Where to Start with Healthy Eating

If you want to start on a healthier path when it comes to your food, I would highly recommend taking the points below on board, in the order presented, and sticking with them. They are based on the approach that we have taken at ACLAÍ with many of our members, producing great results, and long lasting satisfaction. It is based on whole foods, a few key positive habits, and on eating real food, for real life.

1. Identify your most damaging habit

Make a list of what you think are your worst habits at the moment, and identify the one you think is holding you back from progressing the most. Whether you are heavy on the fizzy drinks, staying up on the computer late at night, not drinking any water, or eating takeaways too often, pick out what you perceive to be your worst habit at this time, and for the next 3 weeks, focus on breaking that particular habit down, and replacing it with something more positive. After three weeks, pick your next negative habit, and keep on working down your list. In 6 months time, your worst habits of today will be but a distant memory.

2. Water

Drink a minimum of 2 litres of water per day. 3 litres is better, especially on training days. Just do it.

3. Breakfast

Eat a breakfast everyday, that consists of a protein source, and some vegetables. A couple of bits of bacon, 2 boiled eggs, and some steamed broccoli would be a good meal for breakfast. Easy to prepare, tasty, and fits the criteria. Don’t worry if this sounds more like a lunch, or is drastically different to what you are used to. Keep on going with the flow.

4. Three Main meals Per Day

Plan to eat 3 meals per day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just like your grandparents would have done it. The best thing to do to get started on this, is to identify a breakfast that is easy to make and that you can repeat each day, and do the same with lunch and dinner. Don’t worry about not having a massive variety from day to day, just get started with 3 easy-to make meals, and you can expand from there a bit later.

5. Protein

Have a protein source at every meal. Beef, lamb, chicken, fish, eggs. Just make sure you have some at each of your meals. I would also recommend adding sauerkraut, kimchi, other fermented foods, and/ or apple cider vinegar to your daily routine to help with the gut health and digestion.

6. Do not drink calories

Fizzy drinks, added cream, fruit juice, and alcoholic drinks bring very little to the table, and will set you back. Water, green tea, herbal teas, black coffee, and black tea are on the approved list for the next while. A glass of red wine a day is allowed if it tickles your fancy.

7. Eat your carbohydrate sources only after training sessions.

Keep the carb source and treat foods for after training sessions. This works, so keep to it as much as you can.  

  • Bread, Wraps, Pasta, and other flour based products
  • Pasta, Rice, and Potatoes (including sweet potato)
  • Carbonated beverages and alcohol
  • Sugar (and sugar containing products)
  • Sodium (table salt)
  • Fruit

8. Saturday

My favourite. On Saturday, eat whatever you want. WHATEVER you want. As much as you want. Make yourself as full as you do on Christmas day if you wish. Do not skip this day. If you feel the urge to break out during the week, make a note of it somewhere and eat it on Saturday. One Saturday, I ate 2 grilled mackerel, a chocolate brownie, a hot chocolate, a slice of chocolate cake, a Thai take-away, some Ben and Jerry's ice cream, a can of fizzy lemon juice, and a pulled pork bap. Guilt free. Granted, I went a bit more over the top than usual just to prove a point but Saturday is your free for all. Get it out of your system on Saturday, and get back on track. Do not underestimate the importance of this component. Mental and physical release as well as giving you the opportunity to plan social events and cut loose are all key to the success of this challenge.

9. Portion Sizes

As long as you keep to the guidelines of keeping your carb sources for after training, eating 3 meals per day, and limiting treats to one sitting per week, you don't need to focus too much on portion sizes, but as a guide, keep meals to one plateful, and don't keep on going back for more. If you find that your weight is going up, eat less. If it's going down you're on track. If you are starving all the time, add a bit salad to 1 or more of your meals, have some chopped carrots at hand, and/or drink more water or some green tea.

This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.

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