You’ll know when you’re seriously taking your nutrition seriously. Instead of simply logging what you eat and drink and monitoring your calories burned on the MyPlate app, you’ll be playing it like a game -- plugging in different snacks and meal combinations ahead of time -- chasing the perfect day of macronutrient consumption.
I’ve been using the MyPlate app by Livestrong for over three months now, and since I’m finally meeting my daily protein goal of 142 grams pretty regularly, I’m turning my focus to managing what percentage of my calories come from protein, fats and carbohydrates -- the macronutrients, or macros if you want to sound cool.
The MyPlate app uses recommendations for macronutrient consumption taken from The Zone Diet, which is 40 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein and 30 percent from fats. Achieving the perfect day of macronutrient consumption takes careful planning and is even harder than eating a gram of protein for each pound of your body weight.
The closest thing to a perfect day of macronutrient consumption I’ve managed was 39 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 33 percent from fats and 29 percent from protein. Those meals consisted of the following:
Breakfast (600-700 calories)
Shredded Beef and Bean Chili Cheese Sandwich
Slow cook some boneless beef cuts on low-to-medium heat with a can of kidney beans, a can of chili beans and a can of whole tomatoes. Add tomato paste. I add a bit of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce and a squeeze of mustard as well. Spice it up with chili powder, cayenne and black pepper. Cook for eight hours or until the beef is falling apart.
Pour a cup of chili over a sliced hamburger bun like an open-faced sandwich. Sprinkle shredded cheddar over the chili. You can add a fried egg to make the shredded beef and bean chili and egg breakfast sandwich and boost your protein consumption further.
Chocolate Whey Protein Milkshake
Blend four ounces of 2% milk with one scoop of Super Advanced Whey Protein (either chocolate or vanilla), a third cup of strawberries, half a banana, and half a peach, or apple, or orange -- whatever you want. You can even blend vegetables.
Whey is the best way to reach your daily protein goals without breaking the bank or eating too much tuna or eggs. Plus, mixing whey with milk adds slower-acting casein protein and healthy fats. Adding juice adds more carbs, but a splash of orange juice with your milkshake is actually fantastic. If I’m already using an orange I hold the orange juice, though.
Macronutrient Breakdown: 35 percent carbs, 39 percent protein and 26 percent fats. This is an ideal breakfast given the caloric intake and macronutrient breakdown. There’s even room for more carbohydrates and fats, which you could get from adding a fried egg and a few more fruits to the smoothie.
Snack (60 calories)
Newman’s Own High-Protein Pretzels
While 18 pretzels result in 22 grams of carbohydrates consumed, Newman’s Own High-Protein Pretzels also carry 5 grams of protein per serving. Plus, all profits go to charity, and the pretzels are delicious despite their lack of salt and overall healthiness. I generally only eat half a serving after my big breakfast.
Lunch (500-600 calories)
Tuna Cottage Cheese Half Sandwich
The easiest way to cut carbs is to make sandwiches with one slice of bread instead of two. Open a can of white tuna in water and drain it. Stir in a tablespoon or two of cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise, salad dressing or Miracle Whip. You’ll cut down on the fat, and it’s a nice little protein boost to an already high-protein lunch. Mix in some chopped onion and celery if you like, and add salt and pepper to taste. I sprinkle a bit of shredded cheddar cheese on the tuna, and use a teaspoon or so of Durkee’s Famous Sauce (because a tablespoon is 80 calories) and a tablespoon of spicy brown mustard on my bread.
Chicken and Rice Soup
Bring four cans of reduced sodium chicken broth to a boil and add chopped carrots, onion and celery. After the vegetables are cooked thoroughly, add two cans of chicken breast and two cups of rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, or add a few teaspoons of Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce if you like it spicy.
I don’t usually have a glass of 2% milk with lunch, but I did on this day.
Macronutrient Breakdown: 59 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, 16 percent fats. While this lunch isn’t close to macronutrient consumption perfection, it keeps your protein consumption consistent and made up for the carbohydrates I didn’t eat for breakfast. Ideally, you would attempt to keep your macronutrient goals consistent for each meal, but that’s an even more difficult game to win and requires even more planning.
Snack (160 calories)
Planter’s Honey Roasted Peanuts
A serving of 39 Planter’s Honey Roasted Peanuts is 13 grams of fat, but fats are better than carbs when you’re turning your body into a fat-burning machine. Those 39 peanuts also carry seven grams of protein and seven grams of carbs with them, making them the ideal snack to make you feel full without packing on carbs.
Dinner (120-250 calories)
Baked Garlic Chicken Thighs
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare chicken thighs by washing and removing the skin. Lightly grease a deep pan with extra virgin olive oil and finely chop some garlic. Place the chicken thighs in the pan and then flip them, just to get oil on both sides. Then sprinkle garlic over each side, along with any other spices you’d like to use. Bake to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Macronutrient Breakdown: 0 percent carbs, 33 percent protein and 67 percent fats. Again, this meal hardly meets the macronutrient goals of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fats. But it does make up for my carb-heavy, fat-light lunch. I’ll usually eat this with a side of green beans or other vegetable to get some carbs into the mix. You can even slice up the chicken and add it to an alfredo sauce to eat over whole grain pasta if you want to work in more carbs.
Snack (200-250 calories)
Chocolate Casein Protein Milkshake
Whey protein is digested and absorbed by muscles quickly, whereas casein protein will continue to feed your muscles all night while you sleep, leaving you more refreshed in the morning. That’s why cottage cheese or a glass of milk are recommended before bed. The casein proteins in dairy products make for the best way to help your muscles recover and continue burning fat while you sleep.
Don’t use acidic fruits in your evening protein shake or you’ll subject yourself to potential heartburn that could keep you up all night. Stick to strawberries and bananas -- no oranges.
As you can see, The Zone Diet requires careful planning, and chasing the perfect day of macronutrient consumption starts with figuring out the right foods to consume. Once you narrow those down, you can mix and match in order to consume 40 percent of your calories from carbs, 30 percent from protein and 30 percent from fats at every meal.
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