Healthier Eating For Fussy Eaters

If you’re living under the stigmatising label of “picky eater” or similar, it’s likely that you’re carrying around a lot of negative ideas about yourself being a bit of a lost cause or hopeless case who’ll never be able to have “a healthy diet” or to “eat right” to be able to lose weight or achieve an athletic physical condition via training.

You might even have been made to feel like not being able to try new foods, follow a fad diet, or stick to a meal plan from your gym or personal trainer makes you “a bad person”, for some reason.

The reality it is that even people who do like a variety of foods and would never have been considered a fussy eater will have difficulty sticking to restrictive fad diets and meal plans that do not take their preferences and circumstances into account, and they too will likely be made to feel bad for it.

I’m here to reassure everybody that this is a load of nonsense and you should refuse to take any such criticism to heart.

For those of us who do want to try to be healthy, who would like to apply some effort in the gym in pursuit of fitness and condition goals, but are all too aware that trying new and unappealing foods is simply not within the realms of possibility… well, I’m going to tell you what I wish someone had told me 30 years ago. Or even 20 years ago would have been nice for that matter.

A “healthy diet” doesn’t have to look like and consist only of all the same foods that some other “normal person” is eating. It doesn’t have to be the fad diet of the season, or meals cooked from scratch from organic produce sourced at a farmer’s market. It doesn’t need to look like something with a “clean eating” hashtag on some pretentious instagram page.

It needs to provide adequate vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, within a total energy provision that is adequate, but not excessive. That’s really about it.

So, let’s start with the hardest part.

Is there ANY vegetable that you quite enjoy?
A potato counts, but do consider some options other than the deep fryer if possible.
If there is a vegetable that you do enjoy, have the intention of including it in at least one meal most days of the week. If there is more than one, that’s even better.

Are there any vegetables that you’re able to eat in smaller amounts, even if you’re not super enthusiastic about them?
Try to include at least one of these as often as you can.

The recommendation for vegetables is 5 per day. That might not be a reasonable expectation for you, but one a day is certainly better than none. Two most days is certainly better than none. If you have an option you actually enjoy and a couple that you could stand to work with, decide that you’re going to do the best you can with those options. It IS worth doing. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you shouldn’t bother because it’s still not good enough.

How do you feel about fruit?
If you’re like me and you’re very enthusiastic about fruit, then make a point of enjoying it regularly. The recommendation for fruit is two pieces per day, but there is absolutely no harm in including twice that amount if you do enjoy it.

If you’re less enthusiastic, are there one or two options you might be able to work with sliced up or in some other acceptable form? Start with a couple of days per week and who knows, you might find you start to feel more enthusiastic than you expected.

If you do just the above and it means you’re getting greater amounts of fruit & veg more regularly than now, you’ve already greatly improved the quality of your diet. However, fruit and veg aren’t the only options to source these valuable nutritional resources, and you might be relieved to find that there are many other options that you will find acceptable to work with.

Do you like and are you able to eat nuts?
A 30 gram serve most days is a great way to source more vitamins and minerals, as well as adding to your fiber intake.

Now for the easy part.
We’ve gone some of the way towards achieving a healthy intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. What we need to do now is to choose meals that will continue that, while bringing us to an appropriate total energy and protein intake as well.

Regarding Protein & Total Energy Requirements

Individual requirements will vary depending on height, age, amount of activity, proficiency at training, and so on. Protein requirements may be determined on a grams per kg of body weight basis, or as a percentage of total energy intake. If current protein intake is particularly low, anything closer to the optimal amount is an improvement worth making, even if it still falls a little short of the mark.

Protein shakes are an absolutely fine choice in achieving this end, and in most cases if you do not have an issue with dairy I would suggest that a Whey Protein Concentrate is the best option for budget and bioavailability. There are other perfectly good options available to vegans or others who do not like dairy, although you may find that you pay a little more for them.

Now then, what’s for breakfast?

I’m trying my best not to assume what options you’re able and prepared to work with… but if you happen to be thinking “I only like cereal and I already know that cereal is not a good choice” well, I have more good news for you.

Cereal is a perfectly fine choice, although if possible be looking for an “adult” choice that comes with that all important fiber and protein provision to provide satiety and bring you further towards your targets for those nutritional resources.

If you still feel like you haven’t done well enough in the early section about fruits, vegetables and nuts, a fortified choice of cereal with added nutrients might be a good idea. I keep seeing pretentious food snobs carrying on as if “fortified” is a bad thing, but that’s ridiculous. It literally means they have gone out of their way to add more of the good stuff that your body requires. What’s the matter with these people?

Lunch and dinner.

You’ve already decided which vegetables you’re able to include with at least one of these meals, so it’s likely that you have the other things that go along with that already in mind.

Now, it is no problem to include convenient and affordable (shock horror) processed foods at this point. It is no problem to have a sandwich, or something that comes out of the toaster. If you happen to like anything that includes eggs (french toast is a good one for me personally), beans on toast… like I said earlier, it doesn’t need to be expensive, pretentious or fancy. It needs to provide the energy and nutritional resources that you require, with stuff you can actually stand to eat. Or more ideally, stuff you actually enjoy eating.

Be aware though that many convenience meals are likely to come with a high sodium content, and having them every day is not especially healthy even when we’re doing our best with everything else. Read the label and try to make the better choice between similar varieties.

The overall context of “a healthy day’s eating”.

People’s individual requirements vary greatly based on height, age, activity level, and so on. A more active person requires more energy intake than someone who sits around all day. A more experienced athlete requires more than a person just starting to take an interest in being more active.

A diet where total energy intake is in excess of your requirements is unhealthy and will result in weight gain. A diet that is in excess of your energy requirements while drastically short on protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals is particularly unhealthy. Conversely, negligently skipping meals or otherwise attempting to restrict to insufficient levels of energy intake will most likely result in over consumption of less nutritious choices later in the day, or perhaps later in the week after a few days of neglect.

With a little practice, we can put the best of the choices that we are able to work with together into eating habits which meet but do not exceed our energy requirements, while meeting (or least coming closer to) our requirements for all of the other important nutritional resources that we require.

If we do this… regardless of how different those choices might look to what’s in fashion or what anyone else might be doing… we do indeed have “a healthy diet”.

I have a little thing called Test Drive that will give you a suitable set of intake targets to work to, with guidelines for planning your meal schedule and selection on a convenient app.

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