What You Should Be Eating
Today, let’s dive into nutrition for couples and really, WHAT YOU SHOULD BE EATING. You may have heard, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Or even, “Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.” While Ryan and I (Alex) are unsure of the exact percentage, we both agree that a couple’s nutrition is the strongest determinant in their overall health.
We have put hundreds of people through fitness and nutrition programs. The ones that focus on nutrition, make it a lifestyle, are the ones who don’t start from scratch a couple months later.
what you should be eating
And what food is healthy? Nutrition should be a simple topic but most Americans have a complicated relationship with food. We all know what blatantly not to eat (processed foods, excessive sugar and fat, etc.) However, with conflicting studies, powerful lobbyists, foods engineered to addict us, and persuasive marketing, it’s a challenge for even the most careful eater. Remember recently how many sources incorrectly construed data to portray coconut oil as harmful?
It took years for Ryan and I to figure out what food is healthy and establish our nutrition routine. Honestly, it’s still changing – depending on our goals, workout programs, and the food accessible to us. Living in China, we went light on the meat due to quality concerns and ate more vegetables. Once we moved to Texas, we had the opportunity to go organic but had to balance our hectic work and travel schedules. Later on in Ecuador, we had access to organic farmer’s markets but we needed to be careful with the Ecuadorian diet heavy on grains. We are grateful for the opportunity to travel and learn about the healthiest food cultures.
We’ve received lots of questions on how we cook our food, meal prep together, and balance travel with nutrition. The short answer, as summed up by nutrition author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, is,
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”
– Michael Pollan
There are several strategies that you can implement easily, starting today, to optimize your nutrition.
1. Choose Organic Whole Foods
If you haven’t already switched, it’s time to grow up and prioritize your food. You’re only as healthy as the health of your food. Eating non-organic food (whether processed, engineered foods or mistreated, medicated animals) will only make you more likely to get sick down the road. Not only does non-organic foods contain chemicals linked to cancers and other ailments, they also contaminate soil and water systems. Plus, organic food tastes much better.
The biggest pushback we hear is that organic food is too expensive. Yes, it’s true, although as more consumers choose organic, big stores like Target and Walmart meet the demand with new organic sections. Also, now that Amazon has merged with Whole Foods, AmazonFresh is our go to when we are in the U.S. Whole foods has many organic options and delivery saves you time and money.
In terms of value and nutritional density, organic foods far outweigh processed foods. You can pay one third less for non-organic spinach but only receive half the nutrition. This doesn’t include future doctor visits from the side effects of excess sodium, sugars, and pesticides, or the lower energy you feel at work or at home. As the author of one of our favorite books, Superlife, says,
“Pay the farmer, not the pharmacist.”
– Darin Olein
Pro Tip: If making the jump to fully organic is tough, check out the Environmental Work Group’s lists of “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” foods. From there, select the least contaminated foods to eat non-organic. You can also shop at the local farmer’s market!
2. Calculate Your Daily Portion Size For Each Food Group
In addition to knowing how much food to put on your plate, you need to find the appropriate ratio of carbs to fruits to vegetables to protein to healthy fats. This calculation largely depends on your goals and fitness routine as they go hand and hand. Clearly someone wishing to bulk up would eat more protein than someone just wishing to maintain weight.
Ryan counted calories before, tracked his macro- and micro-nutrients, and kept a food journal but it wasn’t a practical or sustainable method. A good strategy is to calculate your target calorie intake and then correlate it to portion sizes for each food group.
When I was starting out, I used the portion control containers from 21 Day Fix to help me plan out my eating for the day. Over time, the containers helped me visualize what each portion size looked like when I was on the road without my containers.
3. Learn How To Grocery Shop and Meal Prep, Together
Ryan and I have vastly different calorie intakes. So, how do we grocery shop and meal prep together? For grocery shopping, we choose a few recipes to make in bulk to cover dinners, salads, and smoothies (our three main daily meals) for most of the week. In total, we eat five smaller meals a day. Our in-between “snacks” consisted of Larabars (a big favorite), nuts, fruits, and yogurt. For Ryan‘s larger appetite, he would eat a larger portion of the same meal.
Update: our go to snack is now the Beachbar, since they are the best value – significantly lower sugar, higher fiber, and higher protein
Also, we consciously choose a variety of foods to keep our microbiome (aka gut) happy. When you subscribe to our Duo Life Letter, our free gift is a list of foods per group, with the generally most nutritious at the top. Work your way through it and experiment with new recipes, together.
Pro Tip #1: Stock up on frozen organic fruits and vegetables for easy smoothies and stir-fry meals. These are healthier than their fresh counterparts and you’ll always have them as back-up before grabbing take-out. Target seems to have a growing selection of frozen organic fruits and veggies.
Pro Tip #2: Using AmazonFresh to grocery shop online will save time and money (no junk food impulse buys here!) This has saved us from eating out countless times when we were returning from the airport or simply too busy to shop after work.
4. Keep Each Other Accountable For A Positive Outlook On Food
We all splurge from time to time; it’s part of being human. When this happens, don’t nag your partner but help them with a fresh start at their next meal. The problem in the US is that we believe diets = suffering and eating healthy = deprivation. Change your mindset to think about food positively. There’s no need to fear you’ll derail your diet when out to dinner or that you need to punish yourself for eating the foods you love.
Beachbody has a nutrition program, 2B Mindset, to end all fads and diets. The program is a 40+ video series with UCLA Registered Dietician Nutritionist, Ilana Muhlstein. Her Beverly Hills practice has helped thousands of people lose weight healthily, sustainably, and happily – just by changing your mindset for food. Ryan and I have been using her techniques and we appreciate food on a whole new level.