Now that you know the foundation of the PFC balanced way of eating from What is PFC?, you’re probably wondering… what do I eat!? P (Protein): Because protein has the ability to increase metabolism, it's important to eat it throughout the day to keep energy levels up. Protein is also an important precursor for creating neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). If you are someone who has battled sugar, carbohydrate or alcohol cravings, then it is even more critical you make protein your new best friend. A good rule of thumb is to aim for eating a portion of protein equivalent to the thickness and circumference of the palm of your hand at meals (2-3 eggs, 4-6 oz. of chicken, beef or fish) and about half that amount at snacks. Your body does not store protein so you need to make sure you’re eating it throughout the day, not too much and not too little. Recommended Protein sources: Think animal sources of protein: meat, fish, seafood and eggs. Whey protein powder counts too. (We don’t encourage or recommend soy as it can alter estrogen levels, decrease thyroid function and interfere with mineral absorption, so for our vegetarian clients we recommend whey protein powder and for our vegan clients, a rice or pea protein powder is better than soy.) Another note: It is true that many foods contain protein — even some vegetables and starches, however, these plant protein sources do not contain all 22 amino acids and often do not contain adequate protein per serving. For example, 1/2 cup of black beans (which is the serving size we recommend for starchy carbs, the category that beans fall into) contains about 20 grams of carbs and only 7 grams of incomplete protein. While we don’t recommend that you count anything, this illustrates that many of the foods we usually consider protein, are actually carbs. We only count protein sources that are complete because they support your metabolism the most. Make sure you eat protein at meals and snacks! Not recommended: Processed meats with nitrates or MSG, meat imitation products, soy protein, beans and other carbohydrate sources that are sometimes counted as “meat substitutes” (such as veggie burgers, many of which contain two to three times the amount of carbohydrate as they do protein, just like beans). F (Fat): Fat is essential for every cell in our body. The membrane of every cell in our body is made from fats. Fat plays a central role in the functioning of our nervous system, brain function, skin integrity, mineral absorption and has healing and immunity properties, not to mention it supports metabolism! Whew, no wonder it’s important! Fat keeps us full and satiated. When you consume fat, a chemical called cholecystokinin is released that sends a signal to your brain, telling it that you're full so your brain turns off your appetite. Fat helps slow the assimilation of sugar from carbohydrates into your cells, which helps to keep blood sugars stable. It also wards off cravings, aids in healthy hormone production, enhances mineral absorption and boosts healing during inflammatory processes. Fat helps lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Did you know that over sixty percent of your brain is made of fat? This is why your brain doesn’t work very well when you’re on a low fat diet; you’re depriving your brain of the fats it needs for basic functioning. We NEED healthy fat. Oh, and it doesn’t make you fat — if you’re eating the right kind. Remember, it’s carbohydrates that convert to sugar and then are stored as fat — NOT healthy fats. For most people, we encourage having a MINIMUM of 1-2 servings of fat at every meal and snack (one serving equals half an avocado, an ounce of cheese, 1 Tablespoon of olive or coconut oil, ¼ cup coconut milk, 1 Tablespoon of butter, 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream or cream cheese, etc.). We think it’s important to have a balance of PFC, but when in doubt about portion sizes, it’s usually safe to have more fat and less carbs. Recommended Fat sources: Avocado, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, coconut milk (the canned kind), heavy cream, coconut cream and fat from organic, grass fed meat. (Quality counts! In conventionally raised meat and dairy, the toxins are stored in the fat. Many people recommending lean meat are assuming you don’t have access to high quality meat. If that’s true and you’re buying meat that’s not the best quality, choose lean because the toxins are stored in the fat, so you’ll be inadvertently consuming higher levels. You can always ADD good fat in the form of butter, avocado or olive oil. But if you’re getting high quality grass-fed, organic, pasture raised meat and dairy, we recommend purchasing full fat. It’s good healthy fat and tastes fantastic.) Not recommended: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sesame seed oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, shortening and margarine. Also, any oil that has been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated is a trans fat and should be avoided at any cost. C (Carbohydrates): When you think of carbs, you may think of bread, rice and pasta, but we encourage getting most, if not ALL of your carbohydrates from veggies and fruits. These real food carbohydrate sources provide more nutrients and antioxidants, giving you a bigger bang for your buck. Vegetables can be divided into two categories: starchy and non-starchy. Starchy vegetables like corn, peas, beets and sweet potatoes are denser and have a greater effect on blood sugar levels, whereas non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and peppers don’t raise your blood sugar levels nearly as much as starchy veggies and fruit. Most people should aim for mostly non-starchy vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, kale) and low sugar fruits (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, oranges, grapefruit). Shoot for 2-3 cups of non-starchy vegetables at each meal and limit the starchier veggies like potatoes, carrots, squash, corn, and fruit to about a half cup at a time to help prevent blood sugar spikes. Athletes may find benefit including more fruit and starchy vegetables, depending on activity level and goals. While we do recommend you limit your starchy vegetables and fruit, most people benefit from one, two or maybe three (1/2 cup) servings during the day. If you’re not sure how much is right for you, consider signing up for some personal coaching to figure out your optimal nutrient balance. Recommended Carbohydrate sources: Vegetables and fruits. Not recommended: Grains, pasta, bread, rice, muffins, cakes, cookies and any and all other processed, refined carbohydrates which take your blood sugar levels for a rollercoaster ride, contribute to inflammation and do not support your metabolism and brain function. 2 Additional Questions worth answering: 1. Can a hot dog and french fries count as PFC balanced? Food quality matters and is a critical aspect of my PFC balanced eating approach that cannot be overlooked. Hot dogs and french fries could count as protein, fat and carbohydrates but when it comes to supporting your metabolism, brain function and gut health, they will have the complete opposite effect on healing and supporting the body and brain when compared to eggs, butter and spinach, or grass-fed hotdogs with sweet potato fries! The foundation of the balanced PFC approach to eating is REAL FOOD and we consider processed, fried foods like hot dogs and french fries to be fake food. Look for grass fed or organic meats that are free from added hormones and antibiotics. Buy wild caught fish and seafood to ensure you’re not consuming heavy loads of toxic chemical residue. Buy organic veggies and fruits — at least for the ones where you eat the skin. That being said, Cassie has been known every now and then to count a glass of wine (carbohydrate) and dark chocolate (fat) as a bedtime snack. :) Part of making lifestyle changes is learning your own limits and where you can give and take. What’s important is to make sure you know that where there is compromise, you are able to still maintain balance and overall nutrition in the rest of your diet. 2. Does portion control matter? Yes, but the good news is it’s a lot easier to regulate portion control intuitively when you’re eating real, whole foods in PFC balance, when compared to a diet full of refined, processed carbohydrates and bad fats. The best way to assess how you’re doing with your portions is to pay attention to your hunger level before every meal and snack. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being starving and 0 being stuffed, you want to be around a 5 every time you eat. If you feel too full to eat, then your portions at the previous meal or snack were too large. Here are some things to consider when thinking about your portion sizes:
- Do you have protein, fat, and carbs on your plate?
- Is your protein about the size of the palm of your hand?
- Do you have at least 2 Tablespoons of fats on your plate?
- Are you keeping your intake of starchy vegetables or fruit at ½ cup serving and having a cup or two of non-starchy veggies?
- Are you subconsciously still cutting calories or fat? Make sure you are eating enough! Many people still have the low fat mentality when buttering their broccoli and hold back on the fats or skip meals. Unbrainwash yourself! Your metabolism doesn’t function if you don’t feed it.
- Has it been more than a few hours since you’ve eaten? If so, try a small snack while you’re preparing dinner so you don’t gorge yourself at mealtime.
- If you are eating consistently throughout the day with PFC balanced meals and snacks, your body will tell you when to stop. Real foods help normalize your body’s satiety mechanisms and prevent cravings and binge eating by keeping blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
- A meal might look like:
- 2-3 scrambled eggs (P) cooked in 2 Tablespoons of butter (F) + 2 cups spinach + 1/2 cup sautéed sweet potato (C)
- 1 cup of salmon salad made with 3-4 ounces wild alaskan salmon (P) + 3-4 Tablespoons full fat mayonnaise (F) + 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1/2 cup grapes (PFC)
- 4 ounces of steak strips stir fried in 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil (F) + 1-2 cups mixed vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, celery, green beans, carrots, water chestnuts) served over 1/2 cup spaghetti squash noodles (C)
- 5 ounces of grilled chicken (P) + 1/2 avocado sliced + 1 ounces feta cheese + 1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (F) over 3 cups of leafy greens + 1/2 diced apple + 1/2 cup halved tomatoes +1/2 cup sliced cucumbers (C)
- 4 ounce grass-fed beef burger (P) + 1 Tablespoon pumpkin seeds + 5-10 olives (F) served over 1 cup fresh greens topped with 1/2 cup mixed vegetables (tomato, cucumber) (FC) + a side of 1/2 cup cooked carrots (C)
- 6 ounces of wild alaskan salmon (P) drizzled with 2 Tablespoons of butter (F) + 1/2 sweet potato and 2 cups of spinach salad (C)
- Balanced smoothie with 1 scoop whey protein powder (P) + ¼ cup coconut milk (F) + 1 cup spinach + 1/2 cup blueberries (C)
- A snack might look like:
- ½ cup tuna salad made with 2 ounces white albacore tuna (P) + 2 Tablespoons olive oil (F) + ½ cup raspberries (C)
- 1-2 hard boiled eggs (P) + 2 Tablespoons nut butter (F) + ½ banana (C)
- 1-2 ounces grilled chicken (P) + 2 Tablespoons full fat cream cheese (F) + a pickle (C)
- 1/2 cup plain, full fat Greek yogurt (PF) + ½ cup blackberries (C)
- 1 ounce dried beef stick (P) + guacamole (1/2 avocado with fresh squeezed lime and diced tomatoes) (F) + 2-3 cups raw veggies (C)
- 1 deviled egg made with 1 hard boiled egg (P) + 2 Tablespoons full fat mayonnaise (F) + a clementine (C)
- 1 slice of egg bake (PFC)
How much is right for me? Everyone is different. If you are a marathon runner you may need to eat differently than someone who is pregnant and she might need to eat differently than her two little children. Men and women require different amounts of each macronutrient, and your health goals may also dictate different ratios. The most important thing to focus on is first eating real foods and making sure you have PFC balance at each meal. Use the suggested serving sizes listed above (palm size protein, 2-4 Tablespoons of healthy fats, and 1-3 cups of non-starchy carbs with 1/2 cup of starchy carbs at each meal). If you’re trying to lose weight, you may need less carbs and more fat. If you’re pregnant, you may need more protein. If you need help with adjusting your meals to achieve your goals, personal coaching is a great option. We help people with optimizing their nutrition to reach their health goals every single day. Our Dietitian Coaches will work with you to set up a customized meal plan with continued support to get you where you want to be!
Check out PFC Balanced Eating Part 3 which addresses the most frequently asked questions about the PFC lifestyle that haven't been answered here or in Part 1. Most people will see dramatic improvements in their health simply by eating PFC balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. For more on PFC eating, follow the hashtag #PFC on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and tag your own balanced meal photos so others can be inspired by your ideas too! If you need help managing a chronic condition, figuring out portions that are right for you or just staying on track, contact our team today!