I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, however, I have been eating for 24 years now so through trial and error I feel like I've got a pretty good idea on how to healthily and effectively feed my body.
I cannot tell you how or what to eat, but what I can do is tell you how and what I eat. I am not telling you this with the idea that you can directly imitate my daily routine, everyone is different and will require different intakes of food. I hope this will just further your knowledge of nutrition and help you make informed dietary choices.
For the past three-ish years I have followed what is called Flexible Dieting (or 'IIFYM' If it fits your macros). This way of eating is based on calories and macronutrients, calculating how much your body needs relevant to your goals and exercise routine. I do not follow this anymore, HOWEVER, I do still believe it is the most effective way to reach your goals as it is scientific and takes out the guess work. If you have very specific goals I would 100% recommend Flexible Dieting.
The reason I don't follow this anymore is because I have done it for so long that I have become pretty good at guessing how many calories, protein, fat and carbs are in things without having to physically count it, and since I don't currently have specific goals I don't need to track my intake so accurately.
Now I am eating completely plant-based, mostly whole foods with minimal processed foods. I post nearly all of my meals on my personal Instagram 'cooltobecaity' if you're interested in seeing what types of meals I eat.
When choosing what I am going to eat I take into consideration things like calories, protein, carbs, fat and also things like iron, magnesium, calcium etc. It seems like a lot to think about, but all you have to do is a quick google search to check what foods are high in those things. You might discover that you're already eating them!
I have no issue eating foods that are high in calories, our bodies need calories! I just make sure that the calories I'm eating are filled with good stuff! Often this is just common sense and doesn't need to be over complicated. For example 400 calories of rice and vegetables is going to be far better for your body than 400 calories of deep fried chips. It is going to give your body more nutrients and will also keep you fuller for longer!
Lets cover each of the three main meals and some of the things you might like to consider when choosing what to have!
I like to have smoothies for breakfast because it's a super easy, quick and yummy way to get in a tonne of nutrients early on in the day! A common misconception is that as long as its been blended, it's a healthy smoothie, which obviously and unfortunately isn't the case.
A smoothie essential for me is frozen banana. This makes it thicker than a watery smoothie, the banana taste is awesome and has heaps of nutrients. Next I'll add whatever 'super foods' I happen to have at the time. I will list some of the ingredients I like to have in the pantry for smoothies and their benefits. Remember I don't use ALL of these in a single smoothie, I'll mix it up using about 5 or so in each.
Spinach - Vitamin K, A, B2, B6, E, calcium, manganese, iron
Kale - Fibre, iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, inflammatory
Pear - Fibre, copper, vitamin K, C
Apple - Fibre, vitamin C
Banana - Fibre, vitamin B6, C, potassium, manganese
Berries - Fibre, low calories, will vary depending on berries
Avocado - Fibre, vitamin K, B6, C, folate, potassium
Pineapple - Fibre, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B1, B6, folate
Cacao (not cocoa) - Iron, magnesium, calcium
LSA - Omega 3, vitamin A, E, D, B, calcium, zinc
Maca powder - Calcium, vitamin B1, B2, B12, vitamin C, zinc, amino acids (protein)
Kale powder - Vitamin A, C, K, iron, calcium
Protein - Varying benefits depending on what protein you choose
Spirulina - Protein (all essential amino acids & 18 out of 22 amino acids)
Chia seeds - Omegas, fibre, iron, calcium
Pumpkin seeds - Magnesium, protein, zinc
Sunflower seeds - Vitamin E, B vitamins, amino acids (protein)
Hemp seeds - Protein, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, iron
Cashews - Vitamin E, zinc, magnesium
Walnuts - Anti-inflammatory omega 3, manganese
Almonds - Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium
Molasses - Vitamin B6 manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium
Rice malt syrup - Not a lot of obvious health benefits but a good natural sweetener
I like to use soy milk in my smoothies. Soy milk is high in protein, calcium, iron, potassium and sometimes vitamin B12. If you like smoothies less thick, you can use water instead.
Obviously you can have other things for breakfast, I just find smoothies give you the most bang for your buck, or most nutrients for the calories. Something like overnight oats is another good option as you can often blend a lot of these type of foods into it as well.
While breakfast foods like toast and weet-bix are desirable choices, and they're certainly not the worst, your body doesn't get as much from them.
My lunches are always different. This is when you could check out my Instagram if you're looking for ideas.
Similar to breakfast, I just try to ensure I'm having a variety of foods with a good balance of protein, carbs and fat. My go to lunches would be wraps/sandwiches, Buddha bowls, pasta or veggie filled stir frys.
When I have pasta I often make the sauce out of roasted and blended veggies or avocado, rather than a store bought creamy sauce which offers little to no nutrients. You can also add in things like spinach, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast to these sauces. You won't taste them but they will add heaps of nutrients to your meal.
Nutritional yeast can be found in health food stores and more recently it can sometimes be found in supermarkets. It has a yummy savoury taste and is high in protein, vitamin B12 and iron.
Being plant-based, I don't consume animal products like meat, dairy and eggs. I find tofu is an awesome substitute for meat if I'm after something bulky like a burger patty or even just something to add to any dish where I would usually have meat. Even if you're not plant-based, tofu is a great food to include in your diet. It is high in protein, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium and zinc. You can get ideas on how to use it on my Instagram.
Dinner is pretty much the same as lunch. I will take into consideration what I have had for breakfast and lunch and base my dinner choices around that. For example, if I had a sandwich for lunch I wouldn't have something bread based for dinner. If my lunch was quite basic, I would ensure my dinner is packed with veggies and other nutrient dense foods.
Some people like to have lighter meals at dinner time so they don't feel heavy going to bed. That's completely ok! You don't have to follow one set of rules, follow what suits you, your routine and your body!
Snacks are an awesome way to get in all types of nutrients. I love snacks like banana and peanut butter (I like to use the Sanitarium '100% peanuts' Peanut Butter). Fruit is a great snack as it's easy to grab, yummy and full of good stuff. Nuts are good as well but easy to go over board with so just make sure you stick to a small handful.
Smashed avocado on rice cakes or as a dip for rice crackers is delicious and you can add hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and pink salt into the avocado to make it even yummier and to sneak in more good stuff.
Lastly, just try not to complicate it. Use common sense. Nothing is off limits as long as it is in moderation. You can eat white carbs, you can eat after 8pm. As long as you're eating lots of fruits and veggies and minimal processed foods you should see the results you're after! Be careful not to fall into the trap of not eating enough. All meals are important and are an opportunity for you to fuel your body. I love helping people understand nutrition so if you ever have any questions, never hesitate to talk to me and ask me questions.