Tracking Your Macros: How To Pick Your Foods
Not sure what to eat now that you have the whole world at your finger tips? Give this article a read.
We've already touched on a lot of material regarding why flexible dieting doesn't categorise foods as good and bad.
As a brief recap however, it's essentially because when looked at in isolation, one single food can't be considered good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, fattening or non-fattening, or, perhaps worse of all - a "fat loss food."
Rather, everything you eat is contextual.
A bowl of ice cream in your diet (even every day) might not be the worst thing in the world. In fact, if that one bowl helps prevent you from binging on an entire tub at another time, while you stay within your calorie and macronutrient quota, still hitting your fibre intake and getting plenty of fruits and veggies, I'd argue it would actually be beneficial.
Likewise, broccoli, spinach, carrots and kale may sound healthy, but there's nothing healthy about them if they're part of a diet that's high in processed junk and puts you into a big calorie surplus every day.
All that aside though, that doesn't mean what you eat doesn't matter.
The foods that make up the majority of your diet should be high in nutrients, and minimally processed.
Stuck for ideas?
Fear not. That's what this article is all about. We'll break down proteins, carbs and fats to give you lots of examples of foods that can be eaten any day, any time so you're never out of ideas as to what to eat.
Lean meats are one of the most protein-packed foods around, and due to being low in fat and containing virtually no carbs, they should be a main player in your diet.
Look to chicken and turkey (mainly breast meat) as well as lean and extra lean cuts of beef and pork. Some lean cuts of lamb are okay too, and game meats like venison tend to be great choices as well.
For something slightly different, grab some exotic meat like elk, boar, and kangaroo.
Meats with higher fat aren't necessarily bad; they're just harder to fit into your macros.
Dark meat from poultry, fattier cuts of pork, beef and lamb fit in here, as do some processed meats like salami and prosciutto.
You've got two types here - oily and non-oily. Both are good. Oily fish are higher in calories, yet do contain heart-healthy omega3 fats.
Tuna, cod, tilapia, bream and bass are all very lean, as are shellfish such as crabs, prawns and scallops. For oily, you can't go wrong with salmon, mackerel, herring and pilchards.
Stock up on cottage cheese, quark, Greek yoghurt, low fat milk and cheese. I also stick eggs and egg whites in this section too.
And while we're on the topic of veggie-friendly proteins, if you're a strict vegan, then natural soy products like tempeh and miso, along with higher-protein grains – quinoa, buckwheat, and so on, plus beans and legumes can add to your daily protein dose.
Still struggling to hit protein? Get yourself some protein powder (whey, casein, hemp, pea or even soy) along with bars and chips.
When it comes to grains, anything goes, but whole grains are usually the better option due to their higher nutrient profile and fibre content.
Make basic grains such as rice, bread, pasta and cereals like oats your carb staples.
I wouldn't class green and brightly coloured vegetables as 'carbs' per se, but root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, squash, swede, corn and rutabaga make the carb class.
Don't forget your fruits.
Berries, melon, apples, kiwis and plums are relatively low carb, while pineapples, bananas, mangoes and other tropical fruits tend to be much higher in sugars, so are more difficult to fit into your macros.
Fancy some processed carbs?
No problem, just keep them to a minimum.
These can really be anything, but looking at foods that might be considered junk, yet aren't too high in fat you've got baked chips, pretzels, popcorn, flavoured rice cakes, cereal bars, sugary cereals, frozen yoghurt, low-fat ice cream, and of course - pop tarts.
If you're eating some junky carbs as well as non-lean protein sources you may find you've already hit your fat limit.
That being said, there are plenty of nutrient-dense high fat foods out there.
Different types of nuts - almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil, pecans, walnuts, peanuts - the list goes on, along with nut butters and nut oils top my list.
Olives and Olive oil are a good call too, as is any type of coconut and coconut oil, high-fat dairy like cheese and cream, and even goose fat or duck fat if you're feeling particularly adventurous.
Once you add in a little more junk food - regular ice cream, chips, cookies and pastry, you shouldn't have a hard time hitting fat.
You're Good To Go
The one thing to remember when it comes to choosing foods is the 80:20 rule.
Pick the obvious 'healthy foods' 80% of the time and give yourself some leeway the other 20%. That way no food is ever off limits. However, only use this as a guide - there's no need to bust out the calculator while you're logging your day - just eat with your health and insides in mind as well as your enjoyment and you'll be set.