Win the Battle of the Bulge this Summer

by / Tuesday, July 21, 2015 / Published in Health and Fitness
Kevin Saunders  VictoryFor over 30 years now, I’ve worked hard to be fit and in shape for peak performance. That takes a great deal of effort in terms of weight training and building my aerobic capacity for wheelchair racing. But ever since the beginning, I realized that nutrition was just as critical for reaching not only my personal fitness goals, but also to qualify and compete in international competitions such as the Paralympic Games.

Here I share with you some of the fundamental but effective nutrition guidelines you can put into practice. If you want to look better, feel better and just be your best self, read on.

Nutritional 911

Our eating habits need help. Fast food, high-calorie desserts, sweetened drinks, and the wide range of processed foods on the market have filled us up – and filled us out. The numbers are staggering… in the United States, most adults are overweight or obese, as are 1 in every 3 children. As our bodies grow, so does the incidence of disease, including diabetes, heart disease and other preventable illnesses.

Healthy meal

Healthy meals are delicious meals. You get multiple opportunities per day to eat
 healthy, balanced meals and snacks.
Choose real food and you’ll see a 
difference in energy…and on the scale.

The good news is that changing the way you eat can be easy. To start, learn about some of the worst food offenders and how to replace them with healthier choices. For example, reducing your consumption of processed foods (anything packaged or prepared) and replacing them with fresh, whole foods can get your body’s metabolism back on the right track. This is great first step towards better nutrition because you get all your nutrients right from the source, instead of relying on the promise of “enriched” or “fortified” you’ll often find on packaged foods. Then try some portion-control tricks.

Meal Portion Guidelines

As a general rule, both men and women should eat five to six small meals throughout the day. This breaks down into an early breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. Why not 3 square meals as in the “good old days”? Eating smaller, more frequent meals have been shown to have a positive metabolic effect on our bodies. In other words, we burn more calories per day. Not waiting so long between meals also allows us to stave off hunger so that we aren’t tempted by everything so easily.

Whatever your goals are, you need a 
healthy body to achieve them.

Whatever your goals are, you need a 
healthy body
to achieve them.

As a general rule, this is what the typical meal would consist of:

6 oz. lean protein4 oz. lean protein
1 cup complex carbs1/2 cup complex carbs
vegetables (choose your serving size)vegetables (choose your serving size)
salad (choose your serving size)*salad (choose your serving size)*

*For salads, use 1 Tbsp of a fat-free and sugar-free (or low-sugar) dressing.
Healthy salads can be made very unhealthy with the wrong salad dressing.

olive-oilAs you can see from the table above, women should consume approximately 4 ounces of a lean protein, whereas men should eat a 6 ounce serving. When it comes to complex carbohydrates like steamed rice or yams, women would eat ½ cup and men would eat a full cup. This is where the difference end. We all need to eat substantial quantities of vegetables and salad, so there is no fixed quantity on these. However, preparation matters. We’re talking about steamed or lightly sautéed vegetables, not fried okra or buttered green beans.

And watch out for salad dressings. Most commercial dressing “flavors” are going to be too high in sugar and fat. The caloric load in the dressing is enough completely derail the healthy meal you think you’re having. If you must use a ready-made dressing, pick one that is fat-free and sugar-free (or low sugar), such as a balsamic vinaigrette (read the label). However, the best choice is to make your own. Just mix equal parts extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar) into your salad greens for a tasty, tangy salad.

What does a snack look like?

Now that we’ve covered the basic meals, you may be wondering what a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack looks like. Your morning snack can consist of a piece of fruit like an apple, orange or banana. You can also whip up an “egg white pancake” before leaving for work, which takes just minutes to prepare. A couple of my favorite recipes follow.

Egg White Pancake Recipe

  • 6 fresh egg whites
  • 1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 3 Tbsp. low-sugar preserve

Put all ingredients in the blender and mix for 20-25 seconds, until it reaches the smooth consistency of regular pancake batter. Heat up a pan to medium heat, and spray with Pam. Pour batter into center of pan. Cook both sides for approximately 4-5 minutes. Cook until inside of cake is cooked.

Healthy Chocolate Milkshake Recipe

  • 1 cup of egg whites
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 2 tbs. of Chocolate NesQuik (low sugar)
  • 1/2 cup of ice

Put ingredients in blender and blend until the ice is fine, then pour and serve. This will give you a quick meal that tastes like a frosty milk shake to start the day! Don’t want the mess or waste of separating egg whites? You can find cartons of ready-to-use egg whites at most grocery stores.

Vegetarian and Vegan Modifications

While “lean protein” typically refers to fish, chicken breast or eggs, these eating guidelines can be easily adapted to fit vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Plant-based foods with high quantities of protein include:

  • Quinoa – a grain-like seed that contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies need for growth and repair (they are “essential” because our bodies can’t manufacture them) 1 cup has 8 grams of protein. Quinoa is easy to serve as breakfast (similar to oats or grits), as well as lunch or dinner (prepared like rice).
  • Legumes – Green peas, beans, chickpeas…This food group provides a lot of variety, and a healthy supply of protein as well.
  • Nuts and Seeds – Hemp, chia, sesame and sunflower seeds are your best choice for protein. Walnuts, almonds and cashews are also fine sources…as long as you don’t overdo them. Nuts are high in fat, so consume them in moderation. The best choice would be walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Vegetables – Though not as protein-rich as other sources above, leafy greens such as spinach, are packed with protein and other important micronutrients. Another notable veggie is broccoli.
    Check out the sample meal plan below and keep these vegetarian options in mind. Even non-vegetarians can benefit from introducing more plant-based foods whenever possible. You get more natural fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Check out the sample meal plan below and keep these vegetarian options in mind. Even non-vegetarians can benefit from introducing more plant-based foods whenever possible. You get more natural fiber, vitamins and minerals.

6am-8amMen: 8 egg whites and 2/3 cup of steel cut oatmeal with berries
Women: 6 egg whites and 1/3 cup steel cut oats with berries
You can use an artificial sweetener.
Approx. two hours after your morning meal and at least 2 hours before lunch meal: This can consist of Protein shake, a piece of fruit or Healthy Chocolate Milkshake.
4 to 6 ounces of lean fish, turkey or chicken (no skin) grilled.
½ or 1 cup of starch or carbohydrate
Vegetables and/or salad
You can have an egg white pancake that you made before you left home, or eat a piece of fruit, have a protein shake with some fruit or have another Healthy Chocolate Milkshake.
Late Snack (optional)
You can have 6 hardboiled eggs (3 for women), or one cup of low fat cottage cheese (½ cup for women). You can also make that Healthy Chocolate Milkshake if you feel you need something with a good taste to it before you hit the sack.

Add antioxidant rich berries to your oatmealBerries are the most powerful antioxidant fruits. A single half cup of an assortment of berries can double our normal antioxidant intake and have anti-aging effects. So be sure to put berries in your steel cut oatmeal at breakfast or as a snack.


Take the Challenge

If you’re tired of feeling like your eating patterns are out of control, or you’re starving in an attempt to cut calories, commit to following this healthy eating plan for 2 weeks and you’ll be amazed at how you’ll feel. Listen to your body as you make the change. Your energy will go up and you’ll stop feeling as hungry. Give it 4-6 weeks, and you’ll see a difference at the scale, too. Try it and share your results with me!

Keep Going for the GOLD! Never Give Up!
Kevin Saunders, motivational speaker
Kevin Saunders

Kevin Saunders is a World Champion Paralympian, motivational speaker, athlete (with multiple gold medals) and author. Kevin Saunders was the first person with a disability appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness Sports (only 20 people are selected for this nationwide) by the President of the United States. Kevin Saunders was first chosen to be appointed to the prestigious Council by President George H.W. Bush and was the only person reappointed by to this Council by President Bill Clinton and he was reappointed again by President George W. Bush as a constituent expert to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports. Learn more about Kevin’s story and accomplishments.