Let’s get this out of the way first: there is no single food that will burn fat.
As I explained in yesterday’s lesson, how much you eat matters more than what you eat. And yes, because I know you’re thinking it, you could eat quote-unquote junk food all day and as long as you’re in a calorie deficit, you will lose fat.
But, just because you can eat whatever you want doesn’t mean you should.
A diet shouldn’t just be about losing fat, it should also teach you good eating habits so you can maintain the loss after the diet ends.
With all of that said, here are some things to consider.
1. Your diet should be enjoyable
This means it should:
a) Respect your personal taste preferences. If you prefer fattier foods then your diet should account for that. If you enjoy carb-based foods, then you probably shouldn’t be using a ketogenic diet.
b) Be flexible. You should eat the foods you enjoy eating. If you enjoy eating white rice and hate the taste of brown rice, eat white rice. If you prefer spinach and hate kale–guess what? Fuck kale and eat as much spinach as you want.
2. Your diet should be ‘healthy’
A calorie may be a calorie, but food is not just food.
Sure, you can lose fat by controlling calories and eating Twinkies, McDonald’s, or ice cream. But a good diet is so much more than changing your body composition–it should also promote healthful eating, for a number of reasons.
a) Vitamins, Minerals, and Fibre: Your body requires certain amounts of essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy and your body functioning optimally. To add to that, the importance of fibre in the diet can’t be understated: it can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, aids in a healthy gut, and even lower the risk of cancer. Eating whole, nutrient-rich foods will help you consume adequate amounts of these.
b) Satiety and long term maintenance: One of the biggest struggles anyone will face when dieting is hunger. Eating a diet that helps keeps you full will increase your chances of succeeding with the diet (and keeping the weight off).
Factors that influence the satiety of a food:
- Protein content
- Fibre content
- Water content
- Energy density
- Food composition: solid or liquid?
This is why, whole, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins are going to be more satiating than ice cream, candy, or fast food.
c) Disease prevention: While someone’s propensity to contract a disease or fall ill is multifactorial, a person’s diet does play a key role. In one study, titled Healthy Living Is the Best Revenge, researchers wanted to identify the healthy lifestyle factors that could prevent chronic diseases. Amongst the factors – never smoking, having a body mass index lower than 30, performing 3.5 or more hours per week of physical activity – the researchers also noted, “adhering to healthy dietary principles (high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread and low meat consumption) can have a strong impact on the prevention of chronic diseases.”
Another study that looked at the nutritional quality of a diet and the risk of chronic disease found that certain dietary patterns – similar to the above; fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats – was associated with better weight control and better health and longevity.
So, what should you eat?
Here’s a simple guideline.
– 70% Whole, nutrient-rich foods. These are foods that are minimally processed and contain a multitude of nutritional value (vitamins, minerals etc.) While no foods are inherently bad, if your diet is missing key nutrients, you leave yourself open to illness and performing less than optimally. Whole, nutrient-rich foods are also satiating and will stave off hunger better during a diet. They will also better serve muscle recovery and growth.
– 15 % nutrient-rich, minimally processed foods. These are foods that are minimally processed yet still contain key nutrients.
– 10 % Processed, junk foods. These are the obvious junk items. While they aren’t bad and should be included as part of a balanced diet, they should be fitted in after the bulk of your diet includes the prior two groups. These foods contain minimal to zero nutrients and won’t keep you satiated like whole, nutrient-rich foods will. These foods can often also trigger overeating. Which leads to our last group.
– 5 % Foods to avoid. Also known as trigger foods. They contain very few nutrients and can trigger overeating. What type of foods are trigger foods? This will depend on the individual, so you’ll have to experiment and see what your trigger foods are. Generally, I find some foods should be avoided or at best, exposure to them kept minimal (only consumed when going out to eat, on special occasions, etc).
**Please note this is not an exhaustive list. But to give you an idea of what foods fall into each category.
70% Whole, nutrient-rich foods.
– Meat and poultry
– Rice (white or brown, doesn’t matter, eat what you prefer)
– Potatoes (all varieties)
– Nut butters
– Healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, are three I recommend you use).
– Beans and other legumes
15 % nutrient-rich, (minimally) processed foods.
– Rice cakes
– Protein bars
– Wholegrain cereals
– Dark chocolate
– Bread (all varieties are fine, but whole-grain or 50/50 is preferred due to fibre content)
– Protein Powders
10 % Processed, junk foods.
– Sugary cereals
– Chocolate bars
– Ice cream
– Processed meats (pepperoni etc)
5 % Foods to avoid.
This will depend on the individual. Some people find certain kinds of chocolate bars to be a trigger food, others may find savoury foods such as cheese to trigger overeating. You’re going to have to test and see what these foods are for you.
As you track your food intake, do your best to ensure that the majority of your diet consists of whole, nutrient-rich foods and minimally processed foods.