This post is part of a January series about “What you might not know about weight loss.” Part One and Part Two are here.
I often get asked:
“What do *you* eat in a day?”
I’ll outline what I eat in a typical day below, but the more important question is probably:
“Why do you eat what you eat?”
I’ve become more mindful of my food choices as I’ve learned about epigenetics: the idea that you can influence your genes (or genetic expression) through diet and lifestyle. In simple terms, the idea is we all have “good” genes and “bad” genes, and we can strongly influence which of these genes get turned on or off based on dietary and lifestyle choices. It is a great concept because it means that even, for example, if you’re born with a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure, it doesn’t have to manifest in you. You aren’t “doomed” to your genes–you can influence them. Dr. Mark Hyman talks more about epigenetics here.
With that as the backdrop, I focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods every day. Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. I consume between 1500-1800 daily calories so I try to make every calorie count by eating almost no processed food and avoiding sugar, gluten and meat. I generally limit my fruit to low fructose fruits.
So what is left? I eat lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy oils along with some dairy and eggs. My diet includes cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce of all types, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, fermented vegetables, seeds of all types (including sunflower, pumpkin), nuts of all types (I eat lots of raw walnuts and almonds), tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), non-dairy milks like almond, coconut and cashew, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, lemons and limes, goat cheese and goat kefir (a fermented milk drink) and popcorn with vegan nutritional yeast flakes (for vitamin B12)! I love popcorn. 🙂
Since my goal is nutrient density, I also eat a lot of natural supplements in powder form (protein powder, collagen powder, matcha, wheatgrass, spirulina). The fact that something is in powder form doesn’t necessarily make it bad– read the labels to make sure the ingredients are pure. Powders can actually be an efficient way to get nutrients because they are quickly absorbed by the body.
In order to stay full and feel satiated during the day, I try to eat 10-20 grams of protein per meal.
I didn’t always eat this way. My diet has changed a lot over the last ten years. The genesis of the change was Kundalini Yoga teacher training but then I started reading more and more about nutrition and have adjusted what I eat based on what I learn. And this is a dynamic process. Below I outline what I eat in a typical day now and what I was eating ten years ago.
Today: A homemade breakfast bar (tahini, protein powder, collagen powder, shredded coconut, black seed oil, almond milk, stevia)
A couple of tablespoons of goat kefir with ground Ceylon cinnamon.
Ten years ago: A whole wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese.
Today: A giant green salad (a head of lettuce, fresh juice from one lemon, apple cider vinegar, avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, salt and pepper)
A few spoons of fermented vegetables
Goat cheese (snack size amount)
Ten years ago: A cheddar cheese and tomato sandwich with whole wheat bread, a bag of potato chips and a piece of fruit
Today: Roast vegetables drizzled with lemon juice and tahini
A side of goat cheese or vegan cheese (I love this recipe lately).
A few spoons of fermented vegetables
A veggie burger or veggie soup if I’m still hungry…
Ten years ago: I was eating a lot of pre-packaged food so most nights it was something out of a package that still seemed healthy. I ate lots of Tasty Bites Indian food, pasta with spaghetti sauce and Trader Joe’s dinners. I don’t actually think this was bad, it just wasn’t as nutrient-dense as what I eat now.
Popcorn! I especially like it air-popped and topped with melted coconut oil, nutritional yeast and himalayan salt. Yum. 🙂
Ten years ago: A Snickers bars and peanut butter cookies.
The biggest shift in the last ten years for me has been from eating high carb, low fat and largely pre-prepared food to eating low carb, high protein, high healthy fat food I make myself. Why the shift? I notice I have a ton of energy when I stay with my nutrient-dense, unprocessed diet. My body seems to love it. I’m rarely sick, I don’t have the aches and pains other people complain about, I have enough energy to do what I want, and my mood is generally smooth and happy. While I eat differently than most people around me, I don’t really mind. It isn’t a big hardship and for me, the trade-off is totally worth it. If you want to experiment with a nutrient-dense, “yogic” diet, you can join us in March for our annual 40 Day Yogic Cleanse. Learn more here.