Even though I am a nutrition coach, it's not all too often that I talk about or recommend specific, food-related changes for clients.
Most often, I find it much more useful to begin not by changing *what* you are eating, but rather *how* you eat - such as eating slowly, recognizing hunger and fullness cues, enjoying food, etc.
Then, if needed, we identify more detailed changes that might also be helpful - but for the most people most of the time, learning to tune into your body and how you feel will get you the many (if not all) of the results you're looking for!
That said, there is one specific nutritional change that I've found to be incredibly important for both myself and my clients to reach their health and wellness (and aesthetic) goals: getting enough protein.
Especially when it comes to women, almost every client I've worked with has struggled to get enough protein in each day.
Protein is massively important for optimal functioning of your entire body (tissue repair, hormone production, metabolism, and literally everything else), and also is key for maintaining muscle mass (super important for quality of life, especially as we age) and regulating appetite.
Protein is very satiating and also requires a bit more "work" for your body to process and break down, so it can be very helpful for anyone who finds themselves feeling hungry or unsatisfied after meals, or is looking to lose body fat while maintaining muscle mass, strength, and energy.
Unfortunately, the RDA for protein is (in my opinion and that of many health/fitness professionals), woefully low.
This is because the recommendation is what a person needs to merely *survive,* not for optimal functioning - or for someone who is active or trying to gain/maintain muscle mass.
If you're only getting "enough" protein to meet RDA numbers, you are not getting enough protein to truly support your body and thrive.
So this begs the question: how do you know if you're getting enough? Or how do you add more if you are struggling to fit it in?
I generally do not suggest weighing, measuring, or counting grams of protein (unless you really prefer to, and it works for you without making you crazy).
Instead, there is a simple, easy, and accessible way to very accurately maintain the protein levels you need to live your best life.
All you have to do is use your hand!
Aim to get one palm-sized portion of protein rich foods 3-4x a day. (This would equate to about 3-4oz of chicken, beef, or tofu/tempeh, 4-6 ounces of fish, 1 cup of Greek yogurt or 1 scoop of protein powder, 2 eggs, or 1 cup of beans or lentils.)
(Photo courtesy of Precision Nutrition)
This is just a general guideline or starting point, so it may still take some tweaking to find the protein levels that suit your unique needs.
But it's a great place to start, and a very "handy" strategy for checking in and making sure you're getting enough protein (see what I did there?).
If you think you may be low on protein, or are just curious to see how much you're getting each day, try using the palm of your hand as your measuring stick and see if you can get 3-4 servings daily.
And if you do find that you're intake is a bit low, look for simple and easy ways to add in a serving of protein to one of your meals or snacks (perhaps by having some Greek yogurt with your oatmeal at breakfast, a couple of hard boiled eggs added to your lunch, a few slices of deli meat or a scoop of protein powder in water as a snack etc.).
(If you are vegetarian or vegan, it can be a bit more challenging to reach your protein
needs, and may require a bit more effort and conscious choices to ensure you are
including higher protein, plant-based foods on a regular basis.)
While I still believe in focusing first on the "how" of eating vs. specific nutrients or foods, getting enough protein can be quite powerful when it comes to your total well-being, as well as meeting your health and wellness goals.
Whether you want to work on understanding your body's needs and tapping into your hunger and fullness cues, or making sure you're getting the protein you need to thrive, coaching can help you get from where you are to where you want to go - without dieting, depriving, restricting, or feeling overwhelmed by thinking about food and nutrition.
In my coaching program, we look at your individual needs, goals, and lifestyle to come up with a simple, step-by-step plan to build sustainable habits that actually work in your real life (aka: things you can do even when work is crazy, the kids are sick, it's the holidays or you're on vacation, or whatever else life throws your way).