Food Pyramid – 10 Steps to Success
Our Food Pyramid is the framework around which we eat and the basis upon which we offer nutritional advice to our members.
We think it’s a pretty solid nutritional model. It’s simple, easy to understand and applicable to all but the most extreme of creatures (bodybuilders, man-orexics and so on). It is important to recognise that it is NOT intended to be a ‘diet’, it’s a set of principles or guidelines which people should adopt and adapt according to their personal requirements. The ‘green list’ foods are our staple foods, the ‘black list’ are our ‘eat in moderation’ choices and the red list includes all of the foods we would suggest that you steer clear of for the most part. Pretty straight forward we think you’ll agree.
As with all things the key lies with the interpretation and implementation of these guidelines or principles. There is still (as there should be) a huge requirement for ownership on the part of every individual who decides to use the pyramid as a template. We’re not selling the latest fly-by-night, one-size-fits-all, diet farce, this is simply how we should eat – we just need to modify it to suits us individually. Perhaps above all else, we need to apply common sense.
Food Pyramid + Individual Requirements + Common Sense = A Results Based Nutritional Programme.
Just because nuts are in the green section for example, doesn’t mean that eating 300g of cashews for dinner is a good idea (whilst we don’t advocate calorie counting for most people, calories do count, and that’s nearly 18oo of them right there, just from nuts). Similarly, half a kilo of oven roasted chipped sweet potatoes – also on the green list – isn’t going to help (most) people morph from the wrong side of chunky to cover model either. Common sense right? Right.
You need to consider YOUR goals, YOUR body type, YOUR likes and dislikes (to a non-sabotaging extent), and you need to eat according to YOUR requirements.
The Food Pyramid will provide the framework and underlying principles, but you need to ascertain what foods, and combinations of, work for you
The trouble is most of us simply don’t know what ‘works for me’ looks like anymore. It’s not that we don’t have any common sense (clears his throat), it’s all just gotten very confusing. And the thing is, the more we read, research and try and work it out, the more confusing it becomes (there’s a lot of charlatans talking some serious BS out there) .
Authors note: If you’re serious about getting good advice and getting in shape, I strongly recommend that you stop reading most glossy magazines, especially those targeting females. What worked for supermodel X (who endorsed the product) probably won’t work for you and more than likely won’t work for her long term either (watch this space for future endorsements) – I strongly recommend that you don’t just copy it.
But thankfully confusion need not reign. It need not be that complicated and getting it right is probably much easier than most of us think. At a basic level it’s quite simple. In fact, use the W10 Food Pyramid following these ten pointers alongside it and you’ll probably be well on the road to optimal health and physical appearance.
1. Eat protein for breakfast.
There’s is good reason(s) why you keep hearing this. Primarily it’s about detoxification and immune system function (it’s estimated that the first 30-60g of protein we consume daily are used for these purposes), not necessarily muscles. It’s also startlingly obvious to me that people who eat breakfast make better food choices throughout the rest of day.
No excuses, do yourself a favour and just get this one ticked off.
2. Stick mainly to the green foods list.
80% or more of your food choices should come from the green list of foods. There’s good reason why they’re at the base of the pyramid and two thirds or more of the way up. Embrace the green, get lean.
3. Quinoa and wild rice are the best black list choices.
Many people don’t digest grains and legumes well (bloating, wind, etc) and my personal opinion is that, on the whole, these are best excluded by most. After a period of elimination, the first (and often only) black list foods that I suggest people introduce back into their diet are quinoa and wild rice.
4. Exclude the foods on the red list completely except one MEAL per week where you can eat whatever you want.
Physiologically speaking re-feeds or ‘cheat meals’ are not really necessary initially, but psychologically speaking they’re a must, but only after an initial period of elimination. I don’t give direction here, eat the foods you like, but understand that the fatter you are the less indulgent you should be/will get away with.
People stay on track better during the rest of the week once they’ve had their ‘release’ and moreover most people find that after having excluded wheat, diary, gluten and processed foods for a couple of weeks the reintroduction of these foods is enough to give them the stomach upset of all stomach upsets. Many don’t repeat the same meal.
The jump in calories once per week is actually helpful in accelerating fat loss.
5. Don’t snack
I’m increasingly becoming the ‘anti-snack’. My experience is that people don’t make good snack choices and are far better off getting all they need nutritionally at meal times. Intuitively this seems a more sensible approach also – if you need to snack you probably didn’t get your previous meal(s) right.
6. Eat three or four times per day (see above)
All things being equal I think we should eat intuitively. The issue with intuitive eating is that most of us have terrible intuition when it comes to feeding ourselves. We’re out of sync and it’s hard to make solid choices when you’re not in sync.
You can argue with me all day long about not having breakfast, but initially it’s a very good idea. Eat again at lunch, for a third time mid-afternoon (you know, when you get the 3-4pm lull…..) and for the last time at dinner. A typical schedule might be 7am, 11am, 4pm and 7pm. Less than three meals doesn’t work for most people and more than four is often totally impractical.
7. No training, no carbs
Carb cycling has become the latest fitness industry buzzword with every Tom, Richard (more likely) and Harry getting regular gym-Jane to count her carbs and eat fluctuating amounts daily.
Deary deary me – no-carb, low carb, slow carb, carb cycle, what next? Look, we could get into the minutiae here and confuse the b’jesus out of people, but with no good reason. The premise is simple and is certainly not a new one: allow yourself some more carbs when you train hard. And you should eat most of said carbs in the meal you have AFTER training (referred to as the window of opportunity).
So the days you DON’T train, you stick to Category A vegetables, concentrated protein sources and natural fats and oils – eg Chicken and vegetables stir-fired in coconut oil. The days the you train (hard) allow yourself some more carbs AFTER you’ve worked out, including Category B vegetables and/or some wild rice or quinoa (remember also that when you increase your carbs, you should reduce the fats) – eg salmon fillet with broccoli and sweet potato.
Note: If you’re trying to add mass or are already reasonably lean, you might eat another higher carb meal later in the same day also.
8. Limit fruit
Yes, fruit is ‘good’ for you, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing. For me it’s pretty simple, the more you train (exercise), the more fruit you need/should eat.
9. Drink water & organic coffee and herbal teas
That’s it. The exception – after a period of elimination – might be a glass or two of red wine a couple or few times per week (the only issue with wine is the yeast content).
10. Keep a food diary
Tedious, inconvenient and socially compromising granted, but essential. If you don’t know what works for you, you’ll become increasingly frustrated reading countless blogs like this one.
Also, it’s not for me, I’m old-school, I like paper – it means I can check to see if it’s been kept in real time rather than retrospectively! – but there’s plenty of good apps these days that make it less of a hassle.
Bear in mind there are times when almost any food will be appropriate for a given person at that given time. But these pointers in conjunction with our Food Pyramid might well be all the guidance some people need. Give them a go consistently and see how you get on.
We help our members with a nutritional programme that works for them, if you’re struggling, give us a shout at our gym in Bank or try out our training sessions and we’ll help you work out a plan that suits you.
- What Food Stage Are You At?
- Some Basic Food Shopping Guidelines
- Fitness and Nutrition Gone Wrong
- Benefits Of Good Nutrition Habits Versus a Diet
- Fitness Training & Nutrition – A Match Made in the Gym