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A running lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. It involves many different food choices and a balanced diet or healthy eating plan.  How do you find a healthy eating plan? First, let define a healthy eating plan so that we’re on the same page.

A healthy eating plan consists of:

  • Good carbs, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy
  • Lean protein, including meats, poultry, fish, beans/legumes, eggs, and nuts
  • Low saturated and trans fats, sodium, and excess sugar
  • Following daily calorie intake

healthy eatingFor a chubby guy like me, a healthy eating plan helps keep my weight in check.  But eating healthy should not make you think about all the bad foods you can’t have.  It should be more of a focus on all the good foods you should be eating.

  • Fruits  Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great diet choices. Be open to some of those crazy fruits you see at the grocery but never buy, like starfruit or mango. Fruits have seasons, so your favorite may not always be available. Give frozen, canned, or dried fruit a try.  I like to add fruits to my morning protein smoothie.  It adds flavor and good natural sugars to the mix.  One thing to be aware of about canned fruits is that they sometimes contain added sugars and syrups. Look for ones canned in their own juice.
  • Veggies  For many people veggie is a bad word, a chore you were required to do as a kid. Vegetables are good for you, packed with vitamins and minerals, and a necessary evil.  Try to find new ways to consume veggies.  Fresh vegetables are a great snack, like celery sticks with some peanut butter. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or even steamed vegetables.  If you can commit yourself to go to the produce department and try a new vegetable each week, pretty soon you’ll have at least 2 or 3 favorites that you can fall back on.
  • Dairy  Remember that “Drink Milk” ad campaign? People with milk mustaches still didn’t get me to drink milk. I’m not anti-dairy it is just not something I drink a lot. (a notable exception, if you are ever in the Kansas City area, you’ve got to try Shatto rootbeer flavored milk. It is one of my absolute personal favorites.)  If you are not a milk fan, per se, there are plenty of other ways to get some dairy and calcium into your system from cottage cheese to yogurt.  A great way to get some solid protein and hit dairy in the same shot is greek yogurt. There are a ton of flavors and it can be a great dessert substitute.

But do I have to give up my favorite sweet treat or decadent indulgence?

Nope. Eating healthy is all about moderation. You can and should enjoy your favorite foods even if they are absolutely terrible for you. The key is not to binge.  Eat a sliver of cheesecake every once in a while instead of a piece with every meal.  I run because I love to eat good foods.  As long as you balance the guilty pleasures with healthier foods and more physical activity you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself of the things you love.

Here’s some tips for your treats:

  • Eat your treats less often. If you typically eat sweets or fried foods every day, cut it down to once a week or once a month.
  • Control Portions. If your favorite indulgence food is donuts, have a smaller donut or even just a couple of donut holes instead.
  • Switch to a low-calorie version. For example, if you love french toast substitute egg whites for whole eggs, wheat bread for white and skim milk for whole milk.  You can also cut the butter and use sugar free maple syrup.  These easy changes can have a great impact on the caloric intake. Just remember to not increase your portion size.

The bottom line is, whether you are training for a marathon or not, you can find a way to include almost any food into your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you maintain a healthy weight.

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