The world of diet culture primarily focuses on telling individuals to “reduce”, “limit”, “restrict”, “avoid” and “eliminate” certain foods and/ or entire food groups. When you break it down, messages of diet culture are inherently negative – it’s a “don’t do that” mentality and approach to food. As a result, when exercise professionals partner with their clients to examine their unique dietary habits and patterns, the client tends to focus on “eliminating” something in their intake. Sometimes it means the client voices a need to eliminate carbs, cut out sugar, or reduce red meat intake.
Here’s the thing – sustainable behavior change does not occur because someone says “stop that” or “don’t do this” messages. Instead, help your clients shift the narrative to be one of “how can I add healthy items and tasty ingredients to my current intake?” As a health and exercise professional, you can and should be talking to your clients about general healthy nutrition practices. Here are a few ways to infuse flavor and fun into ordinary meals without focusing on elimination.
Oatmeal alone is a great source of fiber, nutrients, and whole grains. But it is low on the protein side. Encourage a boost of protein and healthy fat by adding a sprinkle of crushed walnuts (or other high-nutrient nut) or a couple of teaspoons of nut butter (natural, of course).
Greens offer a plethora of vitamins and minerals, but throwing in a handful of black beans, chickpeas, and quinoa will boost protein, fiber, and nutrient content. This promotes more staying power than a simple green salad with veggies only.
Many of my clients enjoy a good smoothie but overlook the benefit of adding more satiating ingredients to the mix rather than just fruit and a dollop of Greek yogurt. For extra creaminess, a few chunks of avocado add a good dose of healthy fat. The same could be accomplished by adding nut butter (natural, no sugar added, of course) in place of the avocado. A little goes a long way!
For those early morning exercisers, no need for a “pre-workout supplement” (those are mostly caffeine, some form of sugar or sugar alcohol, and beta-alanine). My favorite go-to energy booster is a cup of coffee or and a serving of Bob’s Red Mill muesli with unsweetened almond milk. This whole food and beverage combo will get the fires burning and ensure you (or your clients) don’t fatigue from lack of calories during the workout.
Quality Snack Options
When hunger strikes, it’s easy for clients to reach for the nearest most convenient food (which often contains high energy and low nutrient value). My favorite go-to items to keep on hand for those moments include NOKA Superfood Smoothie pouches – roughly between 110 and 120 calories each (depending on the combo of fruit/veggie). I love to pair one of these with a half-ounce of cashews (or other nut) or a string cheese. These aren’t high in fiber, but they offer a healthy stand-in for on-the-run snacking that doesn’t require refrigeration, washing, or slicing!
Eating healthy and bringing balance to daily dietary practices is not (and should not be) about restriction or elimination. Enjoy a wide variety of foods that offer unique benefits and flavor while fueling your body for performance and enjoyment.