How I Decide What To Eat

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Good morning and happy Friday!

Here’s another fabulous pug costume to add to my collection of funny Halloween pug costumes! Thanks, Marrisa! I love the little hat. So cute! Haha!

pug starbucks cup
[source]

Breakfast

This morning, I couldn’t decide what I wanted for breakfast. I had a craving for something cool and creamy, but I also wanted some maple peanut butter. In the end, I had a little bit of everything: Greek yogurt with Paleo granola, a piece of toast with banana slices and Mighty Maple peanut butter, and a berry smoothie made with mixed berries and some pomegranate juice. It was delicious.

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Readers often ask me how I decide what I am going to eat on a daily basis, so I thought I’d highlight how I come up with my meals and snacks. Here’s what guides my choices:

  • Cravings: Cravings are my #1 reason for choosing what I eat. As cliché as it might sound, I really do listen to my body and what it wants to eat. Of course, it’s not always healthy, so I balance my splurges with more nutritious choices as much as possible.
  • What we have in our fridge: I hate to see food go to waste, so what’s in our fridge and perishable almost always dictates what I am going to eat.
  • Protein + fruit and/or veggies: My meal planning always starts with selecting a form of protein and then adding fruit and/or veggies to it. I finish off my meal planning with some healthy fat (and sometimes some more carbs) for a well-balanced meal. Reminder: Fruit and veggies are carbs.
  • I try to “balance” my meals: For example, if I eat a carb-heavy breakfast, I’ll go lighter on them at lunch and dinner. Similarly, if I splurge at breakfast””say brunch””I’ll go lighter at my next meal to balance out the calories. I never skip meals””simply because I love to eat and I get cranky when I don’t eat””but I’ll scale back a little, especially if I’m not super hungry. I also try to balance my food groups, so, for example, if I don’t eat any vegetables at breakfast or lunch, I will eat a big salad for dinner. I do the best I can with balancing my meals, but if I eat crap all weekend, I don’t worry about it. Honestly, I enjoy it and then get back on track on Monday. No big deal.
  • I consider my workouts: If I’m about to go for a run or to CrossFit, I’ll eat a carb-y snack with a little bit of protein and fat beforehand. (Usually, it’s a banana with nut butter.) After my workout, I don’t typically drink a protein shake (unless I’m in the mood), but I will make sure to eat lunch or dinner right away, which is usually heavier on the protein and carbs with some fat mixed in.

Health News & Views

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Dreading Your Workout? 3 Easy Ways to Get Motivated

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Question of the Day

How do you decide what to eat?

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57 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh. I would die to have my dog dress up as a Starbucks cup, considering how obsessed I am with that place. So cute.
    I totally try and do that with my choices when I have cravings all over the board, but I try and do it in a healthy way.
    I also try to balance my meals as well, but sometimes some days just call for more carbs than others.
    Depends on how I’m feeling for sure.

  2. Tina, I am now trying exactly what you’re doing. I am trying to eat carbs at only one meal and if I eat a heavy meal then I balance out the rest of the day. I love salads for lunch but I add cheese, few bacon bits and low cal ceasar dressing with some type of protein. It has quite a few calories but I just love this lunch so now I am eating a lighter breakfast, cutting down on snacks, and having meat & veggies for dinner. It was killing me not to eat the salad so i thought “why fight it” work around it. Also, I am not having alcohol unless I am at a social function. We’ll see how this method works for me!

  3. lol at the pug starbucks cup! That’s cute. I understand how you feel about how to decide what to eat on a daily basis. I think cravings are the number one thing for me too. I like to stock my fridge with pre-prepared meals though so that I know I have a proper meal to eat. For breakfast I try to have some protein and vegetable to get my morning up and running quickly.

  4. I mostly go by what’s in our fridge and is about to go bad. We have a mostly clean diet so the majority of what we eat is perishable, so that weighs the heaviest on what I cook each day. We also are pretty routine with some meals (like breakfast – eggs every day Monday – Friday) so that routine eliminates the need for me to actually think before I start cooking. 😉

  5. I definitely follow cravings and what’s in my fridge first, but I need to be better about veggies! Most days I’m thrilled of I have them in both lunch and dinner, which is usually my goal. I did well with this when I good prepped on the weekend, so I need to do that more!

  6. I don’t really have a way of deciding what I’m going to eat. I just eat what i feel like, what my body is craving at the time. That said, I’ve come a long way as I suffer(ed) from binge eating/restricting too much where external factors (calories remaining, …) dictated my meals instead of my body. So now I’m just eating what makes me happy 🙂
    I am more careful before a workout though especially running. If it’s after breakfast I’ll have oatmeal or something quite substantial and if it’s after lunch I make sure not to have something my body will have a hard time digesting.

  7. I, too, am governed by my cravings, but I attempt to rein them in — I’m prone to too much sugar! — by making sure I have some fat & protein in every meal. If I start out my day with these items, I’m far less likely to crave sugar in its myriad forms.

    Unrelatedly, that pomegranate smoothie looks like a whole lotta yum!

  8. Great tips Tina! It’s funny but so often we “forget” how to decide what to eat thanks to countless diets. Love the starbucks costume too. So funny 🙂

  9. I’m with you on pretty much all of those! If I have an intense workout in the morning, I’ll eat a really big breakfast or else I’ll be hungry every hour of that day. I also plan a lot around my work schedule cause I eat lunch in my office most days.

  10. I go with cravings, but I also, like you, try to make sure I’m getting my veggies in and balance out carbs, proteins and such. Fruit is pretty much a free-for-all! I love having a green smoothie in the morning because that way I know I’m set for the day with the veggie count! BTW….. that pug costume is the cutest ever and looks like it would be really easy to put together, not to mention cheap.

  11. I’m with you on eating bad on the weekends. I try to stay balanced all week so the weekend is like a reward. I know they say not to reward yourself with food but whatever. I just try not to go overboard with my splurges.

  12. I used to fight my cravings because I felt like I had to eat a certain way (i.e., eat as soon as I wake up and eat super-clean)…After months of forcing myself to eat eggs every morning I finally realized, “you know what, I like something sweet in the mornings and I don’t really like eating right when I wake up.” Now I typically do fruit, some nut butter and maybe a protein shake, take it with me to work, and eat when my body is ready. Much better 🙂

  13. I usually meal plan the week before & eat the same lunches & dinners Monday through Friday. It works out better financially for me since I’m only cooking for myself. If I get bored eating the same meals, I’ll switch it up one of the days, but I always make sure to get protein & veggies into each meal. Weekends are a bit harder to meal plan for because my plans always vary, so I just do what I can depending on what I have going on.

    Btw, that poor pug looks miserable in that costume lmao.

  14. That costume is hilarious!

    I agree with how you choose what to eat–I am similar! I def am driven by what I WANT to eat—and what is available to me at home 🙂 I def go heavier on the protein/veg/fruit as much as possible!

  15. I really try and let my body dictate what I eat. Until it tells me to eat an entire box of Wheat Thins or half a pan of brownies. Then I do try and reign it in a bit. 😉

  16. I was following a strict Paleo diet but this had started to lead to binges on ‘forbidden’ foods. Not something I want to go back to. So, I’ve decided to ease up a bit and start enjoying non-Paleo foods again when I crave them. So far so good and I’m loving my oatmeal again in the mornings!

  17. I usually shop the sales at the grocery store and plan around that. And Friday is usually what is still left in the fridge. I hate to waste food also.

  18. Often there isn’t a method to my madness but most of the time, I use several strategies that you use. I have a big breakfast/lunch, I’ll have a lighter salad for dinner. I find salads fill me up quickly so I try to have a salad at least once a day for one of my meals.

    One thing I need to work on more is snacking less and eating more full meals 🙂

  19. that is the best costume ever! and cravings. yes. Hopefully those cravings come in the form of what’s in our fridge. In my case today. chicken sausage and hummus. I did not crave a vegetable. Odd

  20. Now you just have to decide what kind of S’bux drink he is! I’m thinking a short, salted caramel mocha with whip.

    I also base what I eat on cravings. What’s helpful is to have a lot of healthy snacks on hand because then you have a variety and you don’t feel limited.

  21. I’m with you on all counts…I hate food waste and when it comes to nutrients I just try to balance it out; when I know I’ve had a tough workout I’ll go a bit heavier on the protein and if I know it will be a long time until my next meal add in an extra dollop of fat a.k.a nut butter!

  22. I totally plan all my meals (mon-fri) the week before – So on Thurs or Friday whatever I’m craving or new things I want to try I right them down – if i loved something from the week before I have it again. The everyday I write my “meal plan” on a post-it before I leave work this way the next morning after my workout I make what I planned the day before & don’t have to think. I realize this makes me sound like a nut but it works perfectly for me! If I don’t I will sit in front of the fridge for an hour being indecisive lol 🙂

  23. I try to use intuitive eating for dinner and tend to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch. I really need to plan my meals more because I end up searching through my fridge for something to eat every night!

  24. My food choice decisions are a lot like yours, though I always try and consider mood boosting foods, like flax and other omega-3 sources. Mostly it’s cravings balanced with making healthy choices.

  25. That starbucks costume is way too cute!!

    I had banana on toast too but I had mine with jam and almond butter, it was so good. I’m carb loading for my first half marathon tomorrow. Usually I am like you though and balance things out a bit more than everything being carb heavy. Since starting intuitive eating I try and listen to my body and learn what it is craving the most. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to wait till I am truly hungry, not always the easiest but I find usually when I am hungry it is much easier to know what I am craving 🙂

  26. When it comes to what I eat, I listen to my body and what it is craving, but also try to balance my protein, healthy fats, and carbs, and what kind of workout and schedule I have that day! Each day is different, but right now I’ve been consuming a lot of kabocha squash at night. 3 nights in a row with a healthy protein and vegetables. AMAZING!

  27. I don’t get to decide what I eat; my gallbladder does!! I have to eat low fat or else I suffer consequences. So, no steak, bacon, heavy sauces, pizza, French fries, peanut butter, or cheese for me! I eat a lot of homemade soups, vegetarian chili, chicken, pasta, veggies/salad, and raw meal smoothies with frozen fruit and banana. Thankfully I don’t have food cravings, so it works for me.

  28. We had almost the same thing for breakfast this morning! Somehow I forced myself to run for 45 minutes when I first woke up this morning, and the breakfast was perfect after the workout!

  29. Hi Tina! Long time blog reader 🙂
    Just a question – have you ever considered or looked into fasting? I’ve been thinking a lot about intermittent fasting and I eat a strongly paleo-esque diet myself and have heard a lot about the health benefits of a 1-day fast. This article got me particularly interested, although there are tons more on the web:

    http://www.paleoforwomen.com/shattering-the-myth-of-fasting-for-women-a-review-of-female-specific-responses-to-fasting-in-the-literature/

    Just wanted to hear your opinion! And also since you have issues with your GI tract, it’s said to have a lot of benefits on autoimmune diseases too, so I was just wondering if you’d heard of it or considered it!

    Thanks in advance!
    -Melissa

    1. I’m personally not interested in fasting, but I’m sure it helps some people. I’m super cranky and miserable when I don’t eat, so it’s not really an option for me. Thanks for sharing that link!

  30. I’m like you – I try to listen to what my body wants then be sure to have protein & lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I crave the same thing for months at a time so I seem to eat similarly pretty much every day.

  31. Hi Tina, This pug costume made me laugh for 5 minutes straight! Wow! Thanks for sharing this great insight to how much we should really listen to our cravings and how much planning and reasoning should go into a balanced daily diet. I tend to have a lot of cravings that I try to suppress most of the time. And I must say I am not to happy with the results as from time to time I have a day when I am allowing myself just to go with the flow. I think your way of balancing the meals depending on how you start the day sounds so much better. You get what your body and your mind need without constantly restricting yourself. Do you eat desserts at all? If so what do you usually go for – healthy and naughty option? Thanks

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