During competition season I am that person in the restaurant that asks for dressing on the side, my chicken breast plain, veggies steamed…
Yep, that’s me, and I hate it. I even avoid driving certain routes when I’m hungry, after a long night shift, so that I don’t have to have that conversation with myself: “How about grabbing a sausage and egg muffin? It’s kinda healthy, it has egg in it.”
I’m not saying I don’t, but i don’t give in every time. I’m saying that eating clean, eating healthy is easy, fulfilling and can become your lifestyle. It’s not just for bodybuilders.
So, I’ve put together some nifty (yep, I just used that word) collage photos of what staples I have in my kitchen – and even added in some scientific stuff for the geek in you 😉
I encourage you to use it as a grocery list. It’s pretty much all you need to eat healthy, well-rounded meals. I get most of my groceries from Costco: liquid egg whites, greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, chicken breast, hemp hearts, almond milk, natural peanut butter…. etc.. Buying in bulk is cost effective, and easy!
So, let’s begin…
Staples in my cupboard
- Low fat cottage cheese: One cup of this super dairy is just 100 calories, with 15 g of protein! What about the fat? Not even half a gram! If you’re not a fan of cottage cheese, you may want to give it another try. It’s so versatile. You can blend it up with garlic to make an alfredo sauce – seriously, it’s delicious, try it. You can mix with greek yoghurt, a bit of agave syrup, cinnamon, mixed fruit and mixed nuts for a snack. Amazing! You can even throw some in a Magic Bullet with egg whites to make a pancake batter! Still don’t like cottage cheese??
- Kirkland Brand Plain Greek yoghurt: Besides being delicious, a 3/4 cup is just 100 calories, but packs a whopping 18 g of protein, and 0 g of fat!
- Cinnamon: Have you heard about this spice? It has so many health benefits I would need a separate post just to list them! Here are a few: studies have shown that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol. Patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month. It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood. Oh, and one more, it’s a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium. Convinced?
- Almond milk: Plain almond milk without added sugars or flavoring contains 60 calories per cup. Compare that to some milk options that contain more sugar than the cereals they’re combined with. Contains vitamins D, E, and A, which is good for your bones, skin, and eyes. And, the best part? Each serving of almond milk contains about 4% of our recommended daily intake of iron, which helps muscles absorb and use protein for energy, growth and repair.
- Hemp hearts: They are essentially shelled hemp seed. These little gems lower blood pressure, improve digestion, suppress appetite, provide energy, and lower cholesterol. I take a teaspoon each morning, sprinkled on top of my omelette. And, true to it’s sales pitch, my sugar cravings are kept at bay.
- Vanilla extract: Besides making anything DELICIOUS, vanilla extract has powerful cancer fighting benefits, and has long been used in homeopathy.
- Mrs Dash: Let’s face it, many of us can do with reducing our salt intake. Enter Mrs Dash. This isn’t a shameless advertising pitch, this stuff is tastes great and has health benefits too, due to the blends of herbs used! Unfortunately, she doesn’t like Canadians and only sells a limited array of flavours in our grocery stores, but that’s where eBay comes in handy. Of the 14 available flavours, only 3 are sold here. C’mon Mrs Dash, get yer sh*t together! I recommend Garlic & Herb, Southwest Chipotle, and Caribbean Citrus.
- Cooking spray: Cooking spray contains fewer calories, because you use less than you would with conventional oils. This means your food will be less greasy, and have fewer free radicals. And, the obvious benefit, your food won’t stick to the pan!?
- Avocado oil: Avocado oil’s composition closely resembles olive oil and can be directly substituted for it. Avocado oil is very rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and extremely low in saturated fat. It also contains no cholesterol. It’s also good to use topically! Try adding it to your moisturizer or conditioner.
- Coconut oil: Another great oil. Benefits include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. While it contains some saturated fats, like Capric Acid and Lauric Acid, studies have found that those acids raise the level of High Density Lipoproteins in the body, lowers Bad Cholesterol, boosts immunity and fights aging. They also increase the rate of metabolism which assists in shedding weight.
- Macadamia nut oil: Last, but not least, macadamia nut oil has been pegged as being an even healthier alternative to olive oil! Not to mention, it’s more flavourful to cook with, and has a high heat point — approximately 425 degrees F — which means you can use it to fry or sauté foods at a higher temperature before it burns. Macadamia nut oil is comprised of 80-85% monounsaturated oil, which ncludes: vitamin E, Omega-3, Omega-6, oleic, linolenic, linoleic and palmitoleic acids.
- Natural peanut butter: This shouldn’t need explanation, regardless….Repeat after me: Sugar is my enemy. Sugar is my enemy… There is a distinct difference in flavour between what you find in jars of peanut butter, placed alongside sugary jams in the supermarkets, and some may find it too different. But, give it a chance. I guarantee you’ll grow to love it as much as I have. Bought at the Bulk Store, and now Costco, natural peanut butter contains just peanuts. That’s it. Fresh, ground peanut butter is more nutritious than regular PB because in every serving, you are eating 10% more peanuts and less bad ingredients. Peanuts are full of essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, B6, folate and thiamin.
- Liquid egg whites: An inexpensive protein source and easy to cook, I LOVE egg whites. Obviously the main benefit being reduced cholesterol, sans yolk. They also provide complete protein, B-complex vitamins and trace minerals. Researchers have found that people who ate egg whites for breakfast ate less throughout the day compared to people who ate bagels with the same amount of calories.
- Frank’s Red Hot: I put this sh*t on everything! I’ll get into more detail about the benefits of hot peppers below, but I had to include this here. This is a MUST in my cupboard, which is why I buy it in bulk at Costco. I prefer this over Tabasco Sauce because there is no over-powering vinegar taste.
- Chia seeds: Sprinkled on top of my meals, ground chia seeds keep me feeling full longer. It also contains omega 3. Here’s what it says on the back of the bag I have: A gluten free superseed, Chia seeds are a a source of calcium and iron, a high source of fibre and provide 3 grams of omega-3 per 15 grams.
- Fresh ground sea salt and black pepper: Simply put: freshly ground spices taste better. And, sea salt isn’t refined like table salt is.
- Greens+: A one-stop-shop of healthy goodness. The one I bought from GNC includes a daily serving of multi-vitamins.
- Natural whole almonds: One of the best “good fats”, almonds pack a punch of nutritional benefits in one tiny nut. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fibre and are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat. They also deliver a good source of protein, with virtually no carbohydrates.
- Water: Really? Do I need to explain this one.
- Coffee: Nectar of the Gods.
The following is what’s usually on my weekly grocery list.
- Coriander/cilantro: Adds great flavour to most dishes, especially omelettes!
- Tilapia filets or any other white fish: Virtually zero fat, high protein source. Tilapia is quick and easy to cook and takes on the flavour of whatever spices or herbs you cook with it. I especially like it because it doesn’t taste fishy.
- Pork tenderloin: An alternate lean protein source.
- Flank steak or any lean beef: Flank steak is aptly named after the location it comes from on the cow, the area between the hips and ribs, the flank. It is a long, thin piece of meat that contains large amounts of connective tissue, which makes it rather tough if not sliced properly, against the grain. It’s pretty tasty and is an excellent source of protein, with 23 g of your daily 60 g allowance in one serving. Flank steak also supplies 15% of your daily iron intake.
- Natural peanut butter: see above
- Fresh fruits and berries: Eaten in moderation, berries are loaded with fiber, which helps you feel full (and eat less). And they top the charts in antioxidant power, protecting your body against inflammation and free radicals, molecules that can damage cells and organs. The best ones? I mainly eat strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. The latter contains 8 g of fiber in one cup, one-third the daily recommended amount (25 g).
- Rolled oats: They’re another amazing super food – low in fat with no cholesterol and sodium, and high in dietary fiber and protein. Starting your day with a bowl of oats will keep you filled and fueled throughout your morning, keeping cravings at bay until lunch. This link explains the difference between the oat families.
- Sweet potatoes: Not to be confused with yams, sweet potatoes are their healthier cousin. They’re lower in calories, are lower on the glycemic index and much higher in beta-carotene. I chop ’em, boil ’em, and mash ’em with cinnamon and vanilla extract. It’s better than dessert!
- Avocado: see Avocado Oil above. With 322 calories per avocado it is quite high in calories, but don’t let that deter you. Eaten in moderation, 1/2 an avocado a day, these little green gems have 54% of your recommended daily value of fiber, which gives this fruit much of its fat burning abilities.
- Chicken breast: It doesn’t really need explaining. Low in fat, high in protein, easy to cook and readily available. I have a million different ways to cook chicken, I’ll post a few of them in the Recipes section.
- Jalapeños/Chillies: Ahhh, hot peppers. How I love thee. I use jalapeños and chillies in just about everything! Science has found that eating chillis can make you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism and burning fat. Capsaicin is the chemical in chili peppers that contributes to their spiciness, and is the first natural compound known to augment the thermogenesis process. Good enough for me!
Veggies I can’t live without
- Broccoli: Dubbed the “miracle food”, love it or hate it, broccoli is an essential vegetable when trying to lose weight. It’s full of vitamin C, A and folic acid. It’s a great source of calcium for those non-dairy drinkers. Broccoli is also a rich source of fibre.
- Rapini: Broccoli’s leafier cousin, many of you may not be aware of this amazing vegetable. Rapini contains vitamins A, B, C, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and even some omega 3 fatty acid. I love it, but steamed wrong, it can taste pretty bitter. Try it stir fried in macadamia nut oil, with sea salt and garlic.
- Baby spinach: A mini version of Popeye instantly comes to mind when I think of baby spinach. It’s high in antioxidants, and benefits your eyes – move over sugary carrots!
- Asparagus: Despite making your pee stink, asparagus is particularly good for you. It’s a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium. It’s also tops the list of vegetables and fruits, when it comes to antioxidants.
- Green beans: Very low in calories and high in fibre, which means you can eat to your heart’s content – oh, and they’re good for that too!
- Baby bok choy: Also known as “Chinese Cabbage”, bok choy is low calorie, zero fat and rich in vitamins.
- Brussel sprouts: Unlike most vegetables, brussel sprouts are actually high in protein, accounting for more than a quarter of their calories. They’re also high in fibre and antioxidants.
- Kale (not picutred): Kale chips. Enough said.
It goes without saying, the above lists are by no means exhaustive. For instance, in the off-season, I will consume long grain brown rice as another “good carb” source. When I bake, I will use oat/almond/coconut flour and wheat bran. I keep refined foods to a minimum, and cut sugar out completely. Well, almost…
Sugar substitutes is still sugar, and should be eaten in moderation. I use Splenda because I prefer the taste over Stevia or Truvia. Honey and agave nectar is another sugar alternative. Again, everything in moderation.
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
You may have noticed I haven’t mention whey protein powder. That’s deserving of a post of it’s own… coming soon.
Disclaimer: I should point out the obvious, I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I a health practitioner. I am a bodybuilder that has spent the last 6 years eating clean and learning about the foods I eat and why. I am simply sharing that information with you. As with any exercise program, you should consult a doctor if you have any concerns regarding drastic changes to your diet. Each person has a unique caloric intake. This is simply a guide to the foods I eat and their benefits.