There’s no question that a well-nourished, mindfully fueled body will perform better in athletic pursuits than a poorly-nourished and inappropriately fueled one. You can help your clients improve performance—and move forward on the path to wellness that includes healthy weight management—by understanding and sharing four key principles of clean eating, with a focus on whole, plant-based foods.
- Gain an understanding of what clean nutrition encompasses from a plant-based perspective.
- Incorporate real-world action steps into nutrition recommendations to help clients incorporate more nutrient dense, plant-based foods in their diet.
- Understand how clean, plant-based nutrition can affect optimal weight and sports performance.
Are your clients performing at their best, relative to their training routine, fitness, and current goals? If you’ve got a client who has hit a plateau that isn’t easily linked to training, it may be time to help them find their next breakthrough with clean, whole food nutrition.
A clean, plant-based diet is full of important vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to help our bodies thrive. Understanding and sharing four key principles of clean eating will not only help your clients make better decisions when choosing food, they may also start to notice a significant change in their performance as you train them.
Here are four key principles of clean, plant-based nutrition to share with your clients:
#1 Choose Whole Food Instead of Processed Foods
When out cruising the aisles of the grocery store, it’s so easy to be lured in by products with fancy packaging and tantalizing pictures. Although those pretty packages might be appealing and convenient, highly-refined foods are generally stripped of their nutrient value. Choosing whole, plant-based foods—like vegetables, fruit, and whole grains—is best. But when packaged foods are on the menu, educate your clients on the top five things to look for when reading a Nutrition Facts panel so they feel confident that they are making good choices:
- Serving size and calories:
Is the serving size an entire package, or just a 14 chips? Identify whether you are looking for a low calorie snack (likely under 250 calories) or looking for something with enough calories to make up a meal (over 500 calories).
Do you recognize the names of the ingredients listed, without having to pull out your smartphone to Google them? Ingredients are listed in order by weight—a clean choice should have few ingredients, and the ones at the front of the list should come from whole food sources. After that, ask: what are the sources of sweetener in this product? And: are there any artificial colors, flavors or foods I am sensitive to on the list?
The higher the fiber, the more full and satiated you will feel. Aim for products that have at least 10% of the DV for fiber per serving.
Help your clients figure out how much protein they truly need to support their goals, then compare the protein in their favorite foods to their needs. Remember that sedentary individuals require 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, while endurance athletes may require up to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (ADA, 2009).
Avoid trans fats, and look for higher amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Ensuring that your clients feel confident in making their own food choices is the first step to making clean eating part of their routine.
#2 Focus on Plant-Based Foods
Research has shown that those who eat a plant-based diet have lower risk of heart disease, hypertension and obesity than the average North American (Craig & Mangels, 2009). Even if your clients are not keen to eat 100% plant-based, they can still benefit from adding 1 or 2 plant-based meals a day. Plant-based foods are rich in vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed to deliver optimum nutrition. Share these three easy tips with your clients to help them add more fruits and vegetables today:
#3 Eat Local and Choose Non-GMO and Organic Where Possible
- Go green:
Add spinach or kale to a smoothie to take care of a serving of greens. Build a smoothie base around non-dairy milk, nut butter, fruit and plant-based protein blend (optional) for a balanced breakfast.
- Make lunch plant-based:
Pack or order a power salad and soup for a filling lunch. Don’t have a wimpy iceberg lettuce and tomato salad—instead, start with kale or spinach, add avocado, a variety of sliced vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a delicious dressing for a salad that’s sure to satisfy.
- Bake with veggies:
Incorporate squash or sweet potato purée when baking muffins or quick breads. Simply substitute half the oil in a recipe for a vegetable purée. This will make it fewer calories and much more nutrient dense.
Many people associate clean eating with organic and non-GMO foods, but it’s also important to seek out locally grown produce. Encourage clients to shop at a farmers’ market to discover where their food is coming from and who is responsible for growing it. Many farmers follow sustainable, herbicide and pesticide-free practices but are not able to pay the fees associated with organic certification. Talking to local farmers about their growing practices can make it easier to choose foods are best for health—and stay on budget. Share these three considerations with your clients to help them shop for produce:
#4 Stay Hydrated
- Focus on local:
Get to know local farmers. Ask questions at the farmers market or in natural health foods stores about how local fruits and vegetables are grown.
- Is it organic?
Certified organic products have been grown and processed without pesticides or herbicides (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 2013). If your clients are on the fence about considering organic foods, or find them too expensive, have them focus on avoiding the Dirty Dozen.
- Is it non-GMO?
Corn and soy are the two most common crops that have been genetically modified. If your clients are avoiding GMOs, make sure to buy these organic or look for 3rd party certification, such as the Non GMO Project.
Staying hydrated is important for many benefits in the body, especially in the efficient delivery of oxygen to the muscles, and removal of waste when exercising. If your clients are not properly hydrated during workouts, their blood volume will drop, sweat rates will drop, and body heat will rise (Bernardot, 2012). Here are three clean tips to help your clients hydrate with healthier options:
- Go natural:
When exercising it’s important to stay away from nutrient poor, sugar-loaded soft drinks and stick with more natural sources of hydration, such as the simplest option: water.
- Add flavor:
Adding slices of fresh fruit or herbs can add a delicious taste to water—start with cucumber, raspberries, strawberries, or fresh mint.
- Replenish electrolytes:
For heavier workouts, encourage your clients to use an electrolyte replacement that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, or fillers.
For more clean eating tips you can share with weight loss, or athletic clients, the Author recommends Thrive Forward
. This free, online nutrition platform will help you understand how to eat, feel and perform better. Not only will trainers and clients learn the why behind clean eating, but an entire chapter on simple kitchen tips and delicious recipes will show them how.
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and American College of Sports Medicine (2009). Joint Position Statement: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.41(3):709-31 Accessed 9/18/13 from http://www.dietitians.ca/downloadable-content/public/noap-position-paper.aspx
Craig, W.J., Mangels, A.R. (2009).Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109(7):1266-82. Accessed 6/4/13 from http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/2009_ADA_position_paper.pdf
United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). National Organic Program. Accessed 9/18/13 from http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOP
Bernardot, D. (2012). Advanced Sports Nutrition. Human Kinetics. 2nd ed.