Back to Basics: Nutrition Rule #7

Eat lean proteins. If you can’t afford quality meats, find an alternative.

Now, I probably don’t mean the same thing by “lean protein” as you’re used to hearing. I do not mean ripping the skin off your chicken, taking the fat off your milk, or using low-fat anything. Leave the fats on your foods: stop taking the skin off your chicken breast, quite buying skim milk, and throw out the “low fat” whatever it is in your cupboard.  However, what you should be looking for is non-corn fed. Why? Because this causes a different kind of fat, and lots of it. Starches like corn do a variety of things to animal products, none of them good (at least not for you–they’re great for large agriculture, though). I won’t go into all of it here, because there’s a good bit of science heavy boring stuff that is beyond the scope of this blog series; but, one good example of why to look for non-corn-fed is grass-fed beef, which has up to 1/2 less fat than corn-fed. Now, there are a lot of issues with “grass fed” and “corn-finished,” as well. Start with going grass-fed, for now. I’ll do a post on how to choose meats of all types here in the future to help you figure out what is okay with grains, but starting with this rule will make things easier.


-Fats and protein play an essential role in brain function. You need them.

-When you buy “low-fat” products, what you’re actually getting is more carbohydrates, empty calories, and additives like salt.

-Buying quality proteins gives you more protein and quality fat for your dollar.

-Low-quality proteins are often high in undesirable types of fat and chemicals.

-Protein helps keep you feeling full.

-A diet of all carbohydrates is going to make or keep you fat. You need to be eating at least 30% of your diet in good fats (grass-fed animal products, olive oil, etc.), and another 40% in protein. Don’t stress about the numbers, though. Just start replacing carb-heavy meals with veggies and protein, and it’ll all work out.


-Donate or throw away “low fat” items. I promise you the fats they do have in them are bad for you, and what they’ve replaced the rest of the fats with to retain flavor and texture is even worse.

-Look for grass-fed dairy, eggs, and meats either in the supermarket, or (preferably) from a local farmer.

-It will be more expensive, so make it stretch. Don’t eat whole cuts of meat, instead use it  in soups, stews, and casseroles with other good ingredients (like those veggies from rule #6). American tend to eat too much meat as it is. That said, truly lean meats–meaning lean in their whole, not just lean when you trim all the crappy fat off of them–can be expensive, and hard to find in some areas. So, you may need to supplement with other protein sources.

-If you can’t find or afford quality animal products (or, if you prefer not to eat them), there are a lot of great substitutes:

-Lentils & beans. These are your frugal friend, with good proteins. Add some olive oil to them, or butter, to make sure the appropriate fats are there.

-Fish. This is a complicated issue, and one I’ll do a blog on at some other time. I will say that if you’re eating farm-raised salmon for it’s health value, you’re wasting you money, because it doesn’t really have any health value. Some fish are fine farm-raised, some are pointless and even harmful. Start by doing wild-caught salmon, and farm-raised swai (it’s a mild whitefish) now, and work other fish in as you do the research and find out what is healthful and what is harmful.

-Tofu & tempeh. (I am NOT going to get into the soy argument here, so all of you who found your way over here to tell me the dangers or wonders of soy, go do it on your own blog; this is meant to be basic nutrition info, not a thesis on phytoestrogens). If you are going to do this, you need to look for ORGANIC tofu and tempeh, preferably ones labeled “Non-GMO.”

-Eat protein-rich vegetables, like broccoli, in combination with grains. There can be a bit of complexity to this, so if you’re vegetarian, I recommend you do a good bit of research to make sure you have complete amino acids.

-Eat quinoa. It’s a complete protein, and is great with some olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes, or in place of rice or mashed potatoes.

-Eat nuts!

-Eat protein rich snacks like cottage cheese, nuts, and boiled eggs. Reach for a slice of cheese and almonds when you want a snack, instead of the Doritos. Even if it’s not grass-fed cheese (which can be really hard to find), the protein and fats in these foods will give you a slow energy boost instead of the sugar spike you get from starches and sugars. They’ll also fill you up faster, and keep you that way longer.


3 responses to “Back to Basics: Nutrition Rule #7

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