Some Food Suggestions that Will Support Your Fitness Goals

A soldier fills his plate at Fort McCoy.
A soldier gets a meal on April 18, 2019, at the dining facility in building 50 at Fort McCoy, Wis. (Scott T. Sturkol/U.S. Army photo)

I received an email from a former naval officer who wanted to get back moving again. The good news is that he started before Thanksgiving, which helps avoid extra holiday pounds that we gain from imbibing spirits, snacking while watching sports and eating holiday feasts. It all contributes to our caloric intake.

The "former pilot, now desk jockey" writes:

I started working out using your "45-Day Beginner Program" last week and already I am feeling better than I have in a decade. Of course, I did NO activity other than work behind a desk after getting out of the Navy in the 90's. But I need some assistance with the Food Plan you have. Do you have a simple list that could break down the foods I should be eating and not eating (or should at least try to limit)? PS - love the water consumption.

Here is what I would recommend to eat more of and less of in order to have energy to exercise and build lean muscle, help with health issues such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and assist with weight loss.

Protein-Rich Foods


Choose more of:

Limit or omit these foods:

Fish and shellfish

Fried chicken/poultry

No skin

Fatty ground meat

No fat meats (all trimmed)

Liver/organ meats

Smaller servings of meat, seafood, poultry


Beans, peanut butter, tofu, whole wheat pasta, nuts

Sausage and other high-fat meats

Egg whites

Eggs with yolks

Protein bars (if needed)

2% or whole milk/ice cream/whipped cream

Skim or 1% milk

Whole milk cheeses / sour cream

Yogurt, low-fat cheese


Vitamin-/Carbohydrate-Rich Foods


Choose more of:

Limit or omit these foods:

Raw, steamed, boiled, colorful vegetables

Fat-fried vegetables

Green leafy/romaine lettuce

Iceberg lettuce (little value)

Whole-grain/multi-grain bread or pasta

White bread/regular pasta

Fruit juice seasoning (lime, lemon, etc.)

Cream sauce, cheese sauce, butter

Fruits with skin -- apples, pears, peaches ...

Canned fruits in syrup

Other fruits -- banana, oranges, grapes

Coconut -- high in saturated fat

Foods with Fat/Healthful Nutrients


Choose more of:

Limit or omit these foods:

Non trans-fat bread spreads

Avoid partially hydrogenated oils

Some heart-healthy margarines

Cooking with lard, meat fat, grease

Cooking with olive oils, sunflower oil ...

Salad dressings with cheese/creams

Salad dressing without saturated fat

Some chocolates -- high in saturated fat

Nuts in moderation -- high-calorie content

Cakes, cookies, pies, chips, crackers


Fried rice, beans


Doughnuts, pastries, croissants

The list of foods above are general foods we tend to eat regularly and many are omitted due to space, but these should help you take control of your food intake. Nothing above is news to anyone, but sometimes we need a good/bad comparison with healthful alternatives. Eating well does not mean your food has to taste like cardboard, or that you will starve yourself trying to eat healthy.

So keep it up during the holidays and see whether you can lose weight near the end of the year, when our healthful eating habits can stray.  

More diet and nutrition tips:

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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