I bet the title of this post has you all nervous and gripping the edge of your seat, thinking “Oh my gosh is Erika totally going soft on us and ditching the steak? What’s next, zumba?! Rice cakes?!”
Well, don’t fret. I will be happily eating meat (and deadlifting!) until the end of time. But when I state things like that, it may come off as “unhealthy” to the average person or shocking to those who are still living in the “fat free” craze of the 90s and surviving on egg whites and plain chicken breast. I eat a lot. I eat to support my performance, I eat for energy, I eat for health and I eat because I just really like food, good food. Society has been duped into thinking that eating meat is one of the main causes of obesity and other diseases in our country and that becoming vegetarian will instantly lead to stellar health and weight loss. Gee it couldn’t possibly be all that inflammatory processed bullshit and “frankenfood” our country consumes…it must be all the cows we eat…right?? How dare you, Mother Nature.
Hot dogs, veggie burgers, rice-a-roni, fruit roll-ups, whole wheat bread, pizza, bagel bites and whatever else the average person eats on a daily basis…is not real food. That McDonalds you had for lunch, is not food. Have you read the ingredients lists on those items? How do those things even constitute as being edible?
The steak, pork and chicken I consume…doesn’t need a nutrition label or an ingredients list. Neither does all the broccoli, kale and other veggies I eat..because they’re not man-made.
Last time I checked, Doritos don’t grow on trees.
Anyways, over the weekend while hanging out with Juliet and Harold (you can read Harold’s recap here), and ironically while eating wild boar, elk and ostrich sliders, we discussed that despite the amount of meat we boast about consuming, our diets are actually primarily plant based.
I had never really twisted it and thought about it that way, but thinking back and looking at pictures of my meals..it’s pretty true:
That perspective has kind of stuck with me since then.
I like to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to nutrition: if you can’t grow it, pick it or kill it…I don’t eat it. (I admit I do bend the rules with my post workout shake though).
My meals (including breakfast) usually consist of an insane amount of vegetables and then some meat. Usually averaging 4-6oz depending on how hungry I am at the time, maybe more or less depending, I don’t measure it. Then I will either add some fats or some starchy veggie to that depending on my training/time of day.
If you want to eat to optimize your health, wellness and body composition, start eating foods as close to nature as you can find them.
So how can you eat a plant based diet that is still rich in delicious meat?
Step 1: Build every meal around animal protein: Beef, poultry, fish, eggs, pork.. Preferably the highest quality you have access to (grass-fed, pasture raised, cage free, wild caught, etc are your most optimal choices NOT pre-packaged, frozen, pre-cooked processed meats). Your portion size should be approximately the size of your palm – more or less depending on your hunger. (Once you start eating more real food and less processed junk, you’ll be more in tune with your body’s hunger signals). Protein is king. This is the most important, no matter what your goals are – fat loss, strength, muscle gain, overall health.
Step 2: Fill up at least the remaining half of your plate with veggies and/or greens. Unless you’re five years old, saying “I don’t like veggies” or “Veggies are gross” are both invalid excuses. Man up/Woman up/Nut up. These are where a large majority of your vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and badassery will come from. They will also kick inflammation’s gnarly ass and make you an indestructible superhero.
Step 3: Add a healthy fat source. Your body cannot absorb all those vitamins from your veggies without fat. You have no reason to fear fat and it’s amazing health benefits, as long as you are eating the right kinds. It will also keep you satiated, make your food taste better and boost your energy through the roof, especially combined with protein. Nuts, seeds, avocados and certain oils are the best. (I’ve been digging both avocado and walnut oil lately).
That’s how I eat. I have gotten blood work done multiple times this year and based on my numbers I am light years away from any kind of heart condition or heart attack and my HDL is astonishingly high. I also can’t remember the last time I was sick with a cold or the flu, despite being in direct contact with infected people. Good nutrition = good health.
Now, you can eat how you want and do your own thang, it’s really none of my business. But eating this way is something that’s easy to live with and enjoyable for me and I find it pretty sustainable for the long run as well as supplemental to my performance and energy. Those who I’ve advised to eat based on this model have also had great results in body composition as well as increased overall wellness.
(I didn’t want to turn this into a post about how meat gets a bad rap when it shouldn’t, there’s enough info out there about that, or a post about how to incorporate more veggies into your diet in an enjoyable way, so if you’d like more info/resources on that please e-mail me. I’m also not an advocate of vegetarian diets and think you should all go eat a nice grass-fed ribeye after reading this post. With a salad on the side.)