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If you were to see my Instagram feed, you would get a pretty good visual example of what I eat. But, in reality, there is a little more to it than what you see. Be warned, this is a lengthy, detailed post. But I hope you will read it anyways!

“What do you eat?” One of the more frequent questions I get from friends and family. It makes me REALLY excited to talk about it, so I’ll try not to get carried away.

In a sentence, I strive to eat real whole foods to support performance and health, not body fat. I do NOT count calories. Calories are not created equal, so I don’t see any benefit in counting calories whatsoever. Instead I look at the macro- and micronutrients of my food.

The first thing I focus on eating are nutrient dense foods, which include protein, carbohydrates, and good fats. I choose the most nutrient dense foods that contain plenty of vitamins and minerals to support my lifestyle, fitness routine, and beyond. For instance, if I were looking to eat for lower calories, I would choose iceberg lettuce, at 8 calories per cup, instead of kale, at 34 calories per cup. But we all know how vitamin and mineral deficient iceberg lettuce is compared to it’s wiser, better-looking cousin, kale. Kale is really a superfood that is very nutrient dense, so I will always choose kale over iceberg. Some foods are worth the calories, like the avocado, which is one of the best sources of fat you can find on the planet, but it’s super high in calories. What then? Well I eat an avocado a day, but I don’t eat much fat in any other foods because I am always looking to eat the most nutrient dense foods I can find without overdoing it. The next step will explain why then I don’t eat 10 avocados a day…

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The second part of how I manage my eating is portion-control! This is huge! No this is not created equal with calorie counting, because, again, we aren’t looking at numbers, but the essential vitamins and minerals found in the foods we do or do not eat. Without having to explain in full detail, the bottom line is that it matters how MUCH you eat, even if everything you are eating is 100% clean. If you overeat, you will gain weight. So this is where you have to decide what body composition you are currently at, where you actually want to be, the level of fitness you involve yourself in, and what is needed to support performance but not body fat. This is relative to everyone because we are all differently shaped, and our needs are very different from another. If you are an athlete you will need to eat more than the average person. If you sit at your desk all day and do not exercise whatsoever, you will need to eat much less than our friend the athlete.

So I apply these two principles to my food choices and after many years of experimenting with food, learning about my body, losing and gaining body fat, I’ve come to the conclusion that my body is at it’s best when I do not consume dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, soy or alcohol. I follow the paleo diet, but with portion control.

So that means I eat organic animal protein (chicken, beef, wild caught fish, turkey), fresh organic vegetables (everything from kale to cauliflower, bok choy, asparagus, brussels sprouts and more), good fats (avocado, coconut oil, ghee, raw nuts, almond butter in limited portions), little starch (I do eat sweet potatoes and squash in limited portions), citrus fruit (lemon, limes, grapefruits) and some other fruit (mostly berries and also bananas). I try to eat around 21 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit, and 4 grams of fat per meal. This would translate to about a palm-sized piece of animal protein, a half of an avocado and 2 cups of brussels sprouts for dinner.

So how do you apply this and make it work for you? I’m not going to give you numbers or guidelines. Instead, I suggest finding what foods you can get at your local store or farmer’s market that are organic and most nutrient dense. That should be the starting point to every decision. Ask yourself, “What’s better for me? The iceberg or the kale?” After you eat 98% clean, then you can start thinking about precisely how much. For many, this comes with time. Listen to your body and assess how active you are in a day, and you should be able to figure out how much you need to eat. If you feel full, that’s a pretty good indication that you’ve eaten enough ;)

A Day in Meals from Erika Sheffer on Vimeo.

So more about what I eat in meals…

Breakfast:

-My favorite breakfast, after a CrossFit workout, is 3-4 eggs/egg whites scrambled with a combo of veggies that are usually kale, sweet onion, red pepper, topped with raw sauerkraut, 1/2 avocado and hot sauce. Sometimes we’ll make organic turkey bacon from our local farmers market, if we have it. Protein, phytonutrients and omega-3 fat all here!
-I love paleo pancakes with agave and fruit! I limit how much I eat these because they are really high in carbs, so they are usually a Saturday morning treat. Here is my favorite recipe.
-Many times I will just make a green smoothie with green leafy vegetables, coconut oil or almond butter, a banana, almond milk, eggs, egg whites, chia seeds or hemp seeds. I love Happy Hemp‘s products – you can see my putting them in my smoothie in the video!

Lunch:

-Avocado-Chicken salad is one of my favorites! I mash up 1/2 avocado (the “mayo”) with canned or grilled organic chicken and add almonds, grapes, sweet onions s&p to taste. Then I wrap it all in nori paper. This recipe will be on the blog soon!
-9 times out of 10, I have another green smoothie for lunch. It’s easy and quick, while assuring that I get all the nutrients that I need.
-I eat many, many salads with olive oil and lemon juice as my dressing. Grilled chicken or fish are almost always on my salad.

Dinner:

-My favorite dinner is spaghetti squash with my homemade organic grass-fed beef meat sauce. I eat a side salad with it and maybe some homemade applesauce.
-I love roasting vegetables, like boy choy, brussels sprouts, asparagus for dinner! Then I will make mashed cauliflower (which tastes even BETTER than mashed potatoes) with a big piece of organic coconut curry chicken.

Snacking:

I try to snack minimally but when I do, I eat:

-Raw, organic nuts
-Banana with raw, unsalted, crunchy almond butter
-SeaSnax
-Hard boiled eggs with hot sauce
-Berries

Beverages:

-Water! So much of it.
-GT’s Kombucha, or I make kombucha at home.
-Herbal tea

Treats:

I do allow myself to indulge every now and then. The truth is I hardly feel the need, but that also allows me to go out with friends, eat a burger and have a glass of wine, and not feel guilty about it at all! Truth be told: a good burger with sweet potato fries is my weakness!

If I’m at home and I have a little bit of a sweet tooth, I will occasionally make these paleo chocolate chip cookies, this paleo banana bread, or paleo chocolate ice cream for special occasions! I have a mega sweet tooth but a banana with almond butter usually fights it off pretty well.

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I work out on a really intense level, 3 days on 1 day off, so my food choices are critical to my performance and health. What works for me might not necessarily work for you, so I encourage you to experiment, find healthier options, read about Whole30 (which completely changed my life two years ago), and eat real, whole, organic foods. None of that packaged crap! Ya dig?

Whew. I think I’ve blabbered enough. Feel free to leave questions or comments! Do you struggle with food choices?

This post was written for Feel Fit February, a collective health movement in collaboration with The Average Girl’s Guide and Grit & Glamour. FFF’s focus is to motivate you to ditch your scale and focus on feeling healthy and strong! This post a little longer than my regular posts, but it’s straight from the heart.