01 General philosophy:
Second only to your genetics, nutrition and what you eat have the greatest effect on your health and the way you look, especially if, like most people, you can only make enough time to work out for an hour or less a few days per week. I’ll try and keep this basic.

Moderation and diversity are the keys to success here, as with most things, and I have never been an advocate of food elimination or food-group elimination. In general, just remember to look for these key words at the grocery store: whole grain,, all-natural, unbleached, whole wheat flour, no sugar added, organic, free range, essential omega-3/6/9 fatty acids, high fiber.

Some BAD words: Partially hydrogenated, trans-fat, bleached flour, high-fructose corn syrup, refined, saturated fat.

The more you strive to eat whole grain, unrefined, all-natural foods, without extra sugar added, the better off you’ll be. Whole grain always means greater nutritional content and that more fiber remains in the food item. This means unbleached, whole grain flours and breads, as well as brown rice instead of white rice. There may be a caveat if you have a gluten-sensitivity, which is beyond the scope of this article. In that case look also for key words “gluten-free” and “ancient grains” to help steer clear of gluten.

Eating healthy also involves fresh vegetables and fruits (instead of fruit juices), raw and unsalted nuts, whole-grain cereals without added sugar and limited saturated (animal-based) fats. Avoid partially hydrogenated oils or fats. If you must drink juice, choose juices that are sweetened naturally with only the natural fruit sugar (fructose … NO added corn syrup or HFCS!).

Soda has to go. One 12-ounce can contains 35 grams of refined sugar (7 teaspoons). If you must have your soda, switch to “diet” immediately. Try flavored sparkling water as a healthy alternative to soda.

Choose complex carbohydrates (starches) and limit your sugars. Before or after your workouts are the most ideal time to consume your sugar/high-glycemic meals, as this will help provide and replenish muscle glycogen for energy and recovery respectively.

Complex/whole-grain carbohydrates are also rich in fiber that is important for colon health, and filling you up with fewer calories. Fiber has a great deal of bulk for fewer calories. Soluble fiber cleans out your bloodstream and pulls triglycerides and LDLs (bad cholesterol) from the blood. Insoluble fiber literally scrapes the colon clean and keeps you regular.

Choose fish, chicken and lean red-meat cuts such as flank steak. Coffee and tea are welcome in moderation as long as you are easy on the additional sugar and/or cream.

02 Protein Sources:
These should comprise about 30 percent of your daily calories, or .7 grams per pound of body weight, for someone who works out. They include: fish (high in essential fatty acids like omega-3/6); chicken (skinless breasts); red meat (lean, flank, sirloin); eggs (use only half the yolks when possible as that is where all the fat and cholesterol is contained); raw, unsalted nuts and peanut or almond butter; cottage cheese; yogurt; low-fat milk; soy (which is full of powerful cancer-fighting micro-nutrients known as isoflavones and phytoestrogens to block bad estrogens; soy is a great source of protein … soy milk, tofu, edamame, miso, etc.).

03 Carbohydrate Sources:
These should comprise about 40-50 percent of your daily calories. The possibilities here are limitless but, again, your choices must be complex and whole-grain, except during pre- and post-workout meals where sugar is encouraged for glycogen uptake.

The more raw and less refined here, the better. If you have two choices here and one is brown in color and the other is white, you better be choosing brown! Fruit is obviously full of sugar, but fruit comes packed with all kinds of cancer-fighting micronutrients (phytochemicals and antioxidants), vitamins, and fiber, so raw fruit is a welcome snack anytime. When possible eat the skin of the fruit too. The skin of the fruit is full of cancer-fighting nutrients as it protects it from the sun and all of the UV rays.

Fruit sugar, known as fructose, has a much lower glycemic index than white, refined sugar, known as sucrose, causing less of an insulin spike. Vegetables are indeed classified as carbohydrates and feel free to eat as many veggies as you want! Of course, veggies are full of fiber and cancer-fighting micronutrients as well.

Finally, I must make an honorable mention of mine and many athletes’ all-time favorite complex carbohydrate: OATMEAL. Oatmeal is a “superfood” that should be one of your staple carbs. Whether straight-up in a bowl, cereal, energy bar or blended into your favorite protein smoothie, it is full of low-glycemic energy and packs a big dose of soluble fiber that is great for your heart and cardiovascular system, yanking LDLs (bad cholesterol) from your blood.

04 Fat Sources:
These should comprise about 20-30 percent of your daily calories. Here is the “skinny” on fat: Saturated fat (originating from animal products, i.e., butter, whole milk-based, meat-based) is not so good. Trans-fats (from deep-frying vegetable oils, a.k.a. “partially-hydrogenated,” such as margarine), are the WORST. Yes, that’s right: Margarine is worse for you than old-fashioned butter. Unsaturated fat (coming from vegetables and nuts, such as an avocado and olive oil, and cold-water fish) is good. Nuts are also full of antioxidants such as vitamin E, and they promote good cholesterol and help eliminate the bad. “Essential” fats are the BEST, and you should even make an effort to consume them (omega-3/6/9). Sources of essential fatty acids include cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna, flax seeds or oil, and olive oil. (Note: Olive oil is a great alternative to butter for your bread, and use it to boil your pasta, and don’t rinse it out).