Nutritional Environments - Make a Healthy Diet
Simple and Easy
to a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges you may encounter
on your fitness journey. A big reason for this is because dietary
choices need to be made multiple times every single day.
If you hit the gym 3 times a week, that is 3 times in 7 days when
you have to work hard to make gains. However, if I you eat 4 meals
a day, that is 28 opportunities that can help or hurt your progress.
So a good diet can often be your biggest strength or your toughest
adversary. For these reasons alone I'm a big fan of making a healthy
diet as simple and easy to follow as possible. The easier and simpler
it is the greater the chance of making smart choices on those 28
I'm not a big fan of nutritional guidelines that claim the best
way to eat is to avoid certain "bad" foods while force
feeding yourself other "good" foods. I'm also not a fan
of counting calories, writing down every single gram or reading
food labels. All of that stuff takes energy and may even be unnecessary.
We humans are lazy, plain and simple. We are convenience seeking
creatures by nature. In many ways, this has been our health and
fitness downfall because it's easier to keep our bodies parked in
front of the TV than it is to get up, drive to the gym and workout.
I say we take this lazy tendency and use it to our advantage whenever
we can. Instead of setting up our nutritional environment to make
it easier to eat poorly, let's set it up so it's easier to eat well.
My plan is simple. I place most of my effort and attention in what
I like to call my nutritional environment. If I can keep that in
good shape then my diet tends to automatically take care of itself
with minimal effort. A "nutritional environment"
is the different kind of food resources you have within the areas
you spend most of your time. These areas usually include your home,
car and office. To do just that, I use a 3-light system to
set up my nutritional environments. It works just like this:
Green Light Foods
light foods are foods that you both enjoy and want to eat in a pretty
good quantity. These foods are nutrient dense and support whatever
you deem to be a healthy and nutritious diet.
Preferably, your nutritional environment is to be stocked with
green light foods that are ready to eat. If fruit is a green light
food then you should have it right on the kitchen counter in a fruit
basket or already chopped up in the fridge. If grilled chicken is
a green light food then have it all cooked up, sliced and ready
Yellow Light Foods
These are foods that you want to eat sparingly and have little trouble
doing so. These are foods you have in your nutritional environments
but in small quantities and preferably out of sight. This way, you
can still have your treats but it has a natural self regulation
system so you don't eat too much.
So if Oreo cookies are a yellow light food then you would have
a small package of them tucked away in a cabinet somewhere. If ice
cream is a yellow light food then maybe small ice cream sandwiches
can be hiding in the back of your freezer. A chest freezer in a
low traffic area, like the basement, would be even better.
Red Light Foods
These are foods that you want to eat in small quantities but you
have trouble doing so. If you can't help but polish off the entire
bag of potato chips in 2 days then that would be an example of a
red light food.
Red light foods are foods you keep out of your nutritional environment,
but not necessarily out of your diet. By doing so, you still allow
yourself to have the occasional treat but you make it more difficult
to do so.
If you have that bag of salty potato chips on the kitchen counter
then you have the opportunity to eat a lot of chips every time you
walk into the kitchen. Each time you walk by those chips you'll
either indulge or you'll use a lot of your limited energy to resist
the temptation. In either case you're losing out. Try to remember
the old expression "out of sight, out of mind". If you
keep these red light foods out of your constant vision, you will
avoid being tempted to indulge in them.
If you allow yourself to split a small bag of chips with a coworker
once a week you still get to enjoy your chips, but the quantity
you consume is easily kept in check. You still get your chips plus
you don't have to work hard to keep the portion size on the smaller
side. It's a win-win!
Keep in mind that you're the only one who can decide what foods
fall into each category. One person's red light food might be your
yellow light food or even possibly a green light food. It may take
some time to figure out what foods fall into each category. You
may also experience a food going from a yellow light food to a red
light food. The key is to keep awareness on your nutritional environments
so you can eat well with minimal effort and stress.