Ten Rules for Good Nutrition from Berardi


Sal and I collaborated last night to make a bomb-shizilly good dessert.  There are pictures and everything!  But, wouldn’t you know it, my accountant is beating down my door for Q4 paperwork.  While I go deal with grumpy Mr. Moneypants, I thought I’d post John Berardi‘s article, "Changing the Rules of Good Nutrition" for you to check out. 

This is a great article if you want to start to rethink your approach to nutrition (ie, if what you’re doing isn’t working… it might be time to rethink).  It’s also got a great section at the bottom that covers his 10 Rules of Good Nutrition.  The reason I like Berardi so much is that he’s a no-nonsense guy with a scientifically-based, extremely sound and balanced approach to eating. 

These aren’t gimmicks… they’re sensible rules that will lead to real results – and leave you feeling great.


Changing the Rules of Good Nutrition
by Dr John M Berardi, CSCS

What are the rules of good nutrition? What types of things must you absolutely do to succeed – and what types of things must you avoid?

Seriously, take a moment and think about it.

What rules do you think you’ll need to follow if you want to eat in a healthy way – a way that will improve the way your body looks and the way it feels.

Come up with that list in your mind right now.

Now that you’ve considered these rules, I want you to take a second and think about your list. Specifically, think about where you learned these rules.

Certainly your rules have been influenced by how you were raised, no? Certainly they’ve been influenced by your experiences dining with friends and relatives – comfort foods, right? Of course, no set of nutrition rules is immune to media influences – you can’t help but be bombarded by those Got Milk ads! Your rules have probably also been influenced by what you’ve heard others say – heck, every 3rd episode of Dr. Phil is about food and dieting. And, no doubt, your nutrition rules have probably been influenced by your own past attempts at changing your body – whether you’ve been successful or unsuccessful.

I could sit here all day and list potential nutritional influences. But I’ll stop here since there are probably hundreds of ‘em and to enumerate them all would bore your socks off.

At this junction, I’d just like to go ahead and make my point. And the point is this – very few of your “Good Nutrition Rules” have been influenced by those who know anything about good nutrition – let alone about long-term success and about what it really means to eat in a healthy way! And worse yet, most of those rules have been hammered home without you even knowing it!

It’s time to change the rules.

The Triple S Criterion

Now I’ll admit it. Changing the rules – just like changing your habits – is difficult. Not only does it take a desire to change – “want to” – but it takes a strategy for change – “how to”.

The “want to” is all your own. But the “how to” is what I do best. I’ve committed my career to helping people do just this – to change their rules and change their habits – and have gotten pretty good at it. In changing these rules and habits, everything changes – the way clients eat, the way they sleep, they way they look, the way they feel when they wake up in the morning, and they way they perform in day-to-day activities or during athletic events.

Today, I’m going to teach you a good part of that system – a system based on my Triple S Criterion.

What’s the Triple S Criterion? Well, it represents a three step way of evaluating a strategy for its usefulness.

Step 1 – Simplicity:
Are the rules easy to follow?
Step 2 – Science
Are the rules based on sound scientific principles?
Step 3 – Success
Have the rules produced success in past clients?

Using this criterion, the systems developed for my clients always produce a positive result.

Think again about your nutritional rules – rules that you might be quite attached to. Which criterion did you use when determining your rules? Are your rules based on Simplicity, Science, and Success? Have your rules produced the desired effect – a lean, healthy body that you’re able to maintain; a body that you’re happy with when looking in the mirror?

If not, perhaps they could use a re-evaluation.

Dr. Berardi’s Good Nutrition Rules

Below, I’d like to present my 10 Good Nutrition Rules, rules based on the Triple S Criterion above. In doing so, I hope to accomplish 2 goals.

• First, I want to help you rethink your whole nutrition approach – providing you with a new set of nutrition rules and habits – a set that swiftly moves you in the direction of your goals.

• Secondly, I want to show specifically how the recipes, cooking tips, and strategies can integrate together to represent a complete success system, fully integrated into the basic habits of good nutrition.

So here are the 10 rules:

1) Eat every 2-3 hours – no matter what.
Are you doing this – no matter what? Now, you don’t need to eat a full meal every 2-3 hours but you do need to eat 6-8 meals and snacks that conform to the other rules below.

2) Ingest complete, lean protein each time you eat.
Are you eating something this is an animal or comes from an animal – every time you feed yourself? If not, make the change. Note: If you’re a vegetarian, this rule still applies – you need complete protein and need to find non-animal sources.

3) Ingest vegetables every time you eat.
That’s right, every time you eat (every 2-3 hours, right), in addition to a complete, lean protein source, you need to eat some vegetables. You can toss in a piece of fruit here and there as well. But don’t skip the veggies.

4) If want to eat a carbohydrate that’s not a fruit or a vegetable (this includes things like things rice, pasta, potatoes, quinoa, etc), you can – but you’ll need to save it until after you’ve exercised.
Although these often heavily processed grains are dietary staples in North America, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are North American medical staples – there’s a relationship between the two! To stop heading down the heart disease highway, reward yourself for a good workout with a good carbohydrate meal right after (your body best tolerates these carbohydrates after exercise). For the rest of the day, eat your lean protein and a delicious selection of fruits and veggies.

5) A good percentage of your diet must come from fat. Just be sure it’s the right kind.
There are 3 types of fat – saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Eating all three kinds in a healthy balance can dramatically improve your health and even help you lose fat.

Your saturated fat should come from your animal products and you can even toss in some butter or coconut oil for cooking. Your monounsaturated fat should come from mixed nuts, olives, and olive oil. And your polyunsaturated fat should from flaxseed oil, fish oil, and mixed nuts.

6) Ditch the calorie containing drinks (including fruit juice).
In fact, all of your drinks should come from non-calorie containing beverages. Fruit juice, alcoholic drinks, and sodas – these are all to be removed from your daily fare. Your absolute best choices are water and green tea.

7) Focus on whole foods.
Most of your dietary intake should come from whole foods. There are a few times where supplement drinks and shakes are useful. But most of the time, you’ll do best with whole, largely unprocessed foods.

8) Have 10% foods.
I know you cringed at a few of the rules above – perhaps #6 in particular. But here’s a bit of a reprieve. 10% foods are foods that don’t necessarily follow the rules above – but food’s you’re still allowed to eat (or drink) 10% of the time.

100% nutritional discipline is never required for optimal progress. The difference, in results, between 90% adherence to your nutrition program and 100% adherence is negligible.

Just make sure you do the math and determine what 10% of the time really means. For example, if you’re eating 6 meals per day for 7 days of the week – that’s 42 meals. 10% of 42 is about 4. Therefore you’re allowed to “break the rules” 4 meals each week.

9) Develop food preparation strategies.
The hardest part about eating well is making sure you can follow the 8 rules above consistently. And this is where preparation comes in. You might know what to eat, but if isn’t available, you’ll blow it when it’s time for a meal.

10) Balance daily food choices with healthy variety.
Let’s face it; during the week –when you’re busy – you’re not going to be spending a ton of time whipping up gourmet meals. During these times you’re going to need a set of tasty, easy to make foods that you can eat day in and day out. However, once every day or a few times a week – you need to eat something different – something unique.

So, what about calories, or macronutrient ratios, or any number of other things that I’ve covered in many other articles on my own web site and elsewhere? The short answer is that if you aren’t already practicing the above-mentioned habits, and by practicing them I mean putting them to use over 90% of the time (i.e., no more than 4 meals out of an average 42 meals per week violate any of those rules), everything else is pretty pointless.
Moreover, many people can achieve the health and the body composition they desire using the habits alone. No kidding! In fact, with some of my paying clients I spend the first few months just supervising their adherence to these 7 rules—an effective but costly way to learn them.

If you’ve reached the 90% threshold, you may need a bit more individualization beyond the habits. If so, visit my web site. Many of these little tricks can be found in my many articles published there. But before looking for them, before assuming you’re ready for individualization; make sure you’ve truly mastered the habits. Then, while keeping the habits as the consistent foundation, tweak away.

For More Berardi:
Visit the site and check out the extensive articles and other resources.

PPS – Life is busy. Things get crazy. I love my readers and don’t want you to miss out on anything. If you enjoy reading, consider subscribing for updates delivered to your inbox every 2 or 3 weeks, along with occasional exclusive content that won’t be posted to the blog.  Also, if you have a question, please contact me with it.  I’d love to hear what’s on your mind. heidiswift (at) gmail (dot) com





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  1. Some of those seem quite reasonable and sensible, but some seem a bit extreme. No fruit juice? Pure fruit juice is high in natural sugars, yes, but it’s still good for you, and for many people it’s one of the few sources of fruit.

    We’ve (my wife and I) have recently switched from white rice and pasta to only whole grain (we were already on whole grain bread) and I’ve already noticed the missing sugar high following a pasta meal – quite incredible.

    Some really good tips in there, though. I really need to be doing 1 and 2 more / properly.

  2. I have to say that I don’t drink fruit juice – it’s true, the vitamins and minerals are very good for you, but they’re even better for you if you get them along with the natural fiber that they were intended to come along with (i.e. actually eating whole fruit)

    Since most people’s diets are sadly lacking in fiber, I really encourage people to eat their fruit instead of drinking it. I also think fruit juice is one place where a lot of people don’t realize they are blowing their daily calorie count straight through the roof… in very small glasses (true juice glasses are tiny, but we don’t do anything tiny here in ‘merca, do we?) it’s fine. I just doubt that people are stopping at 6oz.

    I’ll also add a point about very high levels of sugar like that doing mean, mean things to your body in terms of blood sugar levels and energy.

    Every person is different, however, and if the only fruit you’re ingesting is from juices, it’s certainly better than nothing. (And still way better than soda!)

  3. These steps may get tricky. Where does coffee fit in (this is Portland, after all)? What about sports drinks like, say, Cytomax, when on the bike? Should I be counting my calories each day? I’ve done that before and it became like a second job. I could certainly stand to eat more frequent, smaller portions (though I do like the veggies as a vegetarian).

    • heidiswift

      Hi NoPo!
      Good questions.
      I can’t answer for everyone, but here’s how I deal with those things.
      Coffee: I don’t count it, it hardly has any calories at all (I don’t take cream) and there are much worse things for you. I drink it till I’m bouncing off the walls.
      Sports nutrition: I treat this separately as well. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people who believe in HIIT type fitness (high intensity interval training) generally disparage what they call “cardio”. They dismiss it as a shitty way to lose weight (it is, frankly) and don’t deal with it in nutritional guides like these. So, if I’m going on a 4-hour bike ride, I listen to what the folks over at Hammer Nutrition (or my coach) say. Still, I don’t do Cytomax (tons of sugar) but stick to products like Perpetuem, HEED, etc. After I’m off the bike, it’s back to Berardi’s simple rules. That seems to work out pretty well over all.
      What I haven’t figured out is how Portland-worthy beer consumption fits in. :) I”ll get back to you on that.


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