fats. Fat gets a bad rap, but you body needs it to function properly. Omega-3 is an especially important type of fat because it reduces inflammation and oxidation. It also promotes healthier pregnancies; breastfeeding; pediatric development; neurological growth and development; joint health; weight management; heart function; and immune, optical, brain, and nerve system health. You can get omega-3 essential fats from fish, or you can take a high-quality supplement. I personally recommend and sell Bonfire Omega-3, which has a high level of quality, purity, and freshness. Contact me for more information.
Go paleo. The paleo diet excludes dairy, legumes, sugar, and grains. It may sound drastic, but my clients have seen incredible results once they made the switch. They have more energy and clarity of mind, and their metabolism is supercharged so they lose fat much faster. (Note: I personally don’t have a problem with yogurt, cheese, or lentils.) For more information, check out Mark’s Daily Apple and Dr. Loren Cordain’s site.
Cheat once a week. I’m realistic. I know giving up breakfast cereal and chocolate cake are some of the hardest things I can ask you to do. That’s why I let my clients cheat once a week; it helps them make the transition. However, after several months of eating paleo, my clients almost invariably realize they feel awful after their cheat days, and they make the choice to stick to the paleo diet seven days a week.
Decrease your overall sugar intake. This tip may seem redundant. After all, you already cut out sugar when you went paleo, right? Not so fast. Fruit is still a major source of sugar (albeit a natural one), and it may cause blood sugar swings if you have too much. Try sticking to fruits that are low in sugar, like kiwis, strawberries, and grapefruit, and limit your intake of fruits like apples and bananas. One more suggestion: always opt for whole fruit instead of fruit juice; the fiber will slow the absorption of glucose.
Choose organic. There are several reasons why I recommend organic produce. First, organic produce tends to have much higher levels of important nutrients and antioxidants because it’s grown in more fertile soil. Second, as you probably know, most non-organic produce comes laden with pesticides, which are as harmful for the environment as they are for our bodies. Yes, organic produce costs more. Yes, you may have to go to a farmers’ market or a natural food store. Consider it an investment in your health—one that pays both now and down the road.
Diet with friends. A strong support network is critical to making any major lifestyle change stick. How many times have you resolved to diet and then given up after a few days? With My Fitness Pal, you can connect with your friends. That way, they can see your progress and keep you encouraged and motivated along the way.
Be wary of restaurants. As someone who eats healthy, my biggest challenge is always eating out. Restaurants love to load you up with huge portions of calorie-laden food. Often, you don’t even realize the burger and fries you’re eating contain over 1,000 calories—you just know it tastes so good! When you do go to a restaurant, ask for nutritional information if it’s available. Alternately, balance your heavy meal by eating lighter fare the rest of the day. Also, remember that a salad isn’t necessarily healthy. Between the dressing, bacon bits and avocado, you might as well have a burger.
Exercise! Exercise may seem completely unrelated to nutrition. However, I’ve found that people who exercise regularly tend to make healthier food choices. I believe this is largely because exercise increases your awareness of and appreciation for your body. Try working out 30 minutes a day and see if that pizza still looks as appetizing!
Andrea Tagalog is a personal trainer in Carlsbad, California, who serves clients throughout North County San Diego, including Vista and San Marcos. For more information, please contact Andrea here or at (888) 347-6852. The images used in this post are from NatalieMaynor.