Recently, I had an Instagram DM conversation with a girl I've known since college. She's just starting a health and fitness journey and was asking about where to get started. She was asking about different diets and which one to follow to have the most success. She has interest in going plant-based but was worried about the right way to do it, having too little protein, the "dangers" of sugars from fruit and so on.
I have these types of conversations often- online, with my high school students, and with people I work with at the gym. People who are hearing all kinds of conflicting information or trying do decipher all of the "too good to be true" health claims.
I tell them all the same thing.
"To start out, just eat more fruits and vegetables. At every meal make sure that you have at least a serving or two of veggies, and grab fruit when you need a snack. ADD IN the good stuff, and you will find that naturally, you're eating less of the unhealthier stuff."
This is, in essence, the. "Crowding Out" diet method... Fill your meals with the good stuff, and don't leave room on your plate or in your belly for the less-healthy stuff. It's really a matter of building a healthy habit that balances your diet and lowers your calories unintentionally.
Here's my breakdown of the Crowding Out diet for weight loss:
1. What is it?
In each of your meals, make sure to get in 2-3 (a total of 8-10 or more per day) servings of fresh or frozen (you could use canned in a pinch, but be care full of loading in too much sodium) fruits and veggies.
*a serving is about a cup- you can eyeball about a fist-sized serving
Make sure they are non-starchy veggies (like potatoes, winder squashes, corn). Include things like :
lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and other greens
carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, celery,
broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts
zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant
anything else that you enjoy!
Fill the rest of your plate, whatever room is left, with reasonable servings of whatever it is you are having with that meal. These foods can literally be anything. No need to change your recipes or try to health-ify here, because you have filled so much of your plate with nutritious, low calorie, veggies.
Reach for fruits and vegetables for snacks in replacement of other things that you would normally snack on.
That's it. You have one priority- eat more veggies and whole fruits.
2. Does it work?
It definitely can work! The beauty of this diet is that there is little else to think about. Fruits and vegetables are naturally lower in calories than most other foods. So, eating a higher rather of these foods on a daily basis will lower your overall calorie intake. They are also higher in fiber, so they fill you up and keep you full longer. Bonus, you will be getting more vitamins and minerals that your body needs, so you may feel less hungry over all because those needs are being satisfied better than before. When you are putting 2 or 3 cups of vegetables on a dinner plate, there is less room for higher-calorie, less nutrient-dense things. Eat the veggies first, and you will eat less of the other stuff because your stomach literally fills up before you can- hence the Crowding Out.
All of this combined could reduce your overall calorie intake and put you in a caloric deficit without you realizing it. This, after all is the key to weight loss (read more here).
The caveat to this is that, just like with any other diet, if you are still eating more calories than you are burning, you will not be able to lose weight. That's just science.
3. Who should try this?
This is a perfect first step for someone who has really never tried to diet or eat healthy before. If the world of nutrition is pretty new to you, then incorporating more whole plants, fruits, and vegetables into your daily diet is the right place to start. Experiment with what you like and try new plants. It will get you into the habit of eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables which is habit that will carry you into a future of improved health and wellness.
This is also a good tactic if your relationship with food or numbers is a delicate one (like my teenage students). No counting or number games. Just lots of wholesome nourishment for your body.
4. How to do it:
EAT FRUITS AND VEGGIES... all the time. Along with the other stuff.
- sneak in some veggies where you wouldn't expect it
- grab fruits and vegetables for snacks
- build your meals around your vegetables and let starches and proteins be the second priority
It may take some practice, but you'll get into the swing of adding in more and more servings over time.
Filling your diet with meals full of whole plants, fruits, and vegetables will benefit literally ANYONE who is trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. This strategy has worked on my clients in the past, especially those just starting out on their journey. It's like wading into the ocean of healthy diet strategies by using the gold standard of nutrition- fruits and vegetables are healthy foods.
Why not go ahead and give it a try? Only good can come of it.
For more meal ideas and info check out my instagram or fill out the contact form on the coaching page for more personalize guidance.