The food you surround yourself with – your "food environment" - is the #1 predictor of what you will eat. This means that the food you keep at home, at the office, in your car, in your go-bag, or in your luggage – is the food you are most likely to eat.
Setting up your food environment so that you're surrounded by healthy food is a simple but often overlooked piece of the “how do I avoid sabotaging my diet?” puzzle.
Below is my 3 step process for setting up the food environment that supports your goals:
Get clear on YOUR “food without brakes” or trigger foods. These are different for everyone. Yours might include things like ice cream, crackers, chips, cookies, cereal, or even the tastier protein bars (this is mine!).
Don’t buy these, at least for now. If you feel you must buy them for other family members, be sure to store them where you won’t run into them easily. Avoid the counter tops, frequently opened cupboards, or center shelves in the fridge or freezer.
Stock up on foods you DO want to eat more of. Get plenty of protein, a wide variety of veggies, and some low sugar fruit (berries, apples, and citrus fruits). Prepare these foods immediately so you the food you have ready to go is the food you’ll feel great about eating!
Note: Food prep is the #1 strategy for sticking to a healthy diet because it ensures the healthiest option is also the most convenient option.
Make sure you’ve got some grab and go healthy food options. These are items that can be tossed in a container and taken in the car, to kid activities, or eaten as a quick meal without needing to be warmed.
Grab ‘n Go Examples:
- Meatballs (homemade or Aidell’s pre-cooked meatballs)
- chicken or steak strips (pre-cooked or cooked at home)
- Washed and cut raw veggies (peppers, carrots, grape tomato, jicama, radish, etc.)
- Guacamole cups
- Original flavor beef jerky (few ingredients, usually gluten free)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Apples or berries
- Clean protein bars such as Primal Kitchen, Rx Bar, or Epic Bars
Paleo Snack Foods:
While there ARE healthier versions of chips such as Jackson’s Honest Coconut Oil Sweet Potato Chips or Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips these can be tricky. Just because they are healthier doesn’t mean they are fat loss friendly. You have to decide for yourself whether you can keep things like this around of if they’re an occasional treat that you only buy on occasion.
Don’t Go Nuts:
Be judicious about things like nuts and nut butters. Nuts are very high in calories and fat and are very easy to overdo. In my experience, more people slow their weight loss on a Paleo diet with nuts than with any other food. Use them as a condiment rather than as a whole snack. For example, sprinkle a small amount on your stir fry or salad to add texture and flavor or measure out a tablespoon to eat with apple slices. (You may be surprised just how small 1 tbsp really is!)
Fat is Not Free:
Another mistake people make on Paleo is adding multiple fat sources to meals or snacks. At 9 calories per gram of fat, the calories add up quickly and can slow your fat loss goals without even realizing it. Use a moderate amount of healthy fats (avocado, butter, olive oil, avocado oil, or fattier cuts of organic meat) to make meals taste good. Unless you’re about to hike the Himalayas, I don’t recommend eating ALL the bacon, stirring butter in your coffee, or downing packets of coconut or almond butter. Again, this is in the context of fat loss and everyone's needs will be different.
Paleo Snack Foods:
Just because it’s technically “Paleo” doesn’t mean a Paleo snack food is nutritious or fat loss friendly. Examples of healthier options of regular foods that can trip people up: Paleo granola, Paleo pancakes, Paleo brownies, Paleo chips (Jackson’s Honest, Siete brand). These are all wonderful, healthier options but they shouldn’t make up a large percentage of your diet. These are all calorie dense and easy to over-consume so take that into consideration before you load up on Paleo products or make multiple batches of Paleo brownies, pancakes, or cookies!
Healthy Carbs are the “Magic Fairy Dust”:
It doesn’t get talked about enough in the Paleo community but I’ve found with myself and my clients that adding a small portion of carbs to meals or snacks IS likely to make you feel more full and satisfied.
By carbs I do NOT mean added sugars, even the natural ones like maple syrup, dried fruit, or honey. Rather, I am talking about nutrient dense, natural carb sources like root vegetables (potato, sweet potato, beet, parsnip, squashes, and small amounts of whole fruits).
For most women, adding a small amount of carbs to meals allows you to get to the end of your meal feeling satisfied, rather than searching around for something else even though you’re physically full.
Protein is your new BFF:
As a general rule, I encourage my clients to eat 4-6 oz of protein (25-40 grams) of protein 3-4 times per day. Protein is THE most satiating macronutrient, which means it keeps you feeling full for longer. It also protects your lean muscle mass as you lose weight.
Most people lose about 50% lean muscle and 50% fat when they lose weight. Eating adequate amounts of protein AND including some resistance training can mean you’re losing more like 25% lean muscle and 75% fat when you lose weight.
Lean muscle has a huge impact on your ability to keep the weight off and on the appearance of your physique. Eat your protein!
If you surround yourself with healthy, delicious food, you're likely to EAT healthy, delicious food. Again, this sounds obvious but so many of us torment ourselves by bringing home foods that don't align with our goals but we invariably wind up eating!
Give yourself the gift of cleaning up your food environment so that you are one step REMOVED from trigger foods and one step CLOSER to a body that feels healthy and vibrant.
Many of you have been asking when the next Primal Transformations Coaching Group will open up. I will be sharing specifics later this week! I’m committed to keeping my coaching groups small so that I can deliver value and help each person as much as possible. Watch your inbox as slots tend to fill up quickly. More info to come!