If you’ve not, go read part one here.
So, what should you eat?
The food pyramid does a good job of explaining ratios and such, but if you’re a shopper with bad habits, it can be confusing when you set out to change what you eat.
Breads: I completely avoid white bread now and this piece from Vegetarian Times (yes, I know. Just read it, OK?) does a good job of explaining why. The short version is that whole grain bread is much more nutritious and actually burns more calories while you digest it, so why bother with the weak shit?
Fruits and Vegetables: Suck up and deal because you’re going to need to make sure that you get at least one in every meal and no, french fries don’t count. I’m quite fond of broccoli, asparagus and a lot of leafy greens, so I was pretty lucky, but you may have more luck with frozen peas, corn and carrots. Also, a baked potato makes every meal feel special, no lie, and they’re actually worth a damn, nutritionally. You’ll also want to learn how to eat a veggie-centric salad that’s not weighed down with dressing and “toppings” that create caloric bloat.
Fruit is great and nutritionally very sound. Every once in a while, I’ll see some thin, shrieking harpy on TV tell people that they shouldn’t eat a lot of it because it has sugar, but just eat some. Nobody ever got fat from eating apples, you know? (Juices, however, are another matter that I’ll go into in a bit.)
Meats: Let’s be honest, meat is delicious and the increasing fetishization of it thanks to schmucks like that Guy Fieri makes it even more difficult to avoid wanting to shove it all down your gullet, but you seriously need to cut your intake by at least half. That’s why you need everything else on the plate: so you end up feeling full after eating a 6-ounce pork chop or ribeye.
Given the choice, I’ll stick to dark meat when it comes to poultry, but hey, roasted chicken and turkey breast is actually pretty OK, especially when it’s seasoned well. No matter what, though, I try to throw away most of the skin. (Yes, I said MOST. I always have a little bit because it’s so delicious, geez, ok?)
Fish, you know, it’s good for you. The end. (OK, yes, that basket you get at Long John Silver’s is not very good for you, but it’s deep fried. C’mon.)
Dairy: 1%-2% milk is fine. I don’t drink skim because it’s bullshit and if you’re doing any kind of exercise, the fat from it is negligible. Other “milks” made from beans and nuts and grains tend to have fewer calories, as long as you don’t go with the sweetened and flavored alternates. Me, I like milk.
Yogurt’s a great source of protein, but that crap that Dannon glops into a plastic container and flavors until it resembles German Chocolate Cake or whatever is, again, bullshit. I love plain and Greek-style yogurt sweetened to taste with honey (or, rarely, jam) and just avoid the wackadoo bullshit flavors whose ingredient lists read like a nerve gas formula.
I use a lower-fat butter from Trader Joe’s on my morning toast, but I am fine with the regular stuff to cook with, because I try to avoid pulling a Paula Deen when I add it to something. Just show some restraint, people. (I guess if you like that fake butter stuff, good on you? I guess?)
Also, cheese? Go light on it, OK, but it’s not the worst thing in the world if you don’t wolf down a pound of Havarti with crackers while watching Maury. A bit here and there can really liven up soup, salad or what have you, in case you never figured that out.
Sugars and Fats: I have a fucking monstrous sweet tooth and have learned to cope by just avoiding sweets altogether around the house. It bites, but again, that “filler” argument does wonders when it comes deciding to not buy a gallon of marshmallow whip. Also, by avoiding sweets most of the time, I really get to enjoy it when I’m out and opt for dessert or a bite of something. The same, for the record, goes for alcohol, which leads us to the next bit, but let me tell you about fats first.
You need them. Your body needs them. Even if you’re trying to burn off the fat you have, you need to take in fats to make sure your pipes run like they’re supposed to. Just be sensible. Look at the recommendations and knock off a chunk. Boom, there. I’m a scientist.
Liquids: I live by a very simple rule nowadays when it comes to things I drink – if it’s not alcohol, it better not have any calories. This means I don’t drink sodas (even diet ones, whose use has been linked to obesity by real science types) or sweetened coffee or tea. As far as the last one goes, I’ve found that spending money on good coffee does wonders for increasing its drinkability without additives. (I’ve always taken my tea black (even iced) so I really don’t know how to help you out there, sorry.)
Juices are a tricky matter. Fruit juices are usually vitamin-heavy and a convenient way to put things in you that your body wants, but calorically, they’re a sugar bomb and they’re missing one of the most essential things that fruit gives you: fiber. Vegetable juices are definitely better for you, but who drinks those, anyway? I mean, really.
Boozewise, I’m just not drinking as much as I did before. Yes, I’m much less fun now. Just ask any of my friends.
Finally, and it’s going to sound like I’m bullshitting you when I say this, but eating healthily has slowly changed my cravings. For instance: I’ve learned to replace the spicy tuna roll (600-700 calories) at my favorite sushi joint with a tuna-avocado roll (150-200 calories) that I actually look forward to and I sometimes will actually deeply desire a big salad loaded with vegetables. Yes, I know what that makes me in the eyes of Junk Food Nation.
Got questions? Ask ‘em in comments and I’ll get to them in the big wrapup post later this week.