Let’s face it. It’s not always easy to eat healthy 100% of the time—especially if you’re not used to eating that way.
But along with consistent exercise, healthy eating is what’s really going to propel you to the fitness level you want. Plus, it will make you feel better, give you more energy, and help you achieve the body of your dreams.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Healthy eating can actually be incredibly easy and enjoyable—if you know how to structure your meals and your days around it.
Along my fitness journey, I’ve discovered there are eleven healthy eating rules I follow that when combined with the HIIT workouts, mean I never, ever have to worry about my weight.
And that’s pretty awesome, if you ask me.
Here are the eleven nutrition rules I swear by to make healthy eating easy:
1. Eat 30 grams of protein for breakfast.
If you’ve ever read Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Body, you may remember his 30/30 rule for accelerated fat loss: eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up.
Whether you actually get food in you within a half an hour or if it’s more like an hour, it’s not as big of a deal. The key here is the 30 grams of protein. I used to eat breakfast and get hungry an hour later (no joke). Making sure I get a good dose of protein first thing in the morning helps me stay full for at least another hour more.
Now, I realize this is difficult for most people—not everyone wakes up feeling as famished as I do. But the key is to find something you don’t mind eating that early in the morning—something packed with protein that will keep you feeling full and fueled up for your entire morning.
Here are a few ideas for a protein-packed breakfast:
- Oatmeal with scoop of protein powder (my go-to daily breakfast)
- A protein shake like this berry one or this PB & J smoothie
- Eggs and fruit
- Tofu scramble if you’re feeling more adventurous
2. Eat protein and carbs after every single workout.
After a really tough workout, your muscles need to repair. The best way to help them? Get a mix of protein and carbs immediately after your workout. As in, within 15 or 30 minutes, tops.
While eating something like a protein bar or a meal is better than nothing, your body absorbs liquid faster, which is why I always recommend people have a protein shake for easy muscle recovery right after working out. Heck, even chocolate milk has been shown to have the ideal mixture of protein and carbs for post-workout recovery.
3. Keep healthy snacks with you at all times.
Anyone who knows me knows very well that I turn into an absolute grump when I don’t get enough to eat.
This used to be pretty tough on my family and friends, because they would never know when I would ‘turn on them.’ And it would usually result in me having to get something unhealthy to snack on when out and about—such as a muffin or a bagel, both poor choices to fuel your body throughout the day without packing on the pounds.
Then, one day, I magically discovered the power of keeping healthy snacks with me, and haven’t turned back since. This keeps me from being hungry constantly, and makes the people I’m with very, very happy.
Here are a few of the snacks I carry with me at all times:
- Almonds and other nuts
- Fresh fruit like apples and oranges
- Hard boiled eggs
- Protein bars like these Zone bars or even homemade ones
4. If you’re caught without a snack outside of the house, look for something healthy.
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to pack enough snacks to get you through the day. Maybe you’re short on time, or traveling, or maybe you just forgot.
Either way, you don’t have to suffer through the day with an empty stomach or resort to something unhealthy like a pastry or a cookie and ruin your fitness goals. These days, you can get something healthy out—smoothies from Jamba Juice or Starbucks are always a good bet (just make sure to get the ones without sorbet)—even convenience stores like Walgreens sell protein shakes, protein bars and fresh fruit.
So don’t make excuses and say you can’t find anything healthy outside of your house. You may have to work a little harder to find it, but it exists, really!
5. Include protein at every single meal.
Protein is what keeps you full, fuels your muscles, and keeps your weight where you want it. Plus, since protein is harder for your body to break down than carbohydrates, you’ll actually increase your metabolism when you eat a meal high in protein.
A high-protein meal (especially at breakfast; see rule #1) can actually increase your metabolism by 30% over as long as 12 hours at a time.
Pretty cool, right?
6. Eat whole foods as often as possible.
Whole foods mean foods not in a box, a freezer bag, or a can.
Think lots of veggies, fresh fruits, grains like quinoa and brown rice (if you’re not paleo), and unprocessed proteins.
Yes, this means you’ll be required to cook more often at home—so go check out your local farmer’s market and get cooking.
7. Incorporate as many veggies into my meal as possible.
Don’t like vegetables?
It’s all mental. Either that, or you’ve just never had them cooked right.
Canned, over-sauced veggies are about the worst thing on the planet in my mind. But fresh, right-out-of-the-garden, seasonal veggies? I’d (almost) choose them over fresh fruit, they’re so good.
Brussels sprouts, carrots, red peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, kale… it’s all good.
Try to add a good portion of veggies to every meal—or at least two out of three.
Once you start doing this, you’ll be surprised how easy it becomes to eat healthy on a regular basis.
8. Allow yourself one to two treats a day.
I’m a huge advocate of the 80/20 rule: exercise regularly keep a healthy diet at least 80% of the time, and you’ll have no problem keeping in awesome shape.
I strongly believe that rewarding yourself is important, and allowing yourself a couple of small treats a day keeps you feeling bitter about eating healthy the rest of the time.
Of course, if you’re looking to get sub 10% body fat with bodybuilder abs, you’ll have to skip this step.
Here are a few of my favorite daily rewards:
- Coffee (lattes are my favorite—just avoid the high sugar drinks which can have 400 calories or more!)
- Frozen yogurt with fresh fruit
- Dark chocolate
- Wine (I’m a huge fan)
- Adam Bornstein’s protein ice cream
9. Eat when you’re hungry.
I’ll admit it: I’m hungry a lot.
I eat more than most people I know, including my husband and 6′ 5″ dad.
This used to really embarrass me, and I’d try to deny that I needed to eat often and just get really grumpy and bitter instead.
But when I realized I wasn’t actually gaining weight from eating so often, I decided to come to my senses and eat when I’m hungry—no matter how often that is.
Here are some of my favorite snacks I eat when I’m hungry:
- Greek yogurt with cinnamon and walnuts
- A hard boiled egg with piece of fruit
- An apple and peanut butter
- A protein shake
- Veggies and hummus
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Anything with guacamole
Just make sure to include some protein and ideally some healthy fats so you’ll stay full longer.
10. Cook at home or bring your own meals as often as possible.
Like many people, I used to hate to cook—mainly because whenever I’d try and cook something, it would never turn out as good as it would have if I’d just gone out to eat.
But now, I eat at home the majority of the time.
The main reason: when you make your own food, it’s easier to know what’s going into it.
You can make sure to add protein and as many veggies as possible. And no one will charge you an extra $5 for an extra big salad.
11. When you do eat out, keep it healthy but good
Obviously it’s not always possible to cook at home, and I’ll admit that I love eating out. Because I live in San Francisco, there’s always some place new to try, and it’s fun to get out of the house and do something sometimes.
When I do eat out, I don’t go crazy, but I don’t completely deny myself either. Depending on the type of restaurant, I’ll get a big salad plus just a little pizza or pasta to make myself feel like I got to indulge. Mexican food, Thai and Indian can also be good bets when you’re out—as long as they’re the healthy veggie-filled versions, not the greasy, fast-food style ones you see in many cities.
So there you have it. These are the eleven easy, stress-free rules I follow to eat healthy most of the time.
They work for me—and they’ll work for you too, if you stick to them and start incorporating them into your daily life.
Now go make a protein shake or cut up some veggies… you’ve got some eating to do!