Stock Your fridge and cabinets with these 55 lean foods to maintain your health at optimum levels…
Lean Foods are such an important part of a total fitness lifestyle. The composition of your diet must include a wide variety of nutrient dense foods to support an active life both in and out of the gym. As a certified nutritionist, I have a lot of ideas I would be happy to pass along to you.
Let’s start with the fridge. I try to make sure I’m loaded up with lots of varieties of fresh vegetables. I make sure I have plenty of things like onions, zucchini, spinach, fresh mushrooms, red peppers, broccoli, etc. to use in my morning eggs. I also like to dice up some lean chicken or turkey sausage into the eggs, along with some Swiss, jack, or goat cheeses (preferably raw grass-fed cheeses when I can find them!)
By the way, you might think this is crazy for someone talking about lean foods, but I’m talking about eating WHOLE eggs now, not egg whites — or especially some artifical egg substitute, ugh! Always remember that the YOLK is the most nutritious and nutrient-dense part of the egg with lots of Omega-3 fats which the body needs (an essential fat) — eating only egg whites throws away the best part. And no, it’s NOT bad for you because eggs actually raise your good HDL cholesterol… Try to get free range organic eggs for the best quality.
Coconut milk is another lean foods staple in my fridge. I like to use it to mix in with smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt. Not only does coconut milk add a rich, creamy taste to lots of dishes, but it’s also full of healthy saturated fats. Yeah, you heard me…I said healthy saturated fats! Healthy saturated fats like medium chain triglycerides, specifically an MCT called lauric acid.
Back to the fridge, some other lean foods staples:
* Chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds – delicious and great sources of healthy fats.
* Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and yogurt – I like to mix cottage or ricotta cheese and yogurt together with chopped nuts and berries for a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal.
* Whole flax seeds or chia seeds – I grind these in a mini coffee grinder and add to yogurt or salads. Always grind them fresh because the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and prone to oxidation, creating high levels of free radicals in pre-ground flax.
* Whole eggs – one of natures richest sources of nutrients!
* Salsa – I try to get creative and try some of the exotic varieties of salsas.
* Avocados – love them…plus a great source of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients. Try adding them to wraps, salads, or sandwiches.
* Butter – Yes you read that right, butter! Don’t believe the naysayers: butter can be part of any healthy diet (just keep the quantity small because butter is calorie dense). BTW… NEVER use margarine unless you want to assure yourself a heart attack!
* Nut butters – Plain old peanut butter has gotten a little old for me, so I get creative and mix together almond butter with sesame seed butter, or even cashew butter with macadamia butter…delicious and unbeatable!
* Leaf lettuce and spinach along with shredded carrots – for salads with dinner.
* Home-made salad dressing – using balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil. This is much better than store bought salad dressing — which uses highly refined soybean oil (full of inflammation-causing free radicals).
* Whole grain wraps and whole grain bread (look for wraps and bread with at least 3-4 grams of fiber per 20 grams of total carbs).
* Rice bran and wheat germ – these may sound way too healthy for some, but they actually add a nice little nutty, crunchy taste to yogurt or smoothies. They can be added to the mix when baking muffins or breads to add extra nutrients and fiber.
Some of my best lean foods stored in the freezer:
* Frozen berries – during the local growing season, I only get fresh berries, but during the other 10 months of the year, I always keep a supply of frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, etc. to add to high fiber cereal, oatmeal, cottage cheese, yogurt, or smoothies
* Frozen fish – I like to try a couple different kinds of fish each week. There are so many varieties out there, you never have to get bored.
* Frozen chicken breasts – very convenient for a quick addition to wraps or chicken sandwiches for quick meals.
* Grass-fed steaks, burgers, and ground beef – Grass fed meats have been shown to have as high as, or even higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than salmon (and without the mercury!). Also, grass-fed lean foods and meats have much higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to typical grain-fed beef. I recently found an excellent on-line store called Grassland Beef where I buy all of my grass-fed meats now (they even deliver right to your door in a sealed cooler!)
* Frozen buffalo, ostrich, venison, and other “exotic” lean meats – Yeah, I know…I’m weird, but I can tell you that these are some of the healthiest meats around. If you’re serious about a lean healthy body, these types of meats are much better for you than the mass produced, hormone-pumped beef and pork that’s sold at most grocery stores!
* Frozen veggies – again, when the growing season is over and I can no longer get local fresh produce, frozen veggies are the best option, since they often have higher nutrient contents compared to the fresh produce that has been shipped thousands of miles, sitting around for weeks before making it to your dinner table.
Alright, now the snacks and other lean foods in my cabinets:
* Various antioxidant rich teas – green, oolong, white, rooibos are some of the best.
* Whole wheat or whole grain spelt pasta – much higher fiber than normal pastas
* Oat bran and steel cut oats – higher fiber than those little packs of instant oats.
* Cans of coconut milk – to be transferred to a container in the fridge after opening.
* Brown rice and other higher fiber rice – NEVER white rice
* Tomato sauces – delicious, and as I’m sure you’ve heard a million times, they are a great source of lycopene. Just watch out for the brands that are loaded with nasty high fructose corn syrup.
* Stevia – a natural non-caloric sweetener, which is an excellent alternative to the nasty chemical-laden artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and sucralose.
* Raw honey – better than processed honey… higher quantities of beneficial nutrients and enzymes. Honey has even been proven in studies to improve glucose metabolism (that’s how you process carbs). I use a teaspoon or so every morning in my teas. Yes, it is pure sugar, but at least it has some nutritional benefits… and let’s be real, a teaspoon of healthier raw honey is only 5 grams of carbs… certainly nothing to worry about.
* Organic maple syrup – none of that high fructose corn syrup Aunt Jemima crap…only real maple syrup can be considered real food. The only time I really use this (because of the high sugar load) is added to my post-workout smoothies to sweeten things up and also elicit an insulin surge to push nutrients into your muscles.
* Organic unsweetened cocoa powder – I like to mix this into my smoothies for an extra jolt of antioxidants or make my own low-sugar hot cocoa by mixing cocoa powder into hot milk with stevia and a couple melted dark chocolate chunks.
* Cans of black or kidney beans – I like to add a couple scoops to my Mexican wraps for the fiber and high nutrition content. Also, beans are surprisingly one of the best sources of youth-promoting antioxidants among any of the lean foods listed in this post!
* Dark chocolate (as dark as possible) – This is one of my treats that satisfies my sweet tooth, plus provides loads of antioxidants at the same time. It’s still calorie dense, so I keep it to just a couple squares; but that is enough to do the trick!
Lastly, another thing that’s hard to go wrong with is a good variety of fresh fruits and berries. The staples such as bananas, apples, oranges, pears, peaches are good, but I like to also be a little more adventurous and include things like yellow (aka – Mexican or champagne) mangoes, pomegranates, kumquats, papaya, star fruit, pineapples, and others. Also, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries are some of the most nutrient and antioxidant-dense fruits you can eat.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this special look into my favorite lean meals and how I stock my cabinets and fridge. Hopefully this gave you some good ideas you can use next time you’re at the grocery store looking to stock up on a healthy and delicious supply of lean foods that will support all your workout and body sizing goals, rather than work against them.
If you’d like to learn more about choosing the correct sorts of essential fats to spread around your dinner table, take a look at Mike Geary’s post on dietary fats for some great ideas that you can begin using today to enhance your eating experience and enjoy your lean foods more, and still live healthier…
And one other important nutritional aspect to keep in mind is the critical nature of Vitamin C in your bodybuilding program. Understand why, no matter what your particular diet may be, how this is the ONE supplement that you do not want to skimp on. A quick and informative treatment by pro trainer Sean Nalewanyj.