By Bill Waltzek – CPT
As a Personal Trainer I have helped hundreds of people get in the best shape of their lives by giving them great workouts and sound nutritional advice. Often I am asked what I eat to stay in great shape. I want to tell you this now, I am not perfect. I live by the rule of eat well most of the time and make sure you have your cheat meals. If you do not have those cheat meals eventually, you are going to lose it and find yourself face down in a giant sugar-filled cake. Of course, there are exceptions; for example, if you are in a competition, photo shoot, or something else of that nature then I am going to be a little harder on your diet. But let’s face it – not all of us are about to jump on stage in our swimsuits any time soon.
I like to use the guidelines from a fantastic company called Precision Nutrition, as they are one of the experts in nutritional programing. The basic concept is this: Eat protein and vegetables in every meal, have only complex carbohydrates after a workout (if you are looking to get lean) and don’t drink your calories (unless we are talking protein shakes). Simple enough, right? While we could dive in and get more technical, this is a great starting point and should be the building blocks of nutrition program.
So let’s take a look at some of my meals. Luckily I have a healthy and awesome wife that is great in the kitchen. We will try to bring you a new meal each month written by her or myself. Let’s take a look at one now:
Lentil soup with sausage, kale and garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large links of sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups shredded or thinly ribboned Swiss chard leaves or kale
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to finish
Heat a bit of olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pot) in a large pot on medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water (6 cups is, conveniently, 2 empty 28-ounce cans, so you can get any tomato pulp you missed), more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. (It might be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick, though we preferred ours on the thick side.)
When the lentils are cooked, add the kale and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.
To finish, divide soup among bowls, then add the 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet and heat over medium until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over soup bowls, and top with fresh Romano, passing more at the table. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge
Give this meal a shot and stick to the basics!