As some of you know, I am a racing cyclist and as such, I pay almost obsessive attention to my diet and nutrition. I am more passionate about diet and nutrition than I am about any other subject, really. Without trying to offend anyone, I think it's safe to say that many (most?) gamers are either ignorant or indifferent to nutrition and proper eating. While I'm eating carrots for a snack, I see people at the LGS eating Doritos washed down with a 64oz Super Big Gulp of Mountain Dew, and I literally cringe because they are killing themselves, and not slowly.
But there ARE gamers out there who do want to eat healthy. Afterall, being fit and having visible abdominal musculature has certain benefits outside of general health. Public schools do an unfortunate bad job of teaching proper nutrition to kids in a way that seems manageable, and most parents are just as clueless as their children. It always shocks me when I hear someone say, "I was trying to be healthy, so I got the chicken McNuggets instead of a burger." So what do you do when you want to eat healthy, but you don't know how to start?
Keep it really simple. I use a method called Diet Quality Score that basically gives you points for eating good things and takes away points when you eat bad things. At the end of the day you want as many points as possible. The more points, the healthier your diet. Counting calories is largely irrelevant with this system because you will get to 2000 calories around when you run out of healthy things to get points for. Plus, overeating fruits and veggies isn't the easiest thing to do.
Use this chart to track your daily Diet Quality Score. When you eat a serving of something, circle the points on the chart. It's easy. There are some notes on there that explain tricky things. As you'll see the highest score you can get per day is a 29. It is not important to eat a 29 every day. I usually get around a 24. Anything over 20 would be considered a healthy, balanced diet.
So once you're doing that, you're well on your way to a healthy diet. I'm not saying it will be easy. You'll have to cook most of your own food, I find the following tips help immensely.
1. 6 small meals. I eat a 500 calorie breakfast. I have a 200 calorie snack at 10am. I have a 500 calorie lunch. I have a 200 calorie snack at 3pm. I have a 500 calorie dinner. And I have a 200 calorie dessert at 8pm. I'm never hungry, and I'm never stuffed.
2. When I say "snack" and "dessert" I am talking healthy things, not treats. A typical snack for me is a handful of Almonds, a ziplock bag full of baby carrots with light ranch dressing, or a Greek yogurt.
3. Do some form of exercise every day. 30 minutes of cardio everyday will improve your health immensely. I'd encourage you to lift weights at least twice a week. Consult a personal trainer before starting a weight lifting regiment, because I don't want you to hurt yourself.
4. Take an essential oil supplement every day. Most people don't eat enough fish to get their Omega 3's. I highly recommend taking a Fish Oil or Flax Seed Oil pill everyday. There is no supplement or vitamin you can put in your body that will have as great a variety of benefits for you as essential fats. If you go to Whole Foods/Fresh Market they sell tubes of the oil with citrus flavor that you take a tea spoon of and it doesn't have the awful aftertaste that turns people off to the oils.
5. High protein. I don't mean go eat three burgers from 5 Guys. I mean, instead of a second helping of brown rice, eat a second piece of boneless, skinless chicken. Protein has a higher satiety index than carbs, so you will feel fuller longer, which helps immensely when you're losing weight and will be having to get used to eating less than before. Once you're at your goal weight, you can go to a more balanced diet where protein is lessened a bit.
6. Low fat. If there is a low fat or fat free alternative to whatever you want to eat, take it. "Lean protein" on the DQS means meat that is under 9% fat. Eggs and nuts are high fat, but studies have consistently shown that despite their fat content eating eggs and nuts contributes to a healthy body composition.
So what is a typical day's menu for me? Here goes...
-Multigrain bagel toasted with non-fat cheddar cheese
-1 Cup of V8 Fusion strawberry banana juice
-1 Cup of no-fat skim milk with sugar free chocolate syrup
-Handful of raw organic almonds
-Campbell's Healthy Select Harvest Chicken Tortilla Soup
-Handful of unsalted peanuts
-Ziplock snack bag of baby carrots with lowfat ranch dressing dipping sauce. Use as little dressing as you can handle.
-2 Boneless skinless grilled chicken tenderloins
-1.5 Cups Brown and Wild Rice
-2 servings broccoli with salt and 1/4 tablespoon of lowfat butter
-1 tub of fat free greek yogurt with fruit
I hope this is useful information for some of you. If you have any nutrition questions, I'd be happy to answer them.