Healthy Eating Strategies: 4 Easy, Unconventional Ways To Stay On Target

Quick Summary

  • A large percentage of food marketed as healthy is actually damaging our healthy eating strategies, along with our weight loss or muscle building goals.
  • Being savvy and detecting hidden sugars in our potential food choices is a key to long term health.
  • Higher quality sleep is directly related to our health and physique goals.
  • Sitting has a profound effect on metabolic function and our ability to function on a chemical level.

healthy eating strategies

I’ve spent many years of my life dieting, using what I thought were healthy eating strategies. Not because I was overweight or unhealthy. I’ve simply been a fitness enthusiast striving for stronger muscles and a better physique. Dieting is just a small part of the process – or so I thought.

Dieting is almost the entire process. Healthy eating strategies play a monumental role in obtaining long term health.

Not to say that fitness isn’t important, but the physical work only amounts to about 5% of our overall vitality, energy levels, strength, and physique. 80% of your success is comprised of how we eat.

Dieting means something different to everyone, depending on our goals. And it’s often used as a synonym for misery and deprivation of enjoyable food – and that breaks my heart.

Here’s what dieting should actual mean to us:

  1. Dieting, for weight loss. To someone who wants to lose weight, it means eating to optimize their metabolism to use stored fat for energy. A ketogenic diet for weight loss is perfect for this because it retrains the body to burn as much fat as it can.
  2. Dieting, for muscle. For someone like me, who already has a low body fat percentage, it means eating in a way that optimizes metabolic function for lots of energy, big and usable muscles, and no additional storage of body fat. We can also build muscle and burn fat simultaneously with a ketogenic diet.
  3. Dieting for delicious foods. Real dieting is a delicious, hunger-free strategy that will make us feel amazing, crave healthy foods, reduce chronic ailments, boost vitality and energy, and radically improve our lives.

True health is fun, not tedious or restrictive.

But it’s a process. And as we make the transition away from harmful things like sugars, grains, dessert cravings, and binges, it’s nice to have a few tricks up our sleeve to help along the way.

Here are a few healthy eating strategies that can help us while we wrangle a new, delicious, healthy, and happy lifestyle – you might be surprised at some of them.

 

Healthy Eating Strategies #1: Avoid Hidden Sugars, Buy Local Or USDA

Health food companies don’t care about us.

It’s true…a lot of food companies, even the ones offering “healthy” food, don’t care about your health. Simply realizing that your health is not among their main priorities can make a big difference in our healthy eating strategies.

(Stay with me, there’s an actual eating strategy here that I’ll get to in a moment.)

The vast majority of food companies exist to make a profit. And many of those companies market their products as healthy, but then pump them full of sugar, chemicals, and preservatives. They know that if it doesn’t taste sweet, a lot of people won’t buy them.

For reference, I want to share the nutritional information of Dunkin Donut’s plain glazed donut and an avocado.

  1. Donut: 260 calories, 14g fat, 30g carbs (12g sugar), and 3g protein.

    Ingredients: Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron as Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Whey (a milk derivative), Skim Milk, Yeast, Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda), Defatted Soy Flour, Wheat Starch, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts, Beta Carotene), Eggs; Glaze: Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Corn Starch, Mono and Diglycerides, Citric Acid, Agar, Cellulose Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor. 1)https://www.dunkindonuts.com/en/food-drinks/donuts/donuts

  2. Avocado: 240 calories, 24g fat, 12g carbs (0g sugar), and 3g protein.

    Ingredients: Avocado 2)https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients

There are a couple things I’d like to point out here. The first is that when we eat processed, commercially prepared foods, we have absolutely no idea what we’re putting into our bodes. The only thing we know is that (in most cases) the company used the cheapest ingredients they could get. 

This is obviously not conducive to our healthy eating strategies Let’s be more specific.

Those green bottled drinks that looks so healthy? Odwalla is the worst offender that comes to mind. Their Original Superfood Fruit Smoothie, has 51 grams of sugar. 3)https://www.odwalla.com/products/smoothies/original-superfood

We could eat four plain glazed donuts from Dunkin Donuts and still have less sugar than we’d get from Odwalla’s superfood drink. Yikes.

Greek yogurt is all the rage in fitness and health circles. All my friends love Chobani greek yogurt products because they’re so delicious. And they should be. They’re full of sugar. A single Mixed Berry greek yogurt drink has 22 grams of sugar – almost equal to two donuts. 4)https://www.chobani.com/products/greek/drink/mixed-berry/

Oatmeal is a staple for fitness enthusiasts on the standard American diet. I frequently see people eating flavored, single serving packets of Quaker oatmeal. Unfortunately, each packet has the same amount of sugar as a donut. 5)http://www.quakeroats.com/products/hot-cereals/instant-oatmeal/apples-with-cinnamon.aspx

It’s also common for health enthusiasts to use protein bars to curb hunger and get extra protein. But just because a bar is high in protein doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. Some Balance bars, for example, have 18 grams of sugar in them – much more than a donut. 6)https://www.balance.com/products/chocolate-craze/

The short version is this: just because it’s marketed as a health food doesn’t mean it is.

(There are companies that do have our long term health in mind. They’re usually easy to spot because they love to give away free information and research about our health – like just Covert Body)

The best way to avoid hidden sugars and chemicals is to buy local, single ingredient foods or USDA organic single ingredient foods.

There are lots of excellent, healthy, ketogenic recipes that you can enjoy at your leisure – all of which use simple ingredients. These are the types of food that support delicious, long term healthy eating strategies. 

Buy as much of your food at a grocery store as you can. Eating on the fly makes things much more difficult.

That leads me to…

Healthy Eating Strategies #2: Be Cautious Eating Out

Get a salad. Boom. Done, right?

So, so, so wrong. While salads you make at home are some of the best meals you can make, restaurant salads are some of the absolute worst meals you can buy…

A typical salad that I make at home is what you’d expect from a pile of vegetables, meat, a bit of cheese, and some oil. That means you can expect a salad with:

Now that we have a healthy, ketogenic salad to use as a baseline, let’s look at some of the worst restaurant meals on the planet: salads.

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad (w/ Crispy Chicken)

How can a plate of vegetables and chicken be that dubious? Well, ask Applebee’s. Their seemingly “healthy” option has 1440 calories, 99g fat (the bad kind), 110g carbohydrates, 36g protein, and 37g of sugar. 7)https://www.applebees.com/en/menu/salads/oriental-chicken-salad

That’s more than many people should be eating in an entire day. Note that the sugar content is equal to three donuts. Three donuts hidden in a salad.

There are also more carbohydrates in this salad than in three orders of Applebee’s Hot Fudge Sundae Shooter dessert. No wonder people have trouble losing weight.

The only healthy eating strategy here is a solid no-thank-you.

California Pizza Kitchen’s Waldorf Salad (Full Size)

CPK’s Waldorf Salad is marketed on their menu as having:  “Grapes, green apples, candied walnuts, crisp celery, baby greens and Gorgonzola tossed with housemade Dijon balsamic vinaigrette.” It sounds delicious, and it sounds healthy. 8)https://www.cpk.com/Menu

Unfortunately, this salad has 1320 calories, 94g fat, 75g carbohydrates, 54g protein, and 55g of sugar. 9)https://www.cpk.com/Contents/Downloads/Nutrition-Allergen.pdf

The exact same amount of sugar found in a 16oz can of Pepsi is hiding in this salad. It’s also more than the sugar found in four and half glazed donuts. 10)http://www.pepsicobeveragefacts.com/Home/Product?formula=35005*26*01-01&form=RTD&size=16

No wonder people love choosing salads as a “healthy” option. Unfortunately, this one is more like a dessert. Wow…

IHOP’s Chicken & Spinach Salad (w/ Grilled Chicken)

When all our friends want to hit the local pancake house, we could simply decide to go along and make a smart, healthy choice while they eat their pancakes.

But the Chicken And Spinach Salad is sneaky, and hides 1110 calories, 73g fat, 44g carbs, 70g protein, and 30g of sugar. 11)https://www.ihop.com/en/menu/salads/chicken-cobb-salad

In other words, we could have six Original Buttermilk Pancakes w/ Butter and still have less carbohydrates and less sugar than the salad.

Wow.

How Can We Make Better Choices?

The truth is that a lot of restaurants want us to feel good about eating salads. And since sugar gives us a brief chemical high, it’s the perfect way to hook us on a meal that is actually damaging our health, and hindering weight loss or muscle building goals – all while making us believe we’re making good choices. 

That’s why eating away from home is such a trick – we just don’t know what we’re going to get. That definitely throws a wrench into our healthy eating strategies.

When going to a restaurant (of course we can still go, it’s fun to socialize and mix things up!), ask for a nutritional booklet alongside the menu. If there isn’t one, order a small, plain steak with a side of cooked vegetables. Stay away from sauces, salads, and fried foods.

When we’re out on the road, we should just stay away from fast food restaurants, including Subway. Plan ahead or take the time to stop at a grocery store and buy some real, single ingredient snacks.

I’ve been away from home for nearly seven weeks straight now, and I love snacking on healthy, delicious ketogenic foods like:

  • Smoked almonds
  • Bakers chocolate (100% cacao)
  • Vegetables with single serving packets of almond butter or sour cream
  • Blueberries, kiwi, fresh coconut meat
  • High quality olives
  • Cured meats like sliced salami

If snacking instead of having meals, we should do our best to stay away from foods with chemicals and hidden sugars, like:

  • Meal replacement and protein bars
  • Single serving yogurts
  • Dried fruit
  • Commercial jerky
  • Chips, crackers, and cookies – even the gluten free ones
  • Bottled “health” drinks
  • Sugar-free or zero calorie drinks, other than water

 

Healthy Eating Strategies # 3: Get Better Quality Sleep

I know, I know…sleeping isn’t technically a healthy eating strategy. But the entire point of eating well is to optimize our metabolism so we can lose weight, build muscle, or have more energy.

The problem is that sleep deprivation, from poor quality sleep or simply a lack of sleep, messes with two hormones that affect our body weight and hunger levels: leptin and ghrelin. 12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/ 13)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18564298

  1. Leptin is a hormone that helps regulate our baseline body weights. If we have too much body fat, it signals our bodies that we need to burn some off. If we become too thin, leptin lets the body know that we need to begin storing some fat. 14)http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/leptin/

    Leptin plays a role in weight loss plateaus. When our bodies think we’ve reached a relatively healthy body fat percentage, losing more weight becomes difficult because our bodies are fighting our goals.
  2. Ghrelin is a hormone that largely controls our level of hunger. When we need energy, ghrelin will remind us to eat. Subnormal levels of ghrelin can affect our appetite and the storage or release of body fat. 15)http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/ghrelin/

Research shows that a lack of sleep can mess with healthy levels of both ghrelin and leptin.

“Sleep is an important modulator of neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism and sleep loss has been shown to result in metabolic and endocrine alterations, including decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased evening concentrations of cortisol, increased levels of ghrelin, decreased levels of leptin, and increased hunger and appetite.” 16)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/

Other studies show that chronic sleep deprivation might actually be a cause of obesity. Decreased metabolic and hormonal function may result in the choosing of foods most capable of causing weight gain. 17)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763921/ 18)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/

In fact, Erin Hanlon, PhD and member of a research organization at the University of Chicago, compares sleep restriction to marijuana. A lack of sleep increases the pleasure and satisfaction gained from eating, just like marijuana – making you more prone to desire food. 19)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307203.php

The bottom line is to just get better quality sleep. It will help us lose weight, build muscle, or boost our energy levels.

I went way down the rabbit hole about sleep quality in a recent post, which you can read here. Getting better quality rest was one of three things that radically improved my energy and vitality.

The other two are a ketogenic diet and performing high intensity strength training just once per week.

 

Healthy Eating Strategies #4: Sit Less

This fourth strategy isn’t exactly a healthy eating strategy, either – at least not directly. But the amount of time we spend sitting has a direct relationship with decreased metabolism, obesity, and chronic disease.

Did you know that some metabolic functions almost stop entirely while you’re sitting? Simply standing up activates all kinds of chemical processes.

“For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insulin—are activated. All of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your own bodyweight. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuel into your cells and, if done regularly, will radically decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity.” 20)https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2015/02/06/effects-prolonged-sitting.aspx?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=facebookpets_ranart&utm_campaign=20180322_effects-prolonged-sitting)

Sitting interrupts our metabolic process. Chronically sitting for prolonged periods of time can result in metabolic syndrome, a group of negative effects that are caused by long term abuse (chronic interruption) of the metabolic process. 21)https://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/metabolic-syndrome-what-is-it#1 22)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351916 23)http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MetabolicSyndrome/About-Metabolic-Syndrome_UCM_301920_Article.jsp 24)https://www.medicinenet.com/metabolic_syndrome/article.htm 25)https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/metabolic-syndrome/

Metabolic Syndrome isn’t a single negative effect – it’s a collection of several, including:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood glucose/sugar.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Excess abdominal fat.
  • Increased risk of death from heart issues and cancers. 26)https://www.webmd.com/heart/metabolic-syndrome/metabolic-syndrome-what-is-it#1 27)https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005 ((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996155/

Sitting less can keep our metabolic functions on point as we work toward our weight loss or muscle building goals. It will also give us more energy and decrease our chances of storing excess abdominal fat.

On an anecdotal note, I experienced several positive things when I decreased the amount of time I sit every day, including better general mobility and higher levels of energy to go have fun at the end of the day. I attribute some of that to increased metabolic function, a ketogenic diet, and intermittent fasting.

You can read more in-depth about the negative effects of sitting in a previous post.

The point is that sitting less will increase our metabolic and hormonal functions and allow our bodies to continue working uninterrupted toward our weight loss or muscle building goals – a perfect pairing with our other healthy eating strategies.

 

Summary

Healthy eating strategies are a combination of what we eat and how we empower our bodies to process the food we eat. High quality, ketogenic foods combined with proper rest and reduced sitting are powerful methods to reach your weight loss or muscle building goals.

Remember these points as you go out to restaurants, eat while on the road, start winding down each night, or sit down on the couch.

  • A large percentage of food marketed as healthy is actually damaging our health, along with our weight loss or muscle building goals.
  • Being savvy and detecting hidden sugars in potential food choices is a key to long term health.
  • Higher quality sleep is directly related to our health and physique goals.
  • Sitting has a profound effect on metabolic function and our ability to function on a chemical level.

Become A CovertBody.com Subscriber

Be the first to hear about simple, long-term health strategies that will change your life forever.

  • Read research-supported articles that genuinely have your best interest in mind – no corporate funded information, government agendas, or lobbyist input. Ever.
  • Get real, scientifically proven results from your fitness efforts – no fitness industry campaigning to keep you spinning in circles to buy the latest products.
  • Learn about delicious, satisfying foods that will help you gain strength or lose weight without feeling hungry or full and bloated – all while achieving the physique you desire.
  • Discover the secret to life: having massive amounts of energy to kick ass at anything – for as long as you want. Say goodbye to chronic exhaustion and sleep deprivation.

Click here to subscribe

Someone you know will love this. Click to share.

References   [ + ]

Bookmark the permalink.