Lowest Hanging Fruit – A guide to combating nutrition
A guide to combating nutrition
- Feeling lost with your nutrition?
- Overwhelmed with so much information?
- Not mentally up to tracking calories right now ?
- Need some momentum?
With all of the above in mind, what is our most bang for your buck interventions we can have for our nutrition?
The best place to begin is often with the lowest hanging fruit concept… meaning, the most convenient and easiest options which will seem simple but give you a big return. These options are often basic, but also really really effective.
As someone who spends a lot of time (for my business) on social media, I see all too much that so many people major in the minors. Yes, a lot of education out there is amazing but it can also be overwhelming at times. For a lot of people, if we can just regress things to the simplest options, it can be a lot more useful than information overload which leads to not getting started at all! The more we complicate things, the further people feel they are from results. It feels unattainable and diminishes confidence.
As a coach, or an educator, I always like to think that it’s all meaningless if you do not have a strong foundation.
In saying all of this, where do we begin?
Obviously we have to start with calories.
In basic understanding, if you eat ‘less’ (caloric deficit), you will lose fat, and if you eat ‘more’ (caloric surplus), you will potentially gain fat. Simple enough, right?
I’m sure that the majority of you understand energy balance and the importance of calories – great! But, besides just calories, what are some key aspects we can focus on to make the whole dieting process even easier if we want to take a further step back from calorie counting?
I know a lot of people, for various reasons, are just not mentally ready to track their calories religiously but also are desperate to get started and get results. This is where the lowest hanging fruit concept for nutrition is useful. What small interventions can lead to big positive returns?
Let’s start with these simple interventions:
- Eat more vegetables
Outside the obvious health benefits of vegetables, they are also a great way to add low calorie volume to our meals which makes overeating harder. Plus, it leads to a better chance of us feeling more full.
What vegetables should you choose? Relax, it really doesn’t matter. Find 4-5 vegetables you enjoy and rotate through these each day. Before worrying about what’s best, just make sure you are eating your vegetables daily. Always a great first step to improving your nutrition.
- Eat at a serving of protein with each meal
How much protein should you have daily? In an ideal world, 1.6g-2.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight is our ideal range, particularly for those dieting and resistance training. However, if you are struggling to get yourself on track, the lowest hanging fruit means you should focus on just consuming some protein with each meal.
Say you have 3 main meals and a snack each day, let’s start with you just getting some protein consumed in each of these 4 sittings. Eggs for breakfast, some chicken for lunch, a protein shake for a snack and some low fat beef mince for dinner. Simple. Is this perfect from hitting specific macros? No, not initially but it certainly is a nice starting point for consistency with daily protein intake.
- Eat more fruit
Fruit is your friend. The majority of fruits are high in fibre and very low calories for the volume you can consume. Fruit is also a very easy on-the-go snack which takes next to no time to grab and eat. I would recommend that you aim for 2 pieces of fruit a day as this is a nice and easy starting point.
What fruit is best? Again, find what you prefer. Berries are normally lower in calories but that doesn’t mean fruits higher in calories are bad either. A banana is one of the most convenient pre-workout snacks you can come across! Lowest hanging fruit, literally!
- Drink more water
Being hydrated is such a simple variable to aid overall wellbeing. Obviously, a hydrated person is going to perform better but being hydrated can also help with managing hunger. A lot of the time, people confuse dehydration with hunger and go and eat instead of drinking water. Aim to have a large glass of water with each meal and then sip water throughout the day. On training days especially, make sure you drink pre-training, during training and after your session. Doesn’t get any lower hanging fruit than a bottle of water!
- Find structure with your meal timing
A really simple way to get your meals in each day is by having structure around when you’re eating. Structure is important in many aspects of what we do in life but particularly around nutrition. It can help us manage those hunger signals by knowing when we are normally hungry and timing our meals around those times. Not having food at the usual time/s you eat, then falling hungry can lead you to making poor decisions if you are out and not prepared. Know what time you want to have your meals and plan out things in your day around these times. It doesn’t take long to eat, but it can mean giving you some nice consistency to your day.
- Eat in a mindful state
One of the worst things when you are dieting, is not just being hungry but also when you’re waiting to eat. You cook your meal, sit down, turn on the tv, start watching your favourite show, look down and the food is GONE! Where did it all go? Then realise, you ate it whilst being focused on your show. Unfortunately, you’re still hungry and didn’t even feel like you enjoyed your food or did anything to dent that hunger.
Lowest hanging fruit is to eat in a mindful state, so you need to sit down and focus on your food. Try to eliminate the tv or your phone for 10 minutes whilst eating. The more we focus on our food, the more we can also improve our digestion. Mindfulness helps trigger the first phase of digestion which begins in our brain (called the cephalic phase). This is where you begin to release enzymes to aid in digestion, simply by being mindful of your food.
- Plan out foods
Sure, you may not want to have a specific meal plan but you should try to have some plan around the foods you want to eat for the week and each day. Having a rough plan for your meals allows you to make better decisions and also give you key structure when you are hungry. When we are hungry, unprepared and out and about, we are creating a recipe to make decisions we most likely will regret.
Try having a bit of a mental plan for foods you want to have each day in advance. It makes things easier as often too many options leads us to be overwhelmed and again make bad decisions. Have a mental plan!
- Listen to your hunger cues
This point can go either way in reality – some people will really like it and others won’t agree but that’s okay. Say someone is dieting down to get really lean, chances are they are going to be hungry a lot of the day. This point is for those who are trying to get back on track without going all out on the tracking route just yet. Listening to your hunger levels doesn’t mean to eat whenever you are hungry.
What I mean is that it’s natural to be hungrier at different parts of the day. For me, I am always hungry at night, but pretty much not at all in the morning. For me, what works is to try and eat less early in the day and not force feed when I don’t feel the need to eat. Then I’ll back load more of my calories for when I know I will be hungry. Listen to your own hunger cues. Notice times in the day you are hungrier, then time those meals closer to those hunger signal times. It helps!
- Know when to stop
The final point is actually something a lot of people have troubles with, and that is knowing when to stop eating their meal. My friends and family always joke how I never finish my meals, whether it’s breakfast or dinner, especially when we are out at restaurants when they bring you massive servings for dinner. I happily notice I am full then say that’s enough for me and stop eating. However, I know first hand from friends and previous partners, many people almost felt obliged to continue eating as if it was rude not to. I have even had messages on Instagram of me not finishing a meal and being abused saying it’s selfish to not finish as others are starving in the world. Madness.
Unfortunately, finishing your food won’t assist with world hunger but it will assist in you eating calories you didn’t require. Please do not feel like you have to continue eating when you are quite clearly done. You don’t owe it to anyone to force feed yourself. Know when to stop! When you are full, that’s the sign you are done! Stop!
Now, these 9 points are simple but they truly are foundational bang-for-your-buck concepts which makes the dieting process so much easier. It’s also a great place to start if you are feeling overwhelmed on your nutritional journey. Start here. Start with simple things which give you a large positive return, then slowly build up your knowledge and confidence in your nutrition as you go to work out things like calories and macros. Even when you get to this point, these points are still fantastically useful regardless of calorie tracking or not.
In summary, if you are feeling a little lost or overwhelmed, pick the lowest hanging fruit options right now. Simple steps to make nutrition that much easier for you and quickly build your confidence back up!
Coach Mark Carroll