Question of the day: What’s missing from your diet?
Carbs in general, grains specifically, sugar, protein, fat, etc. – the list is long of the things we’re told to avoid. When starting out, though, on a journey toward health-filled nutrition, the better question than, “What do I avoid?” is “What do I need?”
What most don’t realize at the start of their nutritional lifestyle change is that one of the first things that needs to be addressed in regard to diet is filling in the gaps of the good things we need, but tend to skip over in daily eating. The macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) that are being ingesting in too small quantities, and are therefore not offering our bodies the fuel that they need.
Health and fitness goals are made harder to reach when the body lacks the carbohydrates and fats it needs for fuel and the protein necessary for the essential functions of your tissues, organs, and muscles. Typical life outside of exercise is also more difficult to navigate when your body lacks proper nutrients and you’re left feeling foggy and fatigued.
So how do you know what nutritional deficiencies you may have and go about filling the gaps?
Journaling your food can help you see the facts of your food intake and what deficiencies you may be facing. There are amazing free apps like My Fitness Pal that help you keep a food journal and then view graphs of your nutritional intake. After 5-7 days of tracking, you should have a pretty good idea of your daily averages and how much protein, carbs, and fat that you are actually taking in. If one macro is making up a significant portion of your diet, to the detriment of the others, you may have a nutritional deficiency to attend to.
We’ll begin with protein as it is the nutrient source that I find most often lacking with coaching clients. Protein is an important building block of your body’s health, and if you are working hard in the gym it becomes even more vital for building muscle mass.
Here are some common reasons I hear for low protein in the diet:
Don’t like meat?
You are not alone! Meat is not even close to the only healthy source of protein. You can eat eggs, quinoa, edamame, seeds like hemp and chia, beans, and nuts! Did you know there is even some protein in greens like spinach, broccoli, and brussel sprouts? That’s a lot of options! Widening your protein sources beyond meat can give you creative and delicious protein sources to fill the gaps in your nutrition.
Not sure how to cook meat well?
If you avoid meat because you just have trouble cooking it in ways you like, allow me to share some recipe favorites. Here is a good one for
oven baked chicken breast
. These are both tried and true cooking methods in our household and we love that by changing up the seasoning, you can easily change the flavour of the meat. For beef, we really are barbecue people, but if that isn’t an option for you, surely invest in a meat thermometer and look up the internal temperature for the type of cook you like. Searing and baking a steak on cast iron can work well if you know your prime temp. and pay attention. Then, of course, there a myriad of recipes available online for those wondrous inventions like slow and pressure cookers.
On the go a lot?
I find that those who struggle the most with protein intake are those that find themselves on the go and without the ability to eat meals that require utensils. If that’s you, try bento box style meals with finger-food protein sources like cheese cubes, jerky, turkey roll ups, and hard-boiled eggs.
Helpful Carbs Not a Part of Your Routine?
In the battle of quantity vs. quality, carbs call a tie – both matter.
Carbohydrates that drive you toward health, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, are beneficial energy sources for your body, and without them you can feel like you are dragging through the day. Health-filled carbs also provide fiber that lends itself to feelings of fullness and can help you lose or maintain a healthy weight.
The simplest way we’ve found to ensure an abundance of vitamins, micronutrients, and fiber from helpful carbohydrates is to make sure that vegetables and/or fruits are included in each meal or snack.
In fact, when prepping snacks or meals, I try to
make that decision first
, instead of treating vegetables and fruits like an afterthought.
Grab an apple, then round out the protein and fat with a turkey and cheese roll up.
Plan for half your plate to be veggie-based, then add a health starch (i.e. sweet potato) and build from there with proteins and fats.
Great nutrition is about A LOT more “yes” than “no.”
Saying YES to lean protein sources, nutrient-rich carbs, and healthy fats means that we are meeting the nutritional needs of our body and filling up without the foods that take us further from our health and fitness goals.
So download that app, log the foods, and see where you can fill the gaps in your good health.