Nutrition 101 – Beginner’s Guide for Eating Healthy and Clean

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Remember, food is fuel. You need to eat the right food to fuel and energize your body throughout the day and through your workouts. Think of your body like a high performance race car. Always use the highest octane fuel in order to get the best results. This is a good analogy to use when thinking about what foods to put into your body. Always use nutrient dense power foods to provide enough energy (octane) to really boost your performance so you can run at optimal levels.

Key factors to include in your high performance nutrition plan:

  • Eat a nutrient dense meal every 2-3 hours
  • Eat 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day
  • Learn how many calories your body needs per day
  • Include a lean protein source at each meal
  • Eat enough protein for your bodyweight (chart below)
  • Drink at least drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day
  • Make sure to eat a nutrient dense healthy breakfast
  • Eliminate processed sugars from your dietary plan
Your Training GoalDaily Protein Needs
Bodybuilding1.0 - 1.6g/lb bodyweight
Power & Speed0.9 - 1.1g/LB bodyweight
Dieting0.35 - 1.0g/LB bodyweight
Endurance0.7 - 0.9g/LB bodyweight
Trauma Recovery0.9 - 1.4g/LB bodyweight
Stressed0.45 - 0.7g/LB bodyweight

Focus on nutrient dense foods which includes lean protein, whole grain carbs and the right kind of fats. You need food to fuel your body and increase your metabolism. The less you eat, the lower your BMR gets and your body eventually goes into a starvation mode where it holds onto fat as much as possible.

Remember to “eat breakfast like a king and dinner like a peasant”. Your breakfast should be large and each meal after this becoming smaller and smaller. Your dinner should be much smaller than your breakfast. Your body is slowing down at night and doesn’t need high calories to fuel it. Stick with a salad with lean meat (chicken, turkey) and steamed veggies. The main focus should be eating clean nutritious food while eliminating all the empty calories from your nutritional plan.

Fill your diet with nutrient dense foods. Examples are:

  • Lean Protein Sources (chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, egg whites)
  • Healthy Starchy Carbohydrates (brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal)
  • Lean Fibrous Veggies (broccoli, mushrooms, squash, zucchini)
  • Fiber Packed Fruit (apples, berries, oranges, grapes)
  • Healthy Fats (flaxseed oil, avocados, walnuts, olive oil)

Sample Daily Meal Plan:

  • 8am:
    1 chicken breast (6 ounce), 1 cup of steamed brown rice, 1 small salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 11am:
    turkey sandwich with whole wheat bread (6 ounces of lean turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, mustard) (NO cheese or mayo).
  • 2pm:
    6 ounces of top round steak, 1 cup of broccoli, 1 cup of non-fat cottage cheese
  • 5pm:
    egg white omelet (6 egg whites, mushrooms), 2 pieces of whole wheat toast (NO butter)
  • 8pm:
    6 ounces of fish (salmon, catfish, trout, halibut, etc.), 2 cups steamed zucchini, 1 small salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing

We’re making shopping for healthy foods even easier. Now you can check off each nutrient dense food item by using our healthy shopping list below. Don’t forget to bring it to your local grocery store to help you shop smart and live well!

Shopping for healthy foods, and healthy eating, go hand in hand. You are more likely to cook nutritious meals if you have all the ingredients you need in your fridge or cupboard. Use these foods as the staples of a healthy diet that you should have on hand at all times!

LIST OF HEALTHY NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS

Beverages (Please Note: some of these drinks contain artificial sweeteners so stick with water or green tea if you want to avoid these substances in your diet.)

  • Bottled Water
  • Green Tea
  • Crystal Light
  • Diet Soda
  • Sugar Free Kool-Aid

Carbohydrates (including subclassifications)

Grains + Grain products

  • Alfalfa
  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Corn
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Fiber One Cereal
  • Gluten Free Bread
  • Gluten Free Rice
  • Oat Bran Cereal
  • Oatmeal (Old Fashioned or Quick Oats)
  • Rolled Oats
  • Rye
  • Ryebread
  • Teff
  • Wheat and low sugar Wheat Cereals
  • Whole-grain Wheat Bread
  • Wild Rice

Legumes + Pulses

  • Beans (Black, Broad, Garbanzo, Green, Kidney, Haricot, Lima, Mung, Pinto, Runner, String)
  • Green Peas
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans

Miscellaneous

  • Cress
  • Kale

Pasta

  • Protein Enriched Pasta
  • Whole Wheat Pasta

Veggies

  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel bulb
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce. (Cos, Iceberg, Romaine)
  • Mushrooms, (Crimini, Shitake)
  • Mustard greens
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Red Potatoes
  • Rhubarb (stalks not leaves)
  • Sea vegetables
  • Spinach
  • Squash (Summer and Winter)
  • Swede
  • Sweet Potatoes (Yams)
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip Greens
  • Zucchini

Condiments & Misc.

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Carb Options Marinades & Sauces
  • Chili Paste
  • Chili Powder
  • Cholula Hot Sauce
  • Extracts (vanilla, almond, etc)
  • Fat Free Mayonnaise
  • Low Sodium beef or chicken broth
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Mustard
  • Pam Cooking Spray
  • Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Reduced Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Steak Sauce
  • Sugar Free Maple Syrup
  • Walden Farms No-Calorie Dressings

Eggs and Dairy

  • Egg Whites or Eggs (Egg Beaters)
  • Low Fat cheese
  • Nonfat Cheese
  • Nonfat Cottage Cheese
  • Nonfat Milk (Carb Countdown)
  • Nonfat Plain Yogurt
  • Skimmed milk

Fish

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Grouper
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Kippers, (smoked)
  • Mackeral
  • Mahi-Mahi
  • Pilchards, (drained)
  • Salmon
  • Sardines, (drained)
  • Snapper
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Tuna (water packed)

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Bell peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Gooseberry
  • Kiwifruit
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Melon
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Pink Guava
  • Plums
  • Pomegranate
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato, fresh
  • Watermelon

Healthy Fats

  • Canola Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
  • Fish Oil
  • Hemp Oil
  • Natural Style Peanut Butter
  • Nuts (Almonds, Brazils, Cashews, Chestnuts, Coconuts, Hazelnuts)
  • Olive Oil or Safflower Oil
  • Omega Fatty Acids
  • Peanut Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Sunseed

Meat And Poultry

  • Chicken Breast (Boneless, Skinless)
  • Extra Lean Ground Beef
  • London Broil
  • Pork Loin
  • Top Round
  • Top Sirloin
  • Turkey Breast (Boneless, Skinless)
  • Turkey Ham

Natural Sweeteners

  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Cane Juice
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup

Spices and Herbs

  • Basil
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili Pepper, Red, dried
  • Cinnamon, ground
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dill weed, dried
  • Ginger
  • Mustard seeds
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint leaves, fresh
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme, ground
  • Turmeric, ground

Snacks

  • Beef Jerky (low sugar)
  • GeniSoy Soy Crisps
  • Healthy Choice Popcorn
  • Protein Bars (low sugar – 10 grams max)
  • Sugar Free Jello

Extras

  • Whey Protein Powder

Macronutrient Rich Foods

  • Beans
  • Brown Rice
  • Lean Oily Fish
  • Low Fat Cheese
  • Protein enriched Pasta
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Wild Rice

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11 Comments

  1. Your list of healthy beverages are not so healthy except for the green tea!

    Bottled Water or flavored
    Crystal Light
    Diet Soda
    Green Tea
    Sugar Free Kool-Aid

    • shapefit

      Lynn – Thanks for your feedback. We have added a note about artificial sweeteners to the article.

  2. This looks like a very good plan to follow. I’ve been battling with my weight for years. I have thyroid issues and I’m pre-menopausal, so it’s a struggle and my doctor wants me to take a weight loss pill where you have to monitor blood pressure and I don’t know if I want to do that. I want to do it on my own.

  3. I love how you suggest the plans because I personally don’t have the time to make a meal plan myself. I would surely do this!

  4. What is your take on sugar in fruits? I tend to eat lots of fruit daily and am conflicted about the sugar content in regards to my goal to lose weight. Thank you.

    • shapefit

      Hi Dana – Fruit can be a tricky one when it comes to weight loss. Fructose, which is the sugar found in fruit, gets converted into glycogen (from blood glucose) in the liver which can only hold about 100 grams of glycogen (about three 8-ounce cups of juice). Once the liver glycogen stores are full, the excess basically spills over and gets converted to fatty acids and stored as adipose tissue (body fat). Compare this to complex carbohydrates like oatmeal and brown rice which have the capacity to store between 250-400 grams of glycogen in the muscles. Since fruit will only replenish liver glycogen stores (not muscle glycogen), it might be a smart choice to limit fruit intake if your primary goal is to lose body fat. If you’re struggling with weight loss, try cutting out fruit for 2-3 weeks and see how your physique responds.

  5. I love a busy work lifestyle (as many of us). This diet plan, for starters, looks easy to follow. I substitute one of these meals with a whey protein shake every now and then when I’m on the run!

  6. The last few years of research have really shed light on the benefits of intermittent fasting. You DO NOT need to eat frequently to build muscle, even twice a day is fine as long as your caloric intake is on target.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Kyle – If you have links to researched articles on intermittent fasting, please include them for our review. There are two main concerns that stand out about this way of eating. First, consuming only 2 meals per day would leave most people hungry in between meals. The second, is that if a person’s daily caloric intake (TDEE) is 4,000 calories, then eating 2 massive meals consisting of 2,000 calories each might cause problems with digestion and overall assimilation of the nutrients. It would also be rather difficult to eat that large of a quantity of food in each sitting.

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