Simple Nutrition, Real Food, & The Healthiest Me
To all of my longtime friends, hi! To any of my new friends and readers, HI and welcome to The Healthiest Me! It occurred to me that it’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write to you all about my current nutrition routine/how things have been going. For those who might not know or are new to the blog, my name is Hanna and this blog is all about finding, living and loving the healthiest me. And in turn help you find, live, and love the healthiest you. I’ve gone through plenty of ups and downs in both the dieting and fitness world, and now I’m really just trying to be the most balanced, happiest, and healthiest Hanna that I can be.
Since starting my blog a few years ago, my health and over-all style of eating has taken a rather drastic turn – for the better. During most of my mid to late-teen years, I counted calories religiously and I restricted myself from any and all sweets, treats, and carbs. I under ate and over worked my body each and every day at the gym, I constantly compared myself to fitness accounts on Instagram, and I hated every aspect of what I thought a ‘healthy’ lifestyle was supposed to be. My food groups included protein powder, protein bars, fruit, and cereal. I didn’t drink water (unless it had synthetic pre-workout in it), I stayed away from any sources of fat, and I had literally no clue how or why I was doing and eating any of it. This was what I thought healthy looked like; I thought this is what I had to do to achieve that toned, muscular, and perfect figure that everyone else seemed to have.
I didn’t see my truth; I was young, impatient, and growing up in a world of instant gratification. Although everyone is trying to be nice and honest on social media now, at seventeen years old and almost five years ago, honesty wasn’t in.
It did eventually (somewhat) click in my head that proper nutrition and eating was essential for building muscle and feeling good at the gym, but I was still as young, naive and uneducated as ever. Within my first four months of college, I ended up gaining twenty pounds – talk about escalating quickly. Why I couldn’t just find my happy medium before? Well, then we might not be here and I’m a firm believer that everything does happen for some sort of reason. And you might not figure that reason out of quite some time, but that’s okay, because it happened and it leads you to where you are, and who you are today. Like that then, and now here, with me.
I have gone through my fair share of trendy diets, though I was never super into anything other than following a gluten-free diet. To my defense, I have a very sensitive stomach and do have a family history of gastrointestinal issues, so it was definitely possible, but that’s not excuse for literally eliminating all carbohydrates.ever. I still struggle with bloating and stomach pains from time to time, but I’ve really honed in on what my body does and does not react well to and what my body needs day to day. My diet has taken five years to mold, and I am still working on it every single day. Balanced eating is not something that you are going to just achieve and be set for life; it takes work and attention at every meal, everyday.
*Before I go any further, I do want to be clear with any new readers, when I refer to my diet just know that I mean the food I eat every single day. I’m not on a diet, unless the Hanna Diet still counts.
I also want to be very honest in that just because I do or don’t eat something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should or should not either. My choices today reflect years of trial and error (a lot of error), understanding how food breaks down in my body, and how I can use that food to accomplish all of my goals. I don’t count calories, restrict or concentrate on one macronutrient over the other, or feel guilty after indulging in some pizza. I fill my plate with foods that will make me feel good, foods that will keep me feeling fuller longer, and foods that will help me build muscle or run that extra mile. I have grown to love my relationship with food, and it wasn’t until I loved the food I was eating, that I could truly love this lifestyle.
This post is not meant to depict what is the ‘right or wrong’ way to eat. I’m not saying that my style of eating is better than anyone else’s daily meals. This is what works for me, my body, and my lifestyle. I hope that this post can empower you to take charge of your relationship with food and love your body (even more) because of it. If you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns, leave me a message below, I love to chat!
Why I Eat What I Eat
Over the last few days, I put together a few meals that I generally have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Regardless of going to the gym, doing yoga, or just simply walking; these meals are my current nutrition staples and I have honestly never felt more alive in my life. And not just because they’re a blast to make – my body, mind, and energy just feel stellar day after day. Once a grazer, not always a grazer. Yes, coming from the snack queen herself – I stopped snacking all day and holy moly do I feel the best I have ever felt.
One of the biggest changes that I have made in my diet over the last six months is enjoying full meals. I make myself breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day with only one snack in between – I never thought I would see the day! Here’s the harsh truth: snacking or grazing does a number of things to your body:
- You might be consuming more calories than you think or than you want to be simply because you’re not really having a full meal. You’re allowing your body to be in a constant “hunger” which food seem infinite. By sitting down and having a full meal, you are allowing yourself to become full and satisfied with the foods you want to be eating.
- You are causing a constant spike of insulin and turning off your “fat burning” receptors. Grazing or picking at this or that, keeps your body in an elevated insulin state, meaning your very important growth hormone, insulin, is never being ‘shut off.’ This could be a major reason why you’re not seeing as much weight come off as you would have hoped, or even feel constantly fatigued. I’ve sort of ‘elongated’ the time in-between meals and have noticed a huge difference in both my energy levels and weight fluctuations.
- You might be missing out on some key vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Believe it or not, your body composition depends on a lot more than just protein, carbs, and fats. Vitamins and minerals are beyond beneficial for your overall health and by snacking throughout the day and not having a full meal, you might be missing out of some key nutrients. This can in turn lead to not having an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals and thus leave you feeling anything but healthy.
Like I said before, I do not count macronutrients and I don’t count my overall daily calories. I am very aware of calories, it’s something that I will never forget after counting religiously for so many years. I don’t track them on my phone or look at every label – mainly because most of my foods don’t have labels, but I am aware. I never could find a healthy balance while tracking calories and quickly realized that if I eat really good foods, it just isn’t necessary. Believe me, recording every broccoli stem and ounce of quinoa gets really old, really fast.
As you will see in my meal breakdown, I mainly stick to fibrous, nutrient dense vegetables like leafy greens, zucchini, squash, broccoli, carrots, and peppers. I love having big spinach bowl salads filled with just about every veggie in my fridge! For fruit, I usually stick to bananas, apples, berries when they’re in season, and avocados; again, looking for foods that are high fiber and nutrients. For my sources of protein, I usually stick to protein powder or eggs for breakfast, I will always have some sort of lean meat such as turkey burgers or chicken for lunch, and for dinner we like to go with fish, ground turkey tacos, or even the occasional steak.
Now let’s talk carbohydrates and fats – aka the two most feared and disliked macronutrients of them all! Unfortunately, both nutrients are crucial for your body and by avoiding them, you’re actually doing more harm than good. Carbohydrates are mainly used for as an energy source, for both the body and the brain and come in many different shapes and sizes. There is a major difference between carbohydrates such as donuts and cookies (simple carbs), compared to oatmeal and sweet potatoes (complex carbs). Without getting too science-y on you, I’m sure you can guess which is the better option here! Dietary fats also seem to get a bad rap, and truly for no good reason. Yes they are higher in calories per gram, 9 calories compared to 4 calories (protein & carbs), but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them all together! Cutting calories should never start with cutting calories from fat. Similarly to carbohydrates, there are good fats and some not so good fats. Foods that contain trans fats or very high amount of saturated fats are typically not the best options such as many microwavable or fast food meals. On the contrary; salmon, avocados, nuts, and oils such as coconut or olive oil, are very beneficial to your health.
Whew! Now that we got that out of the way – yes! I do eat carbohydrates and I do eat fat! As I mentioned before, I eat a ton of vegetables, legumes, and fruits, which are all considered carbohydrates. For my ‘heartier’ carbs, I also love having quinoa, brown or white rice, whole grain pasta, and whole grain tortilla wraps. My dietary fats usually come from fish once or twice per week, olive oil or coconut oil, avocados, eggs, hummus, flax meal and occasional nuts and seeds.
One thing that has not changed in my diet is my infamous “treat” night. I hate the term cheat night or cheat meal, it’s so harsh. Every Friday or Saturday night (depending on what football game is on), Chad and I splurge a bit and get something for dinner that we normally wouldn’t have or make during the week. This can mean anything from pizza and wings, to a trip to our favorite authentic Mexican restaurant and devouring two baskets of chips. I aim to eat very healthy and regular meals Monday through Sunday with the exception of one (or two) nights. Having this option, gives me a little more motivation and reason to eat healthy throughout the week. I’m not restricting myself from enjoying a night out or greasy foods, I’m just simply limiting it to one night a week.
As for water, I aim to drink 64-128 ounces per day. On a normal day, I will drink a full gallon (128 oz.) and on the weekends, it tends to be more around that half gallon (64 ounces) mark. A good rule of thumb is to multiply your weight by 0.5 and that’s how many ounces of water you should drink in a day. For example, I weigh around 128 pounds so I “should” drink 64 ounces (128 x 0.5 = 64). I feel my best when I’m drinking a full gallon a day, and I know that seems like excessive for most people, but it just works best for me!
My Food Diary: A Normal Day Of Eating
I’m such a morning person and I love it. My day usually starts around 5:30 a.m. when I roll out of bed to make a pot of coffee. As crazy as it sounds, the first decisions you make in the morning will effect the rest of your day. Before I even reach for my cup of coffee, I drink at least 8 oz. of water. I don’t use lemon, apple cider vinegar or anything else – I just rehydrate my body with filtered, cold water. I’ve noticed such a difference in my mornings since doing this, for one, I don’t even need a second cup of coffee. I used to drink 3 cups every morning and now I stick to 1-2 small cups. Not to mention, it also keeps things super regular in the bathroom!
My first meal (breakfast) is usually a hearty protein shake. I’m always on the go in the morning so protein shakes are just the easiest and most filling option when I have to be at work or at the gym early. I shared one of my favorite go to protein smoothies here, but I have to be honest, it definitely changes from day to day. I always use spinach, water and ice in every single shake though, but my protein powder and additives do often times change. Some of my favorite combinations always include: one scoop of protein powder (28g), two handfuls of spinach, frozen zucchini, frozen banana, 1 tbsp. flax meal, 8 oz. of water, and two ice cubs. I also love adding cooked beets whenever I have them on hand, they make for the prettiest smoothies!
My second meal is usually around 11:30 and that’s lunch! I pack a lunch to bring to work with me every day, and if you follow me on Instagram, then you probably know it gets quite repetitive! I try to eat a big lunch to get me through the rest of my afternoon. I love bringing a big salad with me, that are filled with veggies, protein, and some healthy fats. Last week I had two hard boiled eggs and one turkey burger on a mixed salad with a avocado oil Italian dressing. The protein and healthy fats keep me feeling energized and full until I get off around 5 o’clock.
Some other lunch options include dinner from the night before (chili, chicken soup, steak, etc.), shrimp salads, or even some scrambled eggs in a whole grain wrap. I like to keep my lunches lighter in carbs and higher in fats and proteins. Because of my new schedule, I’m not working out until later in the evening and I just don’t necessarily need that many carbs throughout the day.
Once I get home, I will have a snack while making dinner. I’m usually starving by the time I get off so having something small always helps from over-eating at dinner. My snack usually consists of a Kashi bar, Rx Bar, raw carrots, or an apple with peanut butter. It just completely depends on how hungry I am and what all I have going on that night. If I’m not going for a run or to the gym, sometimes I do just try to wait for dinner. Again, it’s completely personal and changes day to day.
DINNER is my favorite meal of the day. Chad and I get to sit down at the table together, talk about our day, eat some good food, and just relax. I also just love cooking and making dinner; it’s total me time. Sometimes I even roll out my yoga mat and get a quick savasana while our broccoli is roasting. Yup, I love it that much.
Just like my previous meals, I really focus on fibrous vegetables, good for ya carbs, and lean protein. One of my favorite meals to cook (and eat) happens to just be a mash up of roasted veggies, over-baked sweet potatoes, and steak or chicken. I could honestly eat it every night! I also love our taco bowls. They’re so simple to make, yet so flavorful and filling! But again, I really try to get as many vegetables on my plate as possible, followed by lean protein and healthy, complex carbohydrates. This was our last taco night and mmm I’m drooling! I swear that sweet potato hash is the secret to taking taco night to the next level. All you have to do is dice up a few sweet potatoes, lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and then let it bake for 30-45 minutes at 375ºF. Crispy on the outside, soft and sweet in the center!
Another go to meal during the week is burgers! Crazy to think burger night can be healthy right? Well it most definitely can be if you choose the right ingredients! I love bison, and burger night gives me the perfect excuse to splurge and buy it. Whether using bison or beef, another healthified burger night trick is to buy whole wheat buns. Something as simple as your bun can make a huge difference both calorie and nutrient wise. Whole wheat buns have almost three times the amount of fiber compared to white flour/gf buns. Swap your fries out for some roasted carrots and sea salt, and you’ll never look at burger night the same again!
I also love adding greek yogurt dressings for “sauce” and extra veggies on top! Oh and the occasional bacon.. see we do live a little!
I hope this food journal and nutrition update gave you guys some insight on what has worked for me, and could also work for you. I know it seems silly but honestly, complicated is not always better. And when it comes to nutrition, I truly feel that simple always wins. Don’t worry about the nitty gritty details and whether or not your body needs more ketones or that fruit is making you gain weight. It all comes down to quality calories and nutrients to keep you feeling your best.
After years of going through plenty of ups and downs (both on the scale and off), I can assure you that there is balance in this lifestyle, healthy food can and does taste good, and feeling good triumphs it all. I found what works for me in the most counterproductive way possible, but I found it and I am loving it every single day. I encourage you to take a moment to dig a little deeper, reassess your goals, and finally fall in love with food. It makes this ‘process’ a whole lot easier.
As always, find me on social media, drop a comment below, or even email me to chat. I can’t thank you all enough for the constant support over the last few years. I truly wouldn’t have been able to make these changes and find the healthiest me without this amazing and inspiring community!