The Truth About Natural Flavors

As discussed in Episode 25 of the Wise Eats Podcast

Key Takeaways

  1. Natural flavors are the 4th most frequently used ingredient in our food supply next to water, salt, and sugar
  2. Although natural flavors come from plant or animal sources, they may also contain as many as 100 additional chemicals
  3. Most ingredients in natural flavoring are not closely regulated
  4. The only way to protect yourself completely is to stay away from natural flavors as much as possible
  5. Choose real food over synthetic, man-made products and consume natural flavors in moderation

Intro

Look at the ingredient lists of some food items in your kitchen. Chances are you’re going to see “natural flavors” listed somewhere. And it’s no surprise – natural flavors are the 4th most frequently used ingredient in our food supply next to water, salt, and sugar. But are they really “natural” and good for you? In an effort to level up my own nutrition and help America wise up, I did a little research and here’s what I found.

What Are Natural Flavors?

Natural flavors are complex mixtures made from plant or animal sources that are created by specially trained food chemists. They’re used to enhance taste, maintain consistency, and make products more addictive. In addition to their plant or animal base, these mixtures can contain more than 100 different chemicals, including preservatives, solvents and other substances. Known as “incidental additives”, food manufacturers are not required to disclose whether these extra ingredients are natural or synthetic. As long as the original flavor source comes from plant or animal material, it is classified as natural flavor.

What’s in Natural Flavoring?

Natural flavors can be a combination of dozens of different plants or animal-based ingredients:

  • Spices
  • Fruit or fruit juice
  • Vegetables or vegetable juice
  • Edible yeast, herbs, bark, buds, root leaves or plant material
  • Dairy products, including fermented products
  • Meat, poultry or seafood
  • Eggs (Spritzler, 2016).

But that’s not all. There are over 2,500 chemically defined flavor substances used in the United States and Europe. The FDA allows most flavorings to be designated as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), but these GRAS are not closely regulated. Some experts estimate that the FDA may be unaware of around 1,000 chemicals currently being used in the food system (Robbins, 2019).

I was shocked to discover how many items in my kitchen contain natural flavors!

Hidden Ingredients

There are two big problems with natural flavors. First, they often have additional ingredients in them like preservatives and stabilizers to make the flavors work better in the food, but those don’t have to come from natural sources. Second, companies are not required to disclose the specific ingredients contained in the natural flavoring, so it makes it impossible to avoid certain food groups, such as a vegan trying to avoid animal products. Natural flavors may also contain MSG, gluten, or GMO’s (Kuzemchak, 2019).

Natural vs Artificial Flavors

The original source of natural flavoring must be plant or animal material, whereas artificial flavors are man-made, but both are very similar. Each are highly processed and contain chemical additives, making them very similar in terms of composition and health effects (Spritzler, 2016). Many products use a combination of both natural and artificial flavor, with as much as 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients coming from chemical solvents and preservatives (Christ, 2020).

Are Organic Natural Flavors Better?

“Natural” is a very loose, poorly defined term and does not indicate that the ingredient is organic or healthy. So, what about organic natural flavors? In order to be certified organic, the natural flavor has to contain at least 95% organically grown base ingredients. It cannot be made using synthetic extraction solvents and can’t contain any synthetic carriers, artificial preservatives, or GMO’s (Robbins, 2019). Organic doesn’t guarantee the product is free of toxic substances, but if you’re going to consume natural flavors, it’s better to go with organic.

With natural flavors, you have every reason to be skeptical

The Risks

Although natural flavorings must meet safety criteria, individual reactions may occur. Since ingredients are not disclosed, people with allergies or those on special diets should be very cautious about consuming them (Spritzler, 2016). This is a major challenge because of the abundance of natural flavors in our food supply. Many people are unknowingly poisoning themselves with natural flavors, having no knowledge of what they’re putting in their bodies. Until companies are forced to reveal what is contained in their “natural” secret formulas, the long-term health ramifications will be unknown.

Natural Flavors in My Diet

Writing this article inspired me to look around my kitchen and identify all the products that contain natural flavoring. Here’s the list:

Been chewing Extra for years! Not anymore!
  • Amazing Grass Greens Powder
  • Chewing Gum
  • Dog Food
  • Dog Treats
  • Kodiak Cake Mix
  • LaCroix
  • Pickles
  • Pulse Pre-Workout
  • Rx Bar
  • Sriracha Sauce
  • Stevia Sweetener
  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Zevia

Did I immediately throw each and every one of these items right into the trash? No, I didn’t, but I kinda wanted to! If nothing else, seeing natural flavors listed as an ingredient should be a signal that reminds you this product is man-made and that you should lean toward, whole, natural foods whenever possible.

There are many other products that commonly contain natural flavoring, like breakfast cereal, canned goods, flavored yogurt, and pretty much anything that is processed. Take a look for yourself and see all of the natural flavors in your life!

A Case Study: Legion Athletics Whey Protein

My favorite whey protein contains natural flavors! :/

Since food manufacturers are not required to disclose the specific ingredients that make up their natural flavors, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s in them. One thing you can do is contact the company directly, and that’s just what I did for one of my favorite products: Legion Athletics Whey Protein Isolate. I contacted the owner, Mike Matthews, with a question about the natural flavoring included in his products, and here was his response:

“Hey Wes, Thanks for getting in touch! All flavoring is actually handled by our manufacturer, and that information is proprietary. They don’t give us the exact breakdown (to protect their recipe), but it is entirely natural flavoring, which means its original source is from a plant or animal, whereas artificial flavors can be created in a lab. Flavorings that are harmful wouldn’t be approved by the FDA so you can rest assured it’s not toxins or unknown chemicals. 🙂 I hope this helps!” – Mike

Can I trust the natural flavors in Legion’s products based on this response? Not really. Without knowing the exact ingredients of the natural flavoring, it’s all speculation. As much as I love Legion Athletics products, I’m skeptical of any company that cannot or will not fully disclose their ingredient list, regardless of the reasoning. Also, transferring responsibility and putting full trust into the FDA is irresponsible in my opinion.

Watch me discuss this topic in Episode 25!

Does this mean I’m abandoning Legion’s products altogether? Not yet. I still love the taste and texture of their protein and will use it in moderation. I plan to limit my use of the vanilla whey, switch to an unflavored option, and start researching some alternative, limited ingredient protein options (so far, the “Naked” brand appears to be a likely candidate). The important thing is to become more aware of what you’re taking in daily and understanding where it comes from. Ask yourself do you trust the company, do you trust the product, and how do you feel when you consume that product?

The Wise Choice

While it’s possible that some natural flavors are perfectly safe and good for you, there’s no way to know for sure. There could be as many as 100 barely-regulated, “generally safe”, hidden ingredients in a single natural flavor. The only way to protect yourself completely is to stay away from natural flavors and choose organic whenever possible. In general, avoid processed foods and stick with fresh, whole, real foods. Only buy products from companies you trust and with ingredient lists you understand. For many of the items in your kitchen, there are flavor-free alternatives you can buy, such as plain oatmeal, then you can add your own sweeteners and spices. With the lack of transparency in our food supply, maintaining control of the things you put in your body is always a wise choice.

Eating real food is always a wise choice!

References

Christ, S. (2020). What are natural flavors? Pure Food Company. https://www.purefoodcompany.com/what-are-natural-flavors/

Kuzemchak, S. (2019, September 24). What are natural flavors? Real Mom Nutrition. https://www.realmomnutrition.com/natural-flavors/

Rabin, R. C. (2019, February 1). Are ‘natural flavors’ really natural? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/well/eat/are-natural-flavors-really-natural.html

Robbins, O. (2019, October 29). Everything you need to know about natural flavors. Food Revolution Network. https://foodrevolution.org/blog/natural-flavors/

Spritzler, F. (2016, December 16). Natural flavors: Should you eat them? Heathline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-flavors

I Gave Up Whey Protein for a Month – Here’s What Happened

As discussed on Episode 16 of the Wise Eats Podcast:

Giving Up Protein Powder for a Month!

In November of 2019, I decided to give up protein powder for an entire month. For some people, that’s not much of a challenge at all, but for a fitness guru hell bent on building muscle and staying lean, protein powder is the holy grail when it comes to supplements. I decided to delay gratification by giving up protein powder for a few reasons

  1. Get my protein from real food instead of processed powder
  2. Strengthen willpower
  3. Learn more about myself through this challenge
Legitimately took this picture prior to the challenge. I own way too much protein powder!

Protein Brands I Use

I’ve gone through many brands over the years. The key is to find a protein that is free of chemicals, additives, and artificial sweeteners. Watch your ingredient lists and choose a protein isolate over a concentrate. I mix it up pretty frequently between whey, casein, hemp, and pea protein. Here are the brands I currently use:

Giving up protein is something I’d wanted to challenge myself on for quite some time. I’m the first one to preach that you should get your nutrients for whole food sources as much as possible, and openly admit that I rely on protein powders too much, sometimes as many as 3 meals per day! I mix it in with my oatmeal, my greek yogurt, and make delicious, creamy protein shakes. Sure, there are far worse sources of protein than powders, but I know better than to have them so often!

Speaking of my tasty protein shakes, if you’re looking for some delicious, healthy recipes, check out these amazing smoothies:

The Results

All in all, the challenge wasn’t very difficult and taught me that I didn’t need protein powder nearly as much as I thought I did. I expected giving it up to be much more difficult than it was. All I needed to do was have more of the normal foods I would be eating anyway like eggs, chicken, fish, beans, greek yogurt, and nuts. Sure, I missed my delicious protein shakes, but life goes on!

Changing my diet in this way also helped suppress my appetite. By eating whole foods, I felt more satisfied, whereas a shake would sometimes just leave me craving more food.

I have not made any permanent changes to my diet as a result of this experiment. I still use protein powders to hit my fitness goals, but I do consume far less of it now. I loved the challenge of forcing myself to give something up for 30 days and recommend that you try it yourself.

Challenge yourself to make a positive change to your diet/health today! Thanks for reading. Be good to yourself, be good to others, and make wise choices.

What I Eat in a Day – My Daily Diet Routine

As discussed on Episode 13 of the Wise Eats Podcast:

MY DAILY DIET ROUTINE

To give you an idea of the Wise Eats diet plan in practice, let me run you through a typical day for me as it relates to diet.

PRE-BREAKFAST

When I first wake up, the first thing I do is get hydrated. You can see exactly how I do this in my recipe video, “Always Workin’ Water”, available at Wise-Eats.com/water. Usually, I’ll follow hydration with black coffee, sometimes with MCT oil, and a fasted walk, core workout, stretch, or foam rolling. I’m a huge fan of coffee so go check out Wise-Eats.com/Coffee to see my favorite blends. Four Sigmatic sponsor!!

BREAKFAST

My first meal of the day is usually scrambled eggs with some sort of vegetable, potato or rice, and spices. If I skip on the egg scramble, I’ll do a salad, smoothie or the power oatmeal. Whatever the meal is, I always plan it ahead of time, especially if I know I’ll be on the go. That’s why food prep is so important. If you don’t give yourself healthy meals to choose from, you’ll end up in a situation where your starved with nothing on hand, forcing you into poor dietary choices. And that won’t be anyone else’s fault but your own. So, take control and be accountable.

LUNCH/DINNER

Lunch and dinners are pretty interchangeable. For me, it’s typically a salad made with spinach or kale mixed with a lean protein like chicken, sardines, or salmon. Our other favorite proteins are grass fed steak, wild caught fish, and ground turkey. Then, I add some combination of spices, peppers, beans, cucumber, pickles, olives, dried cranberries, shredded almonds, pumpkin seeds, tomato, feta cheese, onion, and hemp seed. For dressing, I’ll use extra virgin olive oil, liquid aminos, balsamic vinegar, salsa, or even pasta sauce. Sometimes, I’ll throw on some fresh fruit like apple or blueberry and don’t use dressing at all. Salads are terrific because you can rotate ingredients to enjoy a variety of flavors, while getting the benefit of many different nutrient profiles and all major dietary needs in one meal. I used to think of salad as just a pile of iceberg lettuce with some chicken, shredded cheddar cheese, some crotons, maaaaaybe a cucumber slice, and a pile of ranch dressing. Well, those days are long gone. Salads are your one-way ticket to better health if you make them a staple in your diet and get creative with the ingredients. Aside from salad, we’ll do some type of stir fry or ground turkey chili, and for a side we’ll have baked potato, quinoa or rice. To get an idea of these meals in action, go to Wise-Eats.com/Recipes and you’ll find a complete list of recipes broken down by category.

DESSERT

I have a bunch of recipes over on the website, like Banana Bread, Coconut Oil Chocolates, the Muscle Milkshake, and many others that are all made with wholesome ingredients. Just remember that it’s still dessert at the end of the day and should be enjoyed in moderation. That said, I have dessert pretty much every single day. Usually, it’s chocolate protein pudding, a bowl of Greek yogurt, or a protein shake. Sometimes it’s as simple as some apple with almond butter or some frozen fruit. I always switch it up depending on where my calorie count is for the day, and usually aim for something high in protein. So, dessert is my last meal of the day, and that’s what a typical diet day looks like for me. Hopefully, that gives you some ideas on ways you can make some changes to your own diet. I’m by no means perfect, and try to get better every day. The bottom line is that the more ways you can get whole foods in their most natural states and from good sources, the better you’re going to feel, and the healthier you’re going to be.

7 QUICK DIET TIPS

  1. DON’T OVERHAUL YOUR DIET. Add one thing in or take one thing out. Pop, fast food. Add in veggies, drink more water. Keep it simple at first. Don’t have to change everything at once, just gotta start somewhere.
  2. STAY HYDRATED. Most overeating comes when you’re dehydrated or bored. Keep drinking water and stay active. Go for walks between meals and don’t hang around the kitchen.
  3. COUNT CALORIES/KEEP A DIET JOURNAL. Can’t recommend this enough. If I were to train any one person today that would be the first thing I would tell them to do. How can you know where you’re going if you don’t even know where you are currently?
  4. AVOID BUYING FOODS YOU TEND TO OVEREAT. Peanut butter, dates, popcorn, other snacks. Even greek yogurt!
  5. VISUALIZE YOUR FITNESS GOALS. Is this food going to bring to closer to or further away?
  6. FIND SOME CONSISTENCY. With diet you have to find consistency somewhere in your life. My diet is pretty clean most days of the week. It can’t be a little bit of this today and a little bit of that tomorrow. You need to have a period of time when you’re only eating real food, otherwise you’ll never achieve any sort of consistency with your diet.
  7. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO GET STARTED. It took me until age 25 to finally wise up and get serious about my health. My Dad was stricken with diabetes and had a leg amputated before he decided to quit drinking, quit smoking, and start eating healthy. At age 55, he lost 60lbs and cured his diabetes. Work with another guy near retirement age who’s just now starting to work out and get in shape. Riding his bike, lifting light weights, and taking charge of his health. Change is possible no matter what your age, weight, or fitness level. Sooner or later, your health is going to become your #1 priority, so why not start today before it’s too late?

For a deeper dive into healthy diet philosophy, check out the Wise Eats Diet Plan.

Submit questions, comments, feedback to WiseEatsPodcast@gmail.com. Thanks for watching, listening, reviewing, liking, subscribing, and sharing. Be good to yourself, be good to others, and make wise choices!

The Wise Eats Diet Plan – Change Your Diet, Change Your Life

As discussed on Episode 12 & 13 of the Wise Eats Podcast:

In this article, we’re diving deep into diet philosophy and exactly the types of foods you should be eating to lose body fat, build lean muscle, and optimize your life. This is Part 1 of the Wise Eats Diet Plan. Among the topics discussed:

  • The Wise Eats Diet Philosophy
  • My Personal Diet History & Relationship with Food
  • The Foods We ALL Should Be Eating & Avoiding
  • Best Sources of Carbohydrates
  • Grocery Shopping Tips & Tricks
  • Importance of Hydration
  • Macros: The Best Sources of Proteins, Fats, and Carbs
  • Cooking Tips
  • Ketogenic Diet
  • Supplements
  • Seven Quick Diet Tips!

For an example of my typical diet day, head over to Wise-Eats.com/Ep13DietRoutine

Recipes Mentioned in This Article:

WELCOME TO THE WISE EATS DIET PLAN

What’s up wise guys and gals? Today, we’re diving deep into diet philosophy and exactly the types of foods you should be eating to lose body fat, build lean muscle, and optimize your life. This is an important topic to me because there’s so much confusion these days. So many diets to follow and so many workout regimens to choose from. So many greedy corporations trying to sell garbage and lies and personal agendas instead of educating people about what actually works. But I’m hoping to change all of that with Wise Eats. We’re bringing it back to basics – telling you the tactics that will truly help you become the very best version of yourself. We’re all different with varying nutritional needs, beliefs, and goals, but no matter what YOUR diet philosophy is, there are some simple truths that apply to all humans in general, and that’s what I want to get into with today’s episode. We’re not talking shortcuts or quick fixes here. No pills, no potions, no macro restrictions, just what works coming from someone who has overcome some of the worst diet habits imaginable.

WISECHOICENATION.COM FOR A FREE GIFT

Before we dive in, head over to WiseChoiceNation.com and subscribe to my free newsletter, if you haven’t done so already. When you do, you’ll immediately receive a welcome e-mail containing the full list of Wise Eats Approved Foods, Drinks, and Supplements. Building your diet based on these real foods will help you lose weight, build muscle, increase energy, fight depression, prevent disease, and feel amazing. So, get over to WiseChoicenation.com right now, sign up for free, and get that list of approved foods delivered instantly.

THE WISE EATS DIET PHILOSOPHY

Now, the idea behind the Wise Eats Diet Plan is a real simple philosophy that you may have heard before and that is to EAT REAL FOOD. We eat for optimization, plain and simple. No soda, no processed foods, no junk food, take out, or added sugar. Of course, we all have these things from time to time, myself included, but as a general rule, you want to be consuming foods from whole sources, because the nutrients you fuel your body with make up your physical appearance, attitude, mental clarity, energy levels, creativity, mindfulness, and so much more. Literally your entire existence is defined by the things you put into your body. When you put in nothing but junk, that’s what you’re going to get back out. Tired, sick, depressed, and worst of all, imprisoned both mentally and physically from lifestyle-related choices.

WHAT IS REAL FOOD?

So, what exactly is real food? It’s things that come from the Earth, not a science lab. Things that were alive at one time. Fresh fruits, vegetables, free range chicken, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, nuts, seeds, and grains. We want foods that are raw, organic, and as close to their natural source as possible. Farm fresh and locally sourced. That’s real food. Potato chips, cookies, cheez-its, and monster energy drinks are not real food; they’re poison. They’re scientifically engineered, modified in a lab, then loaded with chemicals, additives, preservatives and fillers. They’re marketed to generate profits but provide no real value or life force to your body. Now, this may seem like common knowledge to you, but it wasn’t always obvious to me.

MY DIET HISTORY & JUNK FOOD ADDICTION

Back in my mid-twenties, I didn’t understand what real food was. I’m sure I had a general sense of what was good and bad for me, I just didn’t pay it much attention. Back then, buy-one-get-one free whoppers from Burger King were life. I would buy entire large pizzas for myself, usually 2 at a time, spread over breakfast lunch and dinner. My most prized kitchen utensil back then was my fry daddy. French fries, mozzarella sticks, fried mushrooms, chicken nuggets, and bosco sticks were all I knew. My life was a constant cycle of junk food. At 270lbs and miserable, I stumbled across a fitness article very similar to the podcast episode I’m recording today. It told me to ditch the junk food and processed food if I wanted to change my body. Imagine that. I wasn’t going to get into great shape eating McDonalds and Taco Bell all the time? Get out of town! Call me naïve, ignorant, or just plain dumb. I simply didn’t realize the impact my diet was having in all areas of my life. Now, I understand proper nutrition, and hope this message can impact someone else who may be in the same spot I was.

FOODS TO FOCUS ON

So, what kinds of real food do we want to consume? Starting with the most important, it’s vegetables in all forms, especially green leafy ones. There are literally an endless amount of benefits for eating green vegetables, like fat loss and disease prevention, but they basically turbo charge your existence. For most of my life, I rarely ate vegetables outside of an iceberg lettuce salad. Today, I have smoothies, salads and stir fries made with all kinds of greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli. Any way I can think of to add vegetables to my diet, I do it, and the health benefits are dramatic! Just try a google search on any way to improve your health and fitness, whether it be getting better sleep, preventing cancer, fighting disease, becoming stronger, or feeling energized, and eating vegetables is going to be very high on the list of ways to accomplish these things. It simply helps with so many different areas of life. It took a long time for me to get used to it, but now I have them with nearly every single meal and can’t live without them. I know if my junk-food addicted self can grow to love vegetables, ANYONE can.

FAVORITE CARBS

My favorite carb sources other than vegetables include oat bran, quinoa, white jasmine rice, sweet potato, and fresh or dried fruit. One of my favorite easy carb recipes is the Slammin’ Sweet Potato which you can find at Wise-Eats.com/SweetPotato – Baked in coconut oil with cinnamon – the perfect complement for a lights out delicious meal!

FOODS TO AVOID

Now, I talked a little bit about the things you should be eating, but how about some of the things you should NOT be eating? For starters, eliminate fast foods, completely. No Taco Bell, Burger King or McDonald’s. I can already hear the 2009 version of myself cringing at the thought of eliminating fast food. But, it happened. I went from having fast food pretty much every day for most of my life to  barely touching the stuff. These days, it doesn’t even register to me as food. Of course, the idea of fast food sounds pretty good when I REALLY think about it, but then I just have my normal, delicious, healthy food that I prepared ahead of time and forget all about it. It’s simply not worth it to poison myself when I know the negative effects it will have on my mood, energy levels, and focus. Of course, I do eat out from time to time or for special occasions, but almost never fast food, it really is the worst of the worst. It’s usually some combination of refined flour, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor and colors, trans fats, salt, genetically modified toxins, petroleum products, cow feces, and antibiotics. Your body doesn’t even recognize these foods as fuel, so instead of digesting them, it stores them away as excess body fat. I cringe when I think that I’ve lived more than 2/3 of my life eating these types of foods on a regular basis. These days, my cheat meals consist of home cooked food or a dinner out with my wife, where I’ll fully enjoy myself for one meal then get right back to normal eating afterward.

PROCESSED FOOD

Another poison disguised as food that you should avoid as much as possible is processed food. Chips, cookies, cakes, and snack foods are off limits. If you are buying something packaged, check ingredient lists and avoid chemicals you don’t understand. If it has some type of health claim like low calorie or low fat or low sugar on the package, don’t trust the marketing. Read nutrition fact labels and choose foods with simple ingredients. Educate yourself and take accountability for the things you’re putting in your body. When you sign up for my free newsletter at WiseChoiceNation.com, you’ll instantly receive a list of foods that I recommend as part of a normal, healthy diet.

GROCERY SHOPPING

Now, let’s talk one of my favorite past times: grocery shopping. I used to get everything done at the big supermarkets like Meijer or Wal-Mart. Now, I only go there as a last resort. First, I hit local farmer’s markets as much as possible. Fresh, local produce is the way to go. The closer to the original source, the better. We live in a suburb of Detroit and have a farmer’s market that meets two days per week to offer fresh vegetables and farm fresh eggs. This market was there my whole life and I never took advantage of it! Finally, a couple years ago I decided to try it out, and have been hooked ever since. I try not to buy my vegetables anywhere else. Next to growing your own, I think these markets are your best option. So, find out where your local markets are if you don’t know already. It will be a game changer.

MY FAVORITE SPOTS TO SHOP

My top three places to shop other than farmer’s markets are Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon. When I do go shopping, I stick to fresh produce sections and avoid the middle aisles where most processed junk is located. The bulk of your time in a grocery store should be spent in those outside sections where the fresh produce and meats are located. I stay away from the majority of frozen items unless it’s produce or meat. Frozen dinners and packaged snacks are loaded with sodium, refined sugar, preservatives, and additives. I know because I used to eat them every single day multiple times a day, and they were a staple of my diet when I initially lost 90lbs. Sure, low calorie foods can help you lose weight no matter how processed they are, but all they’ll do is leave you skinny and sick just like they did me.

HYDRATION

You can’t talk diet without touching on hydration. Because I exercise in some form every single day, I usually have about a gallon and a half or more of purified water, but I challenge any person, no matter their fitness level is, to get at least a gallon per day. That might sound outrageous to some, but it’s not hard when you make it a priority. Back in the day, I hardly drank water at all – just pop, Kool-Aid, and fruit juice. I remember as a kid constantly waking up in the middle of the night so miserably tired and thirsty. I’d get up out of bed, do my sleepy eyed, zombie walk to the fridge, and suck down a heaping glass of ice cold kool-aid, Hi-C fruit punch, or Boppin’ Berry. It was the best thing ever, and I was completely oblivious to the toll it was taking on my body. Those were the good old days! But nowadays, water is automatic, and it’s my #1 priority when I wake up each day. By the way, the home filtration system I use is called the Berkey, but there are less expensive options out there. If water quality has not been a priority for you up to this point, it’s time to Wise Up.

MACROS

The three dietary macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Your diet should include various possible amounts of each of these depending on your goals. In general, your total calorie intake each day should be made up of about 15-20% fat, 30-40% protein, and 30-50% carbohydrate. I’m a 34-year-old male, 6-foot-tall, about 200lbs, with very active lifestyle. I’m lifting weights 3-5 days per week and stay pretty active on my off days. In order to maintain my current weight, I need about 2,900 calories each day. In order to gain weight, I need to bump that up to around 3200 calories per day. In order to lose body fat, I need to drop that calorie amount to about 2,600 calories per day. Obviously, your body has different requirements than mine. These numbers are just estimates that will fluctuate based on your individual characteristics, goals, and genetics, but it’s a great place to start. There are many resources out there that you can use to estimate your required calorie intake based on your goals and the macro amounts you need to hit in order to lose weight or build muscle.

CARBS & KETO

In Part 1, I touched on carbs and my favorite sources, which are fruits, vegetables, jasmine rice, potatoes, and oats.

Carbs are a bad word nowadays because keto is the hotness right now, but I believe healthy active individuals should be eating healthy carbs, period. I love eating carbs and feel amazing when I have them, so that’s my preference.

My understanding is that following a keto diet can help curb cravings and provide some mental clarity. I know it’s also popular because it does result in rapid weight loss initially, but often it’s only temporary and there’s often a massive rebound effect when you come off the diet where you’re cravings intensify and your appetite skyrockets. I can’t speak from personal experience, but that’s what I understand about keto. The bottom line is that the fitness and nutrition experts that I trust do not recommend keto. A healthy balance of all the macros coming from real food combined with good sleep, exercise, and stress management are the keys to unlocking all of your fitness dreams.

If keto helps you get closer to your fitness goals, fantastic, but you shouldn’t be worried about whether you should be on Atkins, or paleo, or carnivore if you’re not even eating at least three servings of fruits and vegetables a day or going for daily walks or exercising a few days per week. Stop focusing on all the nitpicky stuff like fad diets and start doing the legitimate fundamentals that actually matter like getting good sleep and meditating and drinking tons of water and avoiding sugar. If you sleep well, exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, and avoid sugar, it really doesn’t matter what diet your following.

PROTEIN

Protein is extremely important if you’re looking to lose body fat and/or build muscle. Most adults looking to improve their body composition want to aim for about 1g per pound of body weight. My first recommendation to any person trying to improve health, lose weight, or improve their physique would be to increase protein intake. I always make sure I get enough protein for the day whereas my fat and carb intake will fluctuate. My favorite sources include chicken, fish, sardines, ground turkey, steak, tofu (beware of estrogen), eggs, beans, black bean pasta, Greek yogurt, chicken broth, cottage cheese, and whey protein isolate.

FAT

Dietary fat is very healthy but also the macro most easily converted into body fat, so be careful. I usually keep fat intake as low as possible because it’s really easy to overdo it. My favorite sources are almonds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, peanut butter, feta cheese, sardines, walnuts, flax seed, and chia seed.

Balancing these three macronutrients is critical for accomplishing your fitness goals as efficiently as possible. When I first lost 90lbs, I focused strictly on total calorie intake, and it worked. I only had a general sense of the amount of protein, fat, and carbs my body required, but because I was taking in less calories than my body required, I lost weight. Now that I’m focused on improving performance and building muscle, macros are much more important to me. If you understand your needs ahead of time, you’re going to have a huge advantage.

In the past, I haven’t been too obsessed with macros, I just focused on real food. I believed that by eating a variety of healthy foods in moderate amounts, you’re likely going to end up fulfilling your requirements. Just because you didn’t get enough healthy fats in on Monday, doesn’t mean you can’t make up for it on Tuesday. To an extent, this philosophy works, but it’s very easy to overeat this way. Over time, I have learned that you can eat very clean and still gain excessive weight, so getting a handle on your total calorie intake and macro ratios is really useful when you want to fine tune your eating habits, accelerate progress, and change body composition. In general, I keep my dietary fat moderate, about 40-60g, protein intake at about 1g per pound of body weight, and the rest of my diet is made up of healthy carbohydrates.

COOKING

Everything we prepare is done in the oven, on the stove, or in our Blend Tec blender. No fancy gizmos or microwaves. We actually haven’t owned a microwave in years and don’t miss it at all. We either heat everything up on the stove, in the oven, or eat it cold. Actually, some food is better cold, so don’t hate.

For high temperature cooking, we use olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. Avoid refined vegetable oils, since those are inflammatory and low in omega 3’s. You’re going to run into those a lot when you eat out also.

BATCH COOKING

One tactic that I’m a big fan of is batch cooking. I don’t just prepare one meal. I quadruple the recipe to have for multiple meals. Make the most of your time in the kitchen by multitasking. This works especially well if you lead a busy life or work a full-time job, which most of us do. This way, your meals are always ready to go, leaving no excuse to eat out or buy from that vending machine or catering truck. I’ll usually steam a large batch of frozen vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower rice. Then, I’ll bake a few chicken breasts and have those chopped up ready to go. Then, I’ll make a starchy carb like white jasmine rice, quinoa, or potato. Once you have food prepared, sticking to your diet goals is a breeze. Grab a little bit of this, a little bit of that, reheat on the stove with a little avocado oil and some fresh greens for a quick, convenient, healthy meal any time. One hour or so of preparation one day can set you up for several days’ worth of delicious, healthy, and convenient meals. Very often, our lunches and dinners are just stir fries of stuff we already have prepared and ready to go.

SUPPLEMENTS

The bottom line when it comes to supplements is that you truly don’t need any of them. You can do just fine by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. That said, supplements can help you achieve your goals more quickly and conveniently. Because I’m lifting weights often, I use several different proteins, including whey protein isolate, pea protein, and casein protein. The brands I currently use are Naked and Legion Athletics. For strength training, I take 5g of creatine in my post workout drinks to help speed muscle growth and recovery. Black coffee w/ MCT oil is my favorite pre-workout. Most other pre-workouts are just overhyped, overpriced junk. Once in a while, I’ll use Legion Athletics Pulse, so if you’re really deadest on taking a pre-workout, that’s the one I recommend. I try to stay away from it because the stimulants tend to affect my sleep. If you’re going with a pre-workout, beware of ingredients and go with a company that you trust.

On a daily basis, I usually take a fish oil, multivitamin, and vitamin d. Sometimes before bed, I’ll take broccoli sprout tablets or magnesium. But, most of these nutrients can be covered through a healthy diet. Supplements are good for optimization, but you don’t really need them. The truth is, the best supplement you can take is a diet that is rich in a variety of earth grown foods and vegetables. This isn’t the sexy answer, but it’s true. Supplement companies won’t make any profits by selling kale or olive oil, which is why so many different pills and powders exist. Block all of that fancy marketing out of your mind and know that real food is the supplement that actually works!

7 QUICK DIET TIPS

  1. DON’T OVERHAUL YOUR DIET. Add one thing in or take one thing out. Pop, fast food. Add in veggies, drink more water. Keep it simple at first. Don’t have to change everything at once, just gotta start somewhere.
  2. STAY HYDRATED. Most overeating comes when you’re dehydrated or bored. Keep drinking water and stay active. Go for walks between meals and don’t hang around the kitchen.
  3. COUNT CALORIES/KEEP A DIET JOURNAL. Can’t recommend this enough. If I were to train any one person today that would be the first thing I would tell them to do. How can you know where you’re going if you don’t even know where you are currently?
  4. AVOID BUYING FOODS YOU TEND TO OVEREAT. Peanut butter, dates, popcorn, other snacks. Even greek yogurt!
  5. VISUALIZE YOUR FITNESS GOALS. Is this food going to bring to closer to or further away?
  6. FIND SOME CONSISTENCY. With diet you have to find consistency somewhere in your life. My diet is pretty clean most days of the week. It can’t be a little bit of this today and a little bit of that tomorrow. You need to have a period of time when you’re only eating real food, otherwise you’ll never achieve any sort of consistency with your diet.
  7. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO GET STARTED. It took me until age 25 to finally wise up and get serious about my health. My Dad was stricken with diabetes and had a leg amputated before he decided to quit drinking, quit smoking, and start eating healthy. At age 55, he lost 60lbs and cured his diabetes. Work with another guy near retirement age who’s just now starting to work out and get in shape. Riding his bike, lifting light weights, and taking charge of his health. Change is possible no matter what your age, weight, or fitness level. Sooner or later, your health is going to become your #1 priority, so why not start today before it’s too late?

Thanks for reading the Wise Eats Diet Plan. Take at least one thing from this article to improve your habits going forward and contact me below to let me know what it is! Now get out there, eat something fresh, do something good, make wise choices.

This Day in Diet History: Comparing 2009 to Today

As discussed on Episode 11 of the Wise Eats Podcast

The History Behind TDDH

This Day in Diet History is a segment I created to illuminate my transformation from a former fat guy to fitness fantatic and health coach. I have journal my meals and workouts since March of 2009 and want to bring that history to life by sharing habits of the past with strategies of the present. This will provide some nutrition tips, entertainment, and hopefully some inspiration for anyone looking to improve their health and fitness.

I have lived on both ends of the health spectrum. I was 270lbs with some of the worst lifestyle habits imaginable. Today, I want to be an example of health and fitness and inspire others to transform their lives, as well. I’m by no means perfect, but have reached a place where healthy diet and exercise are non-negotiable aspects of my life, and want everyone around me to have that same gift.

Fat Guy turned Fitness Fantatic

The Idea Behind Sharing My Diet Journal Entries

Some people may find diet talk boring, but personally, I find it fascinating. I’ve heard a lot of experts talk about the things people should do, but not exactly what they do personally, so I wanted to create something unique that dives into my exact routine. Sharing this info will hopefully give someone at least a tip or two to take away from it.

I want to tell you exactly what I’m doing to stay in shape so it’s all out in the open for you. I’m far from perfect. I’m not an athlete or even the buffest dude ever. I’m a normal guy who has been at the bottom of the health mountain and wants you to know that fitness is attainable for anyone.

It’s important for me to put this out there because 11 years ago I was that guy coming into work hungover, feeling terrible every day, and even sleeping in the bathroom because I was so exhausted I couldn’t keep awake long enough to do my job. I used to not care whether I lived or died. I drank, smoked, and partied every day with no thought toward my future. Now, I wanna live forever and feel amazing because every day is precious. I’ve lost a lot of loved ones over the years that didn’t get to live their full life. My brother Jason passed when he was 18, Mom died in her early 30’s, my girlfriend Julie at age 26, and my other brother John at 43. For all those I’ve loved and lost, I owe them to live the best life I can because they didn’t get to. Exercise has changed my life and today it’s something I can’t live without. There’s a lot of people who don’t have that same mindset and that’s what I want to change.

Fat Guy Files: July 4, 2009

In today’s edition of TDDH, we look back at 4th of July 2009. This was 3 months into my 90lb weight loss. I was already down 33lbs, but this was a rough week for my fitness journey. I celebrated the holiday in style by drinking alcohol 5 out of the 7 days and binging on all of my favorite fast foods.

  • Breakfast: PB Crunch Cereal w/ Apple
  • Lunch: Mac & Cheese
  • Dinner: Pizza, Burger, 4th of July Snacks, 2,000 calories worth of drinks
  • Highlights of the Week: Pizza, Beer, Tubby’s Sub, McDonald’s Breakfast Sandwiches, Little Caesar’s, Taco Bell, Checkers

Here are the details from my diet journal on July 4, 2009 (affectionately referred to as the “Fat Guy Files”:

  • This was typical of my lifestyle back then and initial strategy for weight loss: Start the week off low calorie then go crazy for the entire weekend. As long as I averaged a calorie deficit for the week, I lost weight! But my health paid the price in the long run.
  • It’s amazing that I lost 90lbs while continuously binging and cheating like this. This is not how I would recommend anyone else lose weight!
  • This week, I averaged 3,454 cals/day for the week, which is actually similar to my calorie count these days, but for much different goals! Today, I consume that many calories in healthy, nutritious foods in order to build my body up and make it stronger, not to tear it down with processed food and calorie restriction.
My physical handwritten journal entry from July of 2009
As discussed on Episode 11

Today’s Diet:  July 4, 2019

In 2019, my diet is a whole different ballgame. I’m eating whole, nutritious foods in wide variety, buying organic wherever possible, and avoiding processed foods as often as I can.

  • Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Broccoli, Wise Eats Power Oatmeal
  • Snack: Almonds & Raisins
  • Lunch: Turkey Chili w/ Brown Rice Pasta and Leftover Scrambled Eggs
  • Snack: Strawberry-Banana Muscle Milk w/ Peanut Butter
  • Dinner: Cast Iron Chicken Breast w/ Skinny Popcorn and Frozen Cherries
  • Snack: Chocolate-Banana Protein Shake (Fully Charged Protein Smoothie)

Diet Journal Entry: July 7, 2019

As you can see, even though it was a holiday, it was still a very normal diet day for me. These meals are not far off from my diet on any other normal day (with the exception of the popcorn). I simply enjoyed more food and more total calories than I usually would. Popcorn is a food I would normally stay away from, but it’s a 4th of July celebration ya’ll!!

I hope that by sharing my past mistakes and the tactics I use to stay fit today can inspire you to make a positive change to your own health. Thanks for reading this article. If you’d like to ask a question or send a comment, my contact info is below. Thanks for reading, have a great day, and make wise choices!

Podcast WebpageWise-Eats.com/Podcast
Instagram@weswisefitness
E-Mailwiseeatspodcast@gmail.com
FacebookFacebook.com/wiseeatspodcast

Wise Eats Approved Foods / Grocery List

Here is a complete list of Wise Eats approved nutrition. It is broken into categories based on the three dietary macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate. Any items outside this list should be consumed with discretion. There are other healthy foods that are not mentioned, but these are the ones we use on a regular basis and consider to be ideal for a healthy, varied diet. If it’s on this list, it’s definitely a wise choice! Constructing your diet based on these real foods will help you lose weight, build muscle, increase energy, fight depression, prevent disease, and feel amazing.

If there is a food you believe should be added or removed from this page, we’d love to know why! Please contact us.

Carbohydrates (40-50% of Daily Calories) – Complex, Slower Digesting – Ideal for Normal Meals & Workout Fuel

  • Grains – Oat Bran, Steel Cut Oats, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Amaranth, Millet, Barley, Spelt
  • Beans – Garbanzo, Black, Kidney, Pinto, Red, Fava, Lima, Hummus
  • Sweet Potato
  • Brown Rice, White Jasmine Rice, Wild Rice
  • Pasta Variations – Quinoa Flour Pasta, Red Lentil Pasta, Other Gluten-Free Pastas
  • Ezekiel Bread, Dave’s Bread
  • Green Vegetables – Spinach, Kale, Asparagus, Broccoli, Zucchini, Brussel Sprouts, Celery, Collard Greens, Cucumber, Wheat Grass, Barley Grass, Green Beans, Parsley, Snow Peas, Peas
  • Other Veggies – Bell Peppers, Tomato, Onion, Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Mushrooms, Olives, Radishes, Water Chestnuts, Artichokes, Squash, Pumpkin, Cabbage (Sauerkraut), Heart Palms, Salsa
  • Sea Vegetables – Dulse, Kelp
  • Flour – Tapioca Flour, Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, Pamela’s Baking Mix, Kodak Pancake Mix

Carbohydrates – Fast Digesting – Ideal with Protein for Pre/Post Workout

  • Coconut Water
  • Rice Milk
  • Fruit – Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Acai, Goji, Cherries, Lemon, Lime, Pears, Apples, Oranges, Mangoes, Bananas, Pineapple, Melon, Grapes, Kiwi, Peaches
  • Dried Fruit – Goji, Mulberries, Raisins, Cranberries, Dates, Apricots

Protein (30-40% of Daily Calories)

  • Greek Yogurt, Goat’s Milk Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Eggs (Organic, Cage-Free), Egg Whites
  • Chicken Breast
  • Ground Turkey
  • Grass Fed/Organic Beef
  • Venison or Other Wild Game
  • Fish (Wild Caught) – Tuna, Sardines, Salmon, Cod, Flounder, Tilapia
  • Protein Powder (Hormone/Antibiotic-Free, Organic, Grass Fed, Naturally Sweetened) – Whey Isolate, Casein, Hemp Protein, Egg Protein
  • Bone Broth – Beef, Turkey, Chicken

Fat (20-25% of Daily Calories)

  • Cooking Oils – Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Grass Fed Butter, Ghee, Olive Oil, Peanut Oil
  • Non-Cooking Oils (Salads, Smoothies) – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Hemp Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Walnut Oil
  • Avocado, Guacamole
  • Nuts (Raw) – Almond, Cashew, Walnut, Pistachios, Pumpkin Seeds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Macadamia, Brazil Nuts, Pine Nuts, Unsweetened Coconut
  • Nut Butter – Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, Cashew Butter, Sunflower Seed Butter
  • Hemp Seed, Chia Seed, Flax Seed
  • Cheese (Organic and/or Grass Fed) – Feta Cheese, Goat Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Pecorino Romano, Vegan Cheese

Drinks

  • Purified Water (Reverse Osmosis, Spring Water, Berkey Filtered)
  • Natural Sparkling Water – No Carbonation Added (Pellegrino)
  • Lemon Water
  • Coconut Water
  • Green Tea
  • Herbal Teas (Unsweetened, Organic)
  • Raw Vegetable Juice
  • Organic Black Coffee
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Milk Alternatives – Almond Milk, Rice Milk, Coconut Milk, Cashew Milk, Goat Milk

Flavor Enhancers, Electrolytes, Other Nutrients & Minerals

  • Sea Salt
  • Liquid Aminos, Coconut Aminos
  • Mustard
  • Hot Sauce
  • Balsamic Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Mixed Seasonings & Spices (Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Cumin, Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, etc)          
  • Natural Sweeteners – Stevia, Xylitol
  • Sugar Sweeteners – Raw Honey, Agave, Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla Extract, Almond Extract, Peppermint Extract
  • Peanut Butter Powder

“Super Foods” (Provide Balanced Nutrition, Vitamins, Energy)

  • Cacao Powder, Cacao Nibs, Maca, Carob
  • Moringa Powder
  • Green Superfood Powder (Spirulina, Chlorella, Wheat Grass, etc.)
  • Camu Powder

Supplements (For Optimization Only, Not Required in Diet)

  • Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate (Hormone Free, Naturally Sweetened)
  • Grass Fed Casein Protein (Hormone Free, Naturally Sweetened)
  • Hemp Protein Powder
  • Egg Protein Powder
  • BCAAs (Fasted workouts)
  • Fish Oil
  • Multivitamin
  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Caffeine
  • MSM Powder
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics
  • Green Superfood Powder with Spirulina, Chlorella, etc.
  • Collagen, Colostrum

Tips:

  • Watch your ingredient lists – Eat only real food!
  • Be careful of hidden sugars, artificial flavors, additives, and other harmful chemicals
  • Avoid added sugars and refined vegetable oils
  • Avoid processed foods, convenience foods, and fast foods
  • Buy organic, cage-free, grass-fed whenever possible
  • Get as close to the original source as possible (Farm, Butcher, Minimally Processed, Raw)
  • Supplements are only necessary in order to complement a diet rich in healthy foods or if you are deficient. Strive to get the majority of your nutrients from whole food sources (Fish oil from fish, protein from meat/vegetables, vitamins from vegetables, etc.). Supplements can also help take your fitness game to the next level. Choose wisely!

Where to Shop

  • Grocery Stores/Locally Sourced Markets
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Amish Markets
  • Costco
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Amazon.com
  • ThriveMarket.com

Sample Meal Plan #1 (Recipes Available Here)

  1. Breakfast: Razor’s Edge Scramble and Energy Bowl
  2. Pre-Workout: Organic Black Coffee
  3. Post-Workout: Whey Isolate with Coconut Water
  4. Lunch: Sautéed Vegetables with Chicken, Quinoa, Spices
  5. Dinner: Chokeslam Chicken Salad
  6. Pre-Bed Snack: Blueberry Yogurt Bowl

Sample Meal Plan #2

  1. Breakfast: False Finish Fried Eggs, Filthy French Toast
  2. Pre-Workout: Organic Black Coffee
  3. Post-Workout: Whey Isolate with Blueberries & Rice Milk
  4. Lunch: Sauteed Vegetables with Salmon and Quinoa
  5. Dinner: Chokeslam Chicken Salad
  6. Pre-Bed Snack: Almond Butter & Apple

Sample Meal Plan #3

  1. Breakfast: Sidewalk Slam Smoothie
  2. Pre-Workout: Whey Isolate with Rice Milk
  3. Post-Workout: Whey Isolate with Banana & Rice Milk
  4. Lunch: Salmon with Veggies and Sweet Potato
  5. Dinner: Chicken Wise Rice
  6. Pre-Bed Snack: Casein Protein w/ Almond Milk

A Note on Calories & Macronutrients

Calorie and macronutrient requirements vary depending on the individual, body type, and activity level. In general, your daily calorie intake should be broken up into 40-50% Carb, 30-40% Protein, and 20-25% Fat. These numbers can be manipulated to your own specific needs based on your goals. For instance, the ketogenic diet utilizes a high fat, low carb approach. A normal diet focused on weight loss should include high quality protein with each meal (about 40% of total daily calorie intake). For someone who is working out vigorously on a regular basis, a higher carbohydrate intake is recommended. Identify your goals, determine your caloric needs, fulfill your dietary requirements, and you are destined for success.

To calculate your daily caloric and macronutrient requirements, visit:
https://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator  

A balanced diet rich in whole foods and low on heavily processed foods will promote healthy weight, muscle growth, high energy levels, strong immune system, and longevity. Take control of your life today by getting these high-quality nutrients in your life!

Wise Eats Approved Foods/Grocery List
http://www.wise-eats.com/approvedfoods

Complete List of Recipes
http://www.wise-eats.com/recipes

12 Lessons Learned from 90lb Weight Loss – Full Article
http://www.wise-eats.com/weightlosslessons

The Following Announcement Complete Episode Guide
http://www.tfashow.com

Subscribe to Wise Choice Nation!