Top 10 Practical Tips/Tricks to Healthful Eating

CrossFit King of Prussia is commencing a clean eating challenge starting April 1 and lasting the entire month. Some people will choose to eat paleo, primal, Whole30, or a combination of any of these, but the main point is to be more conscious of eating healthful foods instead of unhealthful. What is going to get you not only feeling better throughout the day, but also performing better in the gym and at work? What is going to help you maintain energy levels and be able to play with the kids when you get home? What is going to prevent those midmorning or afternoon slumps where you feel like you could just take a nap at your desk? Besides the basic things like cutting out grains, sugar, starch, and eating more meat, vegetables, and some fruit, there are some other tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that can help you get on track. Here are just some I thought of off the top of my head. If you have any, feel free to post to comments!

Top 10 Practical Tips/Tricks to Healthful Eating

10. High Percentage Chocolate – Need to fill your chocolate craving or sweet tooth? Get 85-95% cacao bars and know there is a ton less sugar in them than milk chocolate. If you are being really strict though, go the 30 days without even the dark chocolate.

9. Water – This should be obvious, but get off the soda, juice, diet (fill in the blank) and learn to drink water. Add lemon juice or go for sparkling water for some style. Avoid the sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and yes, even aspartme.

8. Spaghetti Squash – If you miss a good old side of pasta, grab a spaghetti squash and follow these directions. Be prepared to be amazed as to how accurately it looks, feels, and generally tastes like the real thing without the carb crash afterwards. I’m a fan.

7. Coconut  – Use coconut OIL for anything you’d use vegetable oil or butter for, like frying. Use coconut MILK for a source of good fat and as a substitute if you’re staying away from dairy. I like to use it in smoothies. (don’t get the “light” kind, just go for the real stuff, usually with a Thai label) Use coconut FLOUR to make Coconut Pancakes. Or, Mike F.’s favorite, Pumpkin Muffins. You can definitely find coconut milk at any grocery store in the Ethnic section, and usually can find coconut oil and coconut flour. Whole Foods definitely has all three.

6. Jerky – a great way to have protein ready for you on the go. Here’s how to make your own with just an oven. Mix with some nuts/seeds and dried fruit, and you’ve got yourself a snack pack to grab and go. Or a Paleokit.

5. Steam – Get those frozen or fresh veggies, throw them in a tupperware with some water, and in the microwave for a few minutes. BAM, steamed vegetables. No excuses for healthful carbohydrates.

4. Lettuce – Use in place of buns or tacos. Or use lettuce to make deli meat wraps for a quick snack or lunch. It fills you up more than you might think and you won’t have those slumps due to sugar spikes from bread. Also, how easy would it be to fill up some tupperware with salad in the fridge, then throughout the week throw in leftover meat or deli meat for a lunch the next day? Pretty darn easy!

3. Almonds – Grab a handful for a quick snack or grind up some almonds in place of bread crumbs (almond crusted tilapia fried in butter and lemon juice = heaven!) There are also a ton of almond flour recipes floating out there. Keep grinding away and you can make your own almond butter. Not quite as “peanut butter-y” as sun butter (sunflower seeds) but better than peanuts!

2. Fish OilCheck out this article and figure out how much you should be taking. Unless you’re having salmon 3 times a week, you should be taking fish oil. It’s worth it.

1. Eggs – Your best source of quick, cheap protein. Fried, scrambled, omelet, over easy, deviled…the list goes on. Still eating oatmeal, cereal, or English muffins because you don’t have time for breakfast? Change it up and start your day right by taking Egg Muffins to work. And don’t be afraid of the cholesterol and saturated fat, eat the yolks!

I know you have lots more tips and tricks, so let’s here them!


High Fructose Corn Syrup – When Sweeter is Worse

Edited for request of: Do you have a list of fruits and their levels of fructose?

A study that just came out of Princeton (abstract) found out that high fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar. Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I think this is important news to hit even mainstream media.  There are people who probably know HFCS is bad, but they might also think it’s equivalent to sugar. Not so. 


High fructose corn syrup is a concoction made from corn and manufactured to be sweet. The process converts the glucose to fructose, hence, “high fructose.” There are actually different percentages manufactured, but the most popular ones are HFCS 55 (55% fructose, 45% glucose) used in soda and other drinks, and HFCS 42 which is used in foods.  Although the process was invented in the 1950s, HFCS wasn’t used in food production until the late 1970s. A study done in 2008 shows that the average American consumed 37.8 POUNDS of HFCS…that’s not even total sugar!

-Although same in total calories, the HFCS diet created more body fat in rats (This is not saying sugar is good; it’s just saying HFCS is even worse than most thought)
-Results were similar for both short term (2 months) and long term (6-8 months) trials
-Besides becoming obese, the rats demonstrated other signs of metabolic syndrome such elevated triglycerides, abdominal fat. (This can also happen when you consume grains. The grains are converted to sugar and stored as fat, raising triglyceride levels and causing metabolic syndrome.)
-all of these signs may be precursors to cancer, diabetes, coronary disease, and other life threatening illnesses. (No one wants this)
-The scientists believe that a large part of this difference is due to the fructose found in HFCS: fructose is almost immediately stored as fat versus glucose which may be used by the muscles and/or stored as glycogen in the liver (although not mentioned in the study or article, the fructose is a reason that you may not be leaning out, even on a no grain, no sugar diet. If you are having an excessive amount of FRUIT, esp. apples, bananas, grapes, you may be converting this fructose to fat stores)*

-The best part about the study? The fact that rats on the HFCS diet gained more weight than the ones on a high fat diet.

So now you’re saying “ok, well I’ll avoid the HFCS and sugar and go for the diet stuff with aspartme.” If you’re not saying that, you might be saying “ok, well I’ll substitute with agave nectar and stevia.” Either of these “healthier” options won’t work. If you eat something sweet, your body will actually produce an insulin response and react the same way as if it had sugar and/or HFCS. And if you didn’t know, it’s actually the INSULIN response from SUGAR SPIKES that stores fat….NOT eating fat. So don’t even go with the aspartme, agave, or stevia. Drink your water straight up, or with lemon juice in it, and drink your coffee and tea black. 

*List of foods and fruit and their fructose/glucose/sucrose levels. Apples, grapes, pears, and cherries top the whole fruit list for fructose.  You can see from this table why dried fruit is more convenient, but less healthy than whole fruit. Best fruit to have would be berries: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and my favorite, strawberries.

Now, KEEP IN MIND that if you are just learning about how to clean up your diet that I would rather you be eating apples, bananas, and pears over soda, cookies, and chips. However, if you already have a pretty clean diet and want to clean it up even more, try limiting your fruit intake and stick with meat and veggies.

Proof is in the Numbers

Whenever I mention that I eat lots of meat and eggs, people always ask, “But what about your cholesterol??” Well, if you’ve been paying attention, you should know that consuming good fats will help joint mobility, brain function, mood, and many other facets of life. While there’s a LOT of science behind it, I also think proof is in the numbers.

I recently got blood work done and here is my cholesterol count.

Total cholesterol: 183
HDL: 61
LDL: 116
Triglycerides: 31
Total cholesterol/HDL: 3

Although there are still some things that the American Heart Association needs to make the public aware of (and themselves for that matter), let’s take a look at their guidelines and how I compare for risk of heart disease.

Total cholesterol: low risk = less than 200mg/dl; high risk = more than 240. 183 = LOW RISK.
HDL: low risk = more than 60; high risk = less than 40. 61 = LOW RISK.
LDL*: low risk =  low risk = less than 100; high risk = more than 190. 116 = NEAR LOW RISK.
Triglycerides: low risk = less than 150; high risk = more than 200. 31 = VERY LOW RISK.
Total cholesterol/HDL:low risk = less than 3.5; high risk = over 7. 3 = LOW RISK.

The kicker is that at the end of these guidelines, ADA writes On the whole, Americans should reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and total fat in their diet.” (ADA: Cholesterol Levels)

I wonder what they would say if I told them my diet consisted of 60% fat, less than 20% carbs, and 0% grains!!!  

*Now, LDL the “bad” cholesterol can actually be broken down into parts: big fluffy LDL and small dense LDL (VLDL). It’s the small dense stuff that can contribute to plaque buildup in arteries, but I don’t have the breakdown of numbers right now. If I get them, I’ll let them know. Also see Evan’s post in the comments for more info.

What should you take away from this? Eating fat does not MAKE you fat. Nor does it mess with your blood lipid profile. What does? Refined carbs and sugar. Things that mess with your insulin and inflammation. For the basics, check this post out.