You know the success of your clients extends beyond their fitness component. The question of ‘how, what, when do I eat?’ plagues most of our society. In this article discover client friendly menu planning basics; imperative components in each meal, and my most popular suggestions and tips for easy meals.
As personal trainers, it’s no secret that the dietary approach of our clients is equally if not even more important than their exercise regime. Numerous scientific studies demonstrate how improper fueling pre and post workouts can drastically impair results. If your client’s food consumption is generally poor, chances are they will experience challenges such as moodiness, frequent injuries, slow recovery time and workout ability constantly fluctuating.
The most effective way to get them on board is to continually inform them on the importance of healthful eating habits, lead by example with your own dietary regime, share article and recipes, and encourage them to place as much emphasis on their nutrition intake as their exercise program. Inspire them as well bringing in samples of suggested quality items such as your favorite high quality ‘whole food’ protein power bars or balls, bought or home-made or packages and brand names of better options for commonly consumed foods such as cereal, bread, non-dairy milk etc…
Below - my basic meal planning guidelines that provide a stable foundation for nutrient dense, balanced eating habits. This can be made into a handout or blog post you share with your clients. (Please ensure credits are mentioned).
MENU PLANNING - The BASICS of Healthy Eating:
- Be sure to have breakfast before you launch into your day - begin with lemon water, then fresh or frozen fruit. Wait approx 20 minutes before enjoying a quality Protein, Complex Carb, Quality Fat (EFA’S) and Fiber combo of nutrients. If you’re in a hurry, choose a power smoothie that combines fresh and frozen fruits and veggies as well as protein. IE: frozen berries or bananas, fresh avocado, cucumber, lettuce or leafy greens, fresh ginger root, soaked nuts or seeds or raw nut or seed butter or a high quality protein powder and super food supplements as desired such as Acerola Cherry Vitamin C powder Spirulina, Maca Root powder, Liquid Rush multi-vitamins, Barley Power Powder, Ormus Greens etc...
- Include some RAW food with every meal and increase the amount of veggies you usually eat with at least two varieties at each meal. Season them well and prepare in ‘sexy’ ways and veggies can be the star of your meals. Enjoy snacks that are a quality Protein, Fats, Carb and Fiber combo to avoid blood sugar spikes and hormonal chaos.
- Include quality essential fatty acids with your meals - cold pressed flax, hemp, walnut, chia, borage or olive oil, raw nuts/seeds (flax, chia, hemp, walnut) or their raw butters. If fish is a part of your diet – choose cold water wild fish as a general rule and refer to www.ewg.org for their seafood guide to source the best, least polluted and sustainable fish and seafood.
- Eat quality Whole grains beyond wheat - look for quinoa, soy, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, rye, wheat berry, brown rice, steel cuts oats, quinoa flakes, etc…
- Add more vegetarian proteins into your meals - legumes and pulses, Ancient grains, shitake mushrooms, raw nuts and seeds, sprouts, fermented soy – tempeh, Natto, even greens and sea veggies. Earthly Choice and Explore Asia make fabulous high protein, high fiber pastas.
- Season foods with various dried/fresh herbs and spices. Drizzle the quality oils mentioned above over foods AFTER cooking to ensure the nutritional composition is not compromised.
- Eat a variety of different foods - rotate your choices every day to avoid addiction/food intolerance or nutrient deficiencies.
- Keep it simple and allow sufficient time to enjoy the preparation, consumption and even the cleanup. Food is meant to be a joyful experience and it’s your best health investment augmenting blood sugar stability, hormonal balance, the digestive and immune system. Engage the entire family or your dinner guests in the process. We gather around food for most social functions. Make preparing it together part of your plans.
EATING: TERI’S GENERAL GUIDELINES: (A great handout for your clients, please include author)
Begin each day with warm lemon water pre-breakfast!
- Mix and match menus each day factoring in how to use left-overs from previous meals when possible saving cooking time. When prepping foods increase amounts to accommodate this and schedule in at least an hour or more of food prep each week.
- Recipes and quantities may need revising to meet specific dietary needs. Remember – nut /seed butter and hummus are great cheese alternatives; breads and wraps can be collard, romaine, kale, radicchio nori leaves, rice paper, or dehydrated raw wraps, etc. Proteins can be your choice of various meats, fish, tempeh, tofu, beans, shitake mushrooms, seafood, Ancient grains, nuts and seeds, etc…
- Ensure meals include a quality protein, healthy fats, whole food carbs / veggies (Lots)
- Add veggies to smoothies – greens, cucumbers, celery, avocado, carrots, beets etc…
- When possible enjoy fruit (sugar) before or between meals (especially with cooked foods such as animal products)
- Adjust portions to meet your specific needs.
- Be sure to do the same with the seasonings. Cook to appease your palate increasing or decreasing seasonings, and substituting ingredients as needed.
- Simplicity is your motto for your breakfasts, lunches and dinners:
- When needed rely on quality commercial conveniences (stock your pantry and freezer). You can enhance them w/ additional vegetables, legumes, raw nuts and seeds etc. My fave easy and super-fast go to’s are: fresh salsa, organic canned beans and greens for a salad or hummus (a legume or nut/seed dip) and veggies or steamed edamame w/ sea salt for a snack. Hummus dips and cashew, butter often fill wraps, quesadillas, or sub as cheese on a pizza and tacos. Pesto is a staple as well for most anything savory.
- Be sure to maximize on leftovers for quick lunches and recreated main courses.
Raw Nutty Hummus Salsa, Bean, Pesto Salad
Other store bought ideas – combine organic tomato sauce or salsa with black bean or rice pasta or spiraled veggies or spaghetti squash with added fresh or frozen veggies and legumes or heat sauce and toss in chickpeas or lentils; add veggies and curry or jerk powder. Serve over a bed of spinach and you have a well-rounded meal in moments. Sub in any theme you like such as Italian, Mediterranean, Thai, Tex-Mex...
Hummus or Cashew butter (or almond, macadamia, Brazil nut etc.) again this is great as the cheese on a pizza, Panini or wrap which can be an organic tortilla or butter lettuce leaf topped with pesto or tomato sauce, assorted veggies, legumes, leftover meat, seafood, fish, tofu or tempeh, shitake mushrooms, grains, etc... Consuming more plant based foods is a great way to augment the immune system, boost energy and minimize inflammation. (Dairy is a top food allergen so pull it out of your body and pay attention to how you feel, especially with digestion, inflammation and allergy challenges).
- Fish, tofu/tempeh thinly sliced, pounded chicken or pork cooks up quickly with a veggie stir-fry or braise. Quesadillas or Tacos or nachos, Swiss chard or bell peppers etc. are easy-to-stuff with the leftovers for lunch; just add additional veggies and a grain if desired.
- Make up big batches of whole grains, roasted veggies and legumes to use in stews, curries, stir-fries, salads, to fill vegetables or wraps, soup, pilafs etc....
- Get out the crock pot and make a large soup, curry, stew or even porridge.
- With the “make more now for later” mode permeating…keep breakfasts simple (still healthy of course) and direct your energies to creating marvelous main courses in quantities that allow you to reuse for lunch, dinner remakes and yes, even brunch.
- Sub recipes w/ seasonal ingredients your locale is producing and eat MORE veggies. A power shake in the morning made with fruit and a sweetened protein powder does not reflect truly healthful habits. It’s common place now to include veggies and a quality protein. Choose sprouted nuts, seeds or raw butters or quality protein powder if desired and lots of leafy greens, and/or some avocado, cucumber, carrots, beets, celery, etc.
- Eating out? Some ideas to stay on track: Mexican – bean burritos with salsa; Indian - choose tomato based sauces and avoid deep fried, Italian – go for non-cream sauces – stick with tomato sauce and order grilled veggies topped with tomato sauce or pesto, toasted nuts etc. served over a bed of garlicky greens. If you are going to indulge in pasta be portion conscious and pass on the bread.
At most restaurants main course salads are offered and these too can be topped with roasted or grilled veggies, animal/fish protein or for vegans- mushrooms, beans, peppers, onions, eggplant, broccoli, spinach etc… Be sure to ask for what you want even if it’s not on the menu. I do this all the time and get fabulous meal options.
- Shop at farmers markets whenever possible
- Buy extra, label and freeze anything from greens, broccoli, tomatoes, herbs, fruits, etc. Off season you’ll love having these garden /vine ripened foods over those shipped from afar. It’s better for our planet too.
- Double or triple recipes – especially sauces, dips and vinaigrettes, (pesto, humus, salsa, guacamole) and even grains and legumes…
- Freeze some and keep some on hand for a fast meal enhancer or foundation.
- Infuse more flavor, nourishment and color into foods with the use of herbs on/in most anything from grains, beverages, salad dressings, dips, pasta, sauces, etc…
- Enjoy an abundance of variety foods and aim to intro something new each week
- Read through menus and recipes formulating a mental plan of your meals to come. This helps with grocery and prep management so your meals can come together easily.
- Remember to experiment and revise recipes to suit your taste preferences.
Trainers – enabling your clients ability to manage meals and consume quality whole foods is one of your best upfront insurance investments. Show them how easy it is once informed. Be the trainer who stands out from the rest by addressing your clients ‘whole self-wellness’. In addition to their exercise component, assist them with nutrition and stress management practices you provide or refer them too. It’s a great way to cross promo with your fellow fitness experts who specialize in those various areas and better serve the needs of your clients.