Junior Apple Mike F. writes:
“Mark, what can I eat? I hear dairy is bad, fat is bad, then fat is good, but some fat is bad, carbs are bad, but fiber is good. There is nothing left. I can’t even have milk in my tea now – not that I would be caught sipping tea. But if I wanted to is the point. What’s a guy supposed to eat?”
Good question, Mike. The answer: just about everything.
I am pretty disciplined (according to my kids, I’m a drill sergeant). I don’t really “do” carbs, I definitely avoid any junk or processed food, and I try to eat organic. But even being so careful about what goes on my plate, I’d say honestly I get a lot more flavor and variety than some people I know who insist on a steady diet of burgers, beers and pizzas. The truth is, “fun” foods like nachos, pizza and tacos all taste the same: the texture is usually a mix of creamy or crunchy, there’s a lot of salt, some meat-type seasoning, and sugar. Eat that stuff and you’re starving the next hour.
You can eat salad and be a man about it. Seriously. I’m fitter, have more muscle mass and I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been at 5’10”, 165 lbs. and 8% body fat. I do it with a heavy supply of vegetables, of all things. I never worry too much about fat because I eat a lot of “good” fats, which really aren’t too hard to identify. More on that in a moment. But honestly, I never am deprived, hungry or suffer from any cravings. Actually, I refuse to eat something that isn’t delicious, period. To me, the relentlessly boring, salty, familiar flavor of most processed foods is not delicious. The fact that they’re also totally unhealthy is almost a side issue.
This morning, for example, I had my cup of joe with a little organic H&H. I don’t always eat breakfast (there I go breaking all the holy grails of health). This morning I had some scrambled Omega-enhanced eggs, and sometimes I’ll have a piece of fruit or a protein smoothie. I confess I don’t eat a lot of fruit (my wife jokes that men like the idea of fruit but don’t always know what to do with it). I like to get my fiber from vegetables since they’re lower in sugar and have more nutrients than fruit.
For a snack I’ll grab a piece of fruit, cherry tomatoes or some almonds. I completely avoid processed snacks like chips and candy. Fresh stuff just tastes better – but it will take your body some time to readjust its tastes if you’ve been a junk food kind of guy.
For lunch (speaking of lunch…): I always eat a huge salad. I’ve done so for 20 years. But no regular salad – I add in seafood or turkey, mountains of colorful chopped up veggies, and drizzle some balsamic vinegar on it. I do different greens on different days, but I never really put much planning into it. I just grab my favorite big bowl, toss in whatever veggies and greens we have on hand that day, and chow. This keeps me full and the flavor is unbeatable.
In the afternoon, if I didn’t have a morning protein boost, I’ll do a shake, sometimes adding in a banana or other fruit.
For dinner, we always have a meal focusing on fresh steamed, stir-fried or baked vegetables of some sort. The flavor and spice combinations are endless. Some broiled fish or occasional organic chicken is plenty – I don’t like a big dinner. Sometimes I enjoy a glass or wine or a beer, but in general I keep the evenings light on calories.
In my early competition days, I could consume – indeed, I had to consume – two or three times what most people need to eat in a day. No six-pack of beer or carton of ice cream stood a chance around me. It’s hard to understand the incredible calorie vacuum that goes on unless you’ve competed as a marathoner or other pro athlete. Some days you literally can’t get enough fuel. When I retired from sports, obviously that had to change. I won’t say it was a piece of cake (and did I ever eat plenty of those) – but with time my body began to crave smaller portions and healthy foods that have enabled me to look fitter and be stronger than a lot of guys in their 20s.
You can eat flavor and variety. I say I eat salads every day, but they’re always different. There are hundreds of different types of fish, vegetables, fruits and herbs from all over the world that are far more exciting and interesting to eat than your average mashed potato-peas-pork chop combo. You don’t have to be a great cook, either. The great thing about eating fresh and clean is that these things don’t take much time or creativity to taste great – they’re sort of fool-proof (the ideal guy food).
I’d encourage you not to worry too much about what you can or can’t eat. It can seem like everything is bad if you listen to some of the more negative health news. But eating healthy is actually pretty simple. We do learn new things about what foods to eat and what to avoid, but in general, the rules don’t change too much.
So trans fat and too much saturated fat is bad? Sugar and starches are harmful to health? Processed, hormone-injected, and chemically-altered foods are dangerous?
Well, yeah. But if you focus on the positive: eat fresh, eat whole, eat clean, you’ll tend to automatically avoid all the latest food scares and any of the really bad stuff.
Make fresh (yes, organic) vegetables, lean seafood or meat, and some flavorful seasonings and fats the basis of your diet, and you’ll be 99% there.
By the way, “good” fats are just about anything that isn’t highly processed.
Highly processed fats: cheese, fat in snacks and packaged foods, refined oils, fried meats or fried snacks
Minimally processed fats: nuts, eggs, lean grass-fed or free-range meats, seafood, cottage cheese, avocados, certain cold-pressed oils (avocado oil, olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil)
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