I often get asked for food or recipe ideas from people following IIFYM. They may only have limited macros left and aren’t sure what they could have to ensure they hit their daily requirements.
I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and I also have a background as a chef (many years ago!) so it is relatively easy for me to come up with different combinations at the end of the day to ensure I hit my macros. I’ve also got a good memory for which foods are made up of what. The longer you follow flexible dieting for, the easier it gets to "wing it" and come up with meal ideas at the end of the day too, so I have a few tips that might help you on your way.
Something I have found that really helps is to have a few items on hand that are mainly just ONE of the macronutrients. It is easier to fit in JUST carbs rather than something that has carbs and fat – you may not have enough fat left but still have a heap of carbs to hit. Items like this are very handy to help you hit your macros at the end of the day, especially when you are just starting out too.
Carbs – I won’t lie, one of my favourites is gummi bears!! But if you feel like a “healthier” option, then fruit is always a good source of carbs and also provides fibre, which is important. I go through an absolute tonne of bananas – they are such an easy snack to take somewhere with you. Apples are great too, and are lower in carbs than bananas. Berries are also handy, especially if you do not have many carbs left but still need a little something . Most fruits will be just carbs, with virtually no fat or protein to worry about (apart from avocados of course!)
Veges are the same, although a couple are actually higher in protein than carbs (broccoli, Brussels sprout) things like pumpkin, beetroot, parsnips and potatoes are all great sources of carbs along with salad vegetables. Fruit and veges are also great sources of fibre, so its important to include them in your diet. More on fibre later…
Rice or corn thins are good sources of carbs too – the “Real Foods” corn thins have about 5C per serve. I have also come across “Be Natural” trail bars. These bad boys have much less fat than most muesli bars (1-2g) and about 20g of carbohydrate (5-6g sugar, 4g fibre) so again, an easy snack to take out, and hardly anything to feel guilty about!
And one last thing I’ll mention is honey! This has no fat or anything, just simply carbs. Much like golden syrup and treacle… And wine… just putting it out there… ;)
Protein - there are a number of great sources. Protein shakes are really good as they are quick and easy, and it is so easy to find one that is low carb and fat these days. Genetix Nutrition lean whey from Nutrition Warehouse is really good with 32.3g of protein per serve and I use this every day. Great for baking and in smoothies too!
Chicken and fish are also great sources of protein, most fresh fish has between 20-30g of protein per 100g with white fish being relatively low fat. Fresh tuna has even less fat so is a great option to help hit your daily protein. Salmon contains about 24P and 15F per 100g so one to watch out for if you have hit your fats already.
Cooked chicken breast and kangaroo are both great low fat sources of protein. Other red meats are also a really good however just be mindful that you also must have some fat spare to fit a delicious steak or some lamb chops in for dinner! Cottage cheese is also another good protein source as it is low in fat unlike most other cheeses which I’ll cover off under fats!
Fats! I use butter. I use a lot of it. Well not a lot a lot, but if I have spare fats and am cooking I will cook in butter. And I use it on my toast. It tastes good and fats are important! I am also not an advocate of margarine or other plasticy spreads so I prefer to use things like butter and full fat milk over “fat free” or “low fat” alternatives.
Natural peanut butter is a good source of fat but it does contain protein as well. I use Sanitarium natural crunchy peanut butter, which is mainly fat, but protein is up there too. Other nut butters (you can even make your own) and plain nuts are great sources of fat. Macadamias are particularly high with 76g of fat per 100g. Almonds have less fat and more protein.
Avocados, whole egg mayonnaise and cream cheese are also some of my favourite fats. Other cheeses can be high in fat, but most also contain a good amount of protein as well, with some containing even more protein than fat. Haloumi, Parmesan and Mozzarella have more protein than fat – not by much – and cottage cheese is also higher in protein. Cottage cheese is relatively low fat compared to most other types of cheese though.
85% Lindt dark chocolate has slightly more fat than carbs, however most chocolate (milk choc, and chocolate bars especially) is higher in carbs than fat, some chocolate even has 2-3 times the amount of carbs than fat, which is mainly made up of sugar. Eggs (yolks) contain fat, and the white is the protein. If you have not got a cholesterol problem, then eggs are really good for you, yolks included!
Fibre. Fibre is something I used to struggle to hit (along with fats) when I first started counting macros. I made a real point to look for foods that were high in fibre to ensure I hit 20-50g of it each day. Now my carb allowance is a lot higher I find it much easier to hit fibre, but starting out with less carbs it was difficult.
Carbs and fibre go hand in hand. In some instances people will take the fibre count off the total carb amount (depending on the nutrition label – this seems to be common in the USA) however going by Australian food labels, most of them will list fibre in its own category, under or near the total carbohydrate amounts. Sugars are also listed under the total carb amounts, but they are included in the total carb figures. I usually don’t bother entering in the sugars separately (in to my fitness pal) just the total carbs (plus fibre, protein, fats, and calories – calories only because the app requires it) sugars are carbs. And if you have hit your fibre and other micronutrient requirements then there’s nothing to say you can’t hit the rest of your carbs with sugars anyway, your body processes all carbs the same way.
Anyway, I came across a few high fibre items:
Kellogs Fibre Toppers are pretty much just fibre! I add these in with my muesli and they’re also good with greek yoghurt, protein pudding etc. Wholegrain pasta – I found this to have more fibre than normal pasta, so when my carb allowance was lower I used wholegrain (instead of the dinosaur pasta I have now!!)
Fruit and vegetables are really good sources of fibre, especially broccoli, pumpkin, mushrooms and berries. Beans are also a good source of fibre (they also contain carbs and protein). Baked beans have 5-6g fibre per 100g and they are not full of sugar and “bad things” at all, even though people still seem to think they are!
Coles brand muesli is also pretty good for fibre. I used to use Carmens, but switched to Coles – their serving size is bigger, with very similar amounts of carbs/fat/protein, yet twice the fibre! A serving of this, along with a serve of those fibre toppers takes care of a good chunk of the days fibre target for me.
And last but not least one of the best things I have discovered as a source of fibre is Bakers Delight “High Fibre Low GI” White bread – available in loaves or buns. 2 thick slices of the large loaf total 30C 1F 6.2P and 6.8g fibre. And one of the buns (great for home made burgers) has 27C 0.9F 5.4P 6.1g fibre. I use this every day (yes WHITE BREAD) and it is delicious!