This is what worked for me. NOTE: I am not a dietician or have any medical background.
I followed Kayla’s H.E.L.P. nutrition guide exclusively. For me, the guidelines increased my caloric intake enormously, but I could almost immediately tell an improvement in my health. I felt SO much better, had more energy and few to no headaches (I used to have headaches almost daily).
CHEAT MEALS: I did not do a weekly cheat meal, but had one splurge on pizza (organic, but not necessarily healthy!). Before the BBG, I was eating a lot of boxed foods, like mac and cheese, dehydrated soups, frozen meals, etc. mostly because they were easy. I ate vegetables and fruits, but the foods that were supposed to give me my macronutrient supply were not healthy or clean, which is why I never saw changes on my body. After I began to eat clean, I noticed a major difference in my health. It is now very easy for me to turn down junk food because I know how poorly it makes me feel. It doesn’t even smell good to me anymore!
ALCOHOL: I set a limit of 3 alcoholic drinks a week, which I stuck to for the most part. I do like my red wine and craft beers, so on days when I had one beer or a small glass of wine, I did not have my daily piece of dark chocolate. I don’t know that my outcome would have been any different if I had still had the chocolate, but mentally I felt the exchange was fair.
PROTEIN: I am 98% vegetarian/pescatarian but have started to try to swallow some chicken every now and then for my protein servings. In general, I get my protein serves from white fish (tilapia, cod, etc.) and soy products, like tofu and tempeh. I abstained from shellfish during the BBG and don’t really miss it. I usually get my major protein serves at lunch and dinner and supplement them with whey protein powder (what I consider .5 of a serving – don’t quote me on that!) and veg protein like beans and seeds. I do not eat any red meat whatsoever or other types of poultry besides chicken for no other reason besides the fact that I just don’t like it and it grosses me out.
DAIRY: I drink both skim cow milk and soy milk and use skim/ low-moisture mozzarella cheese when the mood strikes. It is not hard for me to get my dairy servings, as I love smoothies.
GRAIN: I get most of my grain servings though rye wheat bread, wheat pita bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa (lots and lots of quinoa) and brown rice.
FRUIT: I usually meet my fruit servings by 11 a.m. LOL. Not hard when you have a sweet tooth like mine!
HEALTHY FAT: I usually get my fat servings from almond butter and olive oil.
VEGGIE: I never have any trouble meeting my veggie requirements and eat a diverse array: spinach, cucumber, carrots, asparagus, peas, potatoes, etc. I sometimes add up to two servings in a smoothie, which helps me start off the day on a good foot!
COUNTING CALORIES: I do not count calories and will never do so again. I did to an extent during my college years, which was very troublesome and caused me a lot of problems. To my girls in college who are struggling with nutrition (or really anyone who needs some help in this department), I have a special place in my heart for you and will post suggestions and ideas for your situation. I know how hard it can be when you first move out on your own, are expected to feed yourself and take care of yourself, have to keep your grades up, make friends, stay fit or get fit, get the “full college experience,” etc. It was honestly a VERY hard adjustment for me and I feel for you deeply. Those were some of my hardest years from a body image standpoint, and I want to help you as much as I can. Know that you aren’t alone, and the calorie counting is NOT the answer. Write this on your fridge. Tell all of your girlfriends and hold hands and recite it in a circle or whatever. Do NOT count your calories!