The Ins and Outs of Healthy Eating, with Ken McCullough

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

One of my favorite stories about dealing with the realities of life comes from Buddhism. A young man once approached the Buddha as he was teaching and asked, “Please grant me wisdom that is truly transcendent- that holds true throughout all ages, all teachers, all places in the cosmos.”
The Buddha’s answer was a smile and the phrase, “Sesame flatbread.”

Picture

Photo from EatSmarter.com

The reason I like this story is because it truly does cut to the heart of things- beyond morality, convenience, and creed, is the simple wisdom of biology: when you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, sleep. When you are thirsty, drink. It really is that simple.

The “how” of it, however… that’s another story.

Eating is the basis of health, and eating well will contribute more to helping you lose weight/build muscle/shake diabetes/ etcetera than hours on a treadmill. Exercise is still vitally important, but if you don’t have the right eating habits in place, you will have to exercise CONSTANTLY in order to maintain the fit body you want. The moment you stop exercising (for whatever reason,) it will all come back.

Strength Cardio Diet Pyramid

“You can’t outtrain a bad diet.”

I’ve discussed my own eating habits on the blog in previous entries- particularly in conjunction with my personal weight loss, and my penchant for snacking. To go in depth on the topic, however, is a bit different.
For starters, I’m not a dietitian or a personal trainer. All of my knowledge about eating well comes from my own experience (hardly typical,) and a limited number of resources- in particular, the YouTube series “Broke Eats,”as well as a couple books like “The Thug Kitchen Cookbook” and “Poorcraft.”
Secondly, with the rough economy, it’d be irresponsible of me to tell you that eating healthy is all-around cheaper than eating junk food- prices of produce are getting higher, and you really need to be sharp to make sure you’re not healthy-eating away your rent check.

I know a thing or two about shopping for ingredients, and what the essentials for a healthy kitchen should be, but I felt the need to seek out an expert for the key points of healthy eating, so I turned to my old friend Ken McCullough.

Ken and I met when we were working at the Citta Scout Reservation in Barnegat, NJ a little over a decade ago, where Ken was operating the Aquatics area and I was the camp medic. Since then, Ken has turned his lifestyle around to become a personal trainer and receive an M.A. in Exercise Science.

What are the most important things to consider when planning a healthy meal?
The most important thing is to make sure it is a balanced meal- that your plate consists of a lean protein [chicken breast, fish, vegetable proteins], healthy fats (often but not always involved in the cooking process), and a carbohydrate- the less refined or processed the better. Here’s the ratios I was taught to maintain on my plate:”

Getting prepared ingredients (canned/frozen veggies, boxed stock, etc.) can be a real time-saver, and often cost less than fresh. What should people look out for?
“Look at the ingredients. Try to go for bagged frozen veggies over canned, as there are less preservatives. For broth, look at the ingredients carefully. If there are a bunch of ingredients you don’t understand or recognize, put it back. Check the sodium too- if you have a choice, go for the reduced/low/no sodium kind.”
BHB- When it comes to fresh veggies at the supermarket, keep your eye out for WHOLE fruit and veg, not the pre-cut stuff in shrink wrap. The whole stuff will almost always cost less, and you should know how to use a knife anyway. As for broth, getting store bought is a REAL time-saver, but making your own on the cheap is super easy. I’ll tell you about that later.
There is a misconception that eating healthy means getting rid of fats, sugars, salt, etc. and that that makes everything bland. How do you get around that?
Simply by adding flavorful things- basil, diced garlic or jalapeno, and fruit or fruit juices for sweetness. You don’t necessarily have to completely eliminate salts, sugars, and fats either. Using extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil are great, and you can use raw sugar as opposed to processed. It’s more about moderation- unsaturated fats [examples] are healthy, and for some people a diet rich in unsaturated fats is beneficial for weight management. A person with low blood pressure may need a high salt diet. It’s all very subjective.”

Do you have any favorite preparations?
One of my favorite preparations is my muffin tin quiches. They are great for a breakfast or snack- it usually takes about 10 large or 7 jumbo eggs, a half-cup of milk or almond milk (I go back and forth depending on the week, and if I need the extra calories.) I usually use half an onion and half a pepper- I vary the vegetables I use by the week too, depending on what’s on sale. Sometimes I use broccoli instead of pepper, or drop in jalapeno for a kick. Seasoning can be salt and pepper, or Cajun power, or anything else I happen to be feeling.”

BHB: Yes, I am TOTALLY trying this out.

In the age of the Internet, there is a lot of questionable dieting advice from dubious sources out there. If you could pick one myth or piece of “advice” about healthy eating and eradicate it forever, what would it be?
The idea that carbs and fats are horrible. Carbs and fats provide us with energy for daily life. Quality carbohydrates come from unrefined sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole/unrefined grains. Good fats from avocado, beans, lean meats like fish, and olives just to name a few.”

Anything else you feel like people should know as they start trying to eat healthier?
Start slow. Trying to change everything all at once can get overwhelming. Start by just picking one meal at a time, get into a healthy habit with it, and then add another. Get really comfortable with meal prep. Spend time each week looking over your schedule, and prep meals for the week- or in some instances the night before, like a mason jar salad. Changing your eating habits can be really challenging, and getting advice off the internet can make it confusing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a dietitian, nutritionist, or nutrition coach.”

BHB: Meal prepping/scheduling is also a BIG way to save money in the long run. When there is already prepared food waiting for you at home that you don’t need to wait to cook, it’s easier to talk yourself out of picking up junk food when you’re out. It’ll also help control your grocery budget, since you’re only going shopping about once a week. If you know you have a snacking habit, plan around that too. I do this by keeping a bag of almonds or a protein bar in my bag wherever I go. For other ideas, check my previous post on snacking.

 You can get more of Ken’s advice by clicking over to “You Ken Be Fit Too LLC” on Facebook, or by following his Instagram @youkenbefittoo, which includes his occasional videos “Ask Dr. Ex Sci,” where he discusses burning questions and topics regarding exercise, health, and eating well.

So there you have it. No miracle pills, no hardcore dieting, no crazy “can’t eat carbs except alternate prime-numbered days” rules. Just eat good food, in the right amounts, regularly, and move around enough to use all that energy and then some, and you’ll be fine. Not much I can add to that!

Stay Classy,

 P.S.
​Hey, see those shiny new buttons at the top and bottom of the page? This topic was chosen by my Patreon patrons! Patron get access to an exclusive feed, the chance to vote for the next blog topic, live Q+A chats with me, even live baking videos! Click on over and check it out! -BHB