16 Rules to Eat By (by Leading Fitness Expert Dustin Maher)

Excerpt from Dustin Maher’s Fit Moms for Life: How to Have Endless Energy to Outplay your Kids ~ Chapter 5 Fuel as Food.  We will be doing a full review of this book and have a great giveaway next month!

Here are the 16 rules that I believe are the cornerstone of what you should be doing. If you do these things most of the time, you’re going to get great results, you’re going to feel better, and you’re going to have more energy! If you’re not ready to change everything at once, that’s fine. Just pick a few rules to start following this month, add a few more next month, and so on.

  1. Don’t eat carbs alone.
  2. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t eat it.
  3. If your great-grandma didn’t eat it, don’t eat it.
  4. Eat breakfast.
  5. Eat four to six small meals per day.
  6. Keep your portion size under control.
  7. Drink three to four quarts of water each day.
  8. Don’t drink calories (juice, soda, alcohol).
  9. Avoid fake sugars.
  10. Eat enough protein.
  11. Don’t eat grains after 4 p.m.
  12. Be careful what you eat in the evening.
  13. Give yourself two to three cheat meals per week.
  14. Be prepared.
  15. Eat grass-fed meat and free-range poultry.
  16. Buy organic when possible and practical.

1. Don’t eat carbs alone. The foods we think of as being made up mostly of carbs—like bread, grains, and some fruits—contain large amounts of sugar, which will cause your blood sugar levels to rise very quickly. As I described above, not only is your body likely to store that sugar as fat, but you’re also going to crash after a little while. And then it becomes a vicious cycle, because what are you going to reach for when you’re grumpy, low on energy, and not thinking clearly? More carbs! And here we go again. This may sound familiar to you—and everyone else who heads to the office vending machines or sneaks a sugary treat while her kids are napping in the mid-afternoon.

The key to having the most energy throughout the day is to keep your blood sugar levels as consistent as possible. When your blood sugar levels look like a roller coaster, going up and down throughout the day, you’re on that ride emotionally and physically. An all-day, everyday roller coaster isn’t any fun, and it’s also not good for maintaining a healthy weight. So what we need to do is combine those carbs with a protein or a fat. (Use the list of healthy carbs, fats, and proteins on page 71, and always be sure to combine something from the carbs list with something from the fats or proteins list every time you eat.)

Fats and proteins stay in your stomach longer and take much longer for your body to absorb, and don’t affect your blood sugar as drastically as carbs. Let’s say you eat a bagel and a banana for breakfast. Your body has to deal with a lot of carbs all at once, with very little protein or fat to slow down the absorption. But if you have a couple of eggs and a banana, the protein and fat in the eggs make it take much longer for all that sugar to get released into the body, meaning you’re not going to experience an extreme blood sugar rush and subsequent crash. You’re going to feel fuller longer, too.

I’ve heard from people who have made this change without altering anything else about how they eat, and they report a decent amount of weight loss relatively rapidly. It can make a huge difference, because you’re not storing that sugar as fat, and you’re not experiencing the roller coaster that leads to more poor food choices.

I should mention that there’s a little bit of controversy around this rule. Some people say it’s okay to eat fruit alone, since it doesn’t contain processed sugars and has more fiber. To me, regardless of what type of carb it is, it’s going to raise your blood sugar levels and set the same process in motion. Have a piece of fruit with a cheese stick or a small handful of nuts and see how you feel.

2. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t eat it. This rule and the next one are recommended by Michael Pollan in his book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. They are really key to a low-crap diet. First of all, eat things you can pronounce. Read the ingredient list on a product. If it contains ingredients you can’t pronounce or understand, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Most of those ingredients are chemicals or preservatives put in the food to increase its shelf life. They’re not food. You want to focus on whole foods and products that are made from whole foods.

3. If your great-grandma didn’t eat it, don’t eat it. Michael Pollan also talks about eating things your grandma would recognize. I’d go so far as to suggest your great-grandma, because depending on your age, your grandma might have gotten most of her food out of boxes and cans. Of course, this goes with the previous rule. Eighty or 90 years ago, your great-grandma couldn’t conceive of most of the ingredients in today’s commercially produced yogurt, for example, or other highly processed foods. Sticking with food that’s been around for a long time will basically keep you away from those highly processed foods, and you’re going to be a lot better off for it. (By the way, with these two rules, I don’t mean to say you shouldn’t try anything new or enjoy foods from other cultures just because you don’t recognize it. Definitely try new things and new flavors—just stick to those that are made from whole foods and aren’t overly processed!)

4. Eat breakfast. You’ve probably been hearing this one since elementary school, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but it is so important to eat breakfast. It really has been shown to be the most important meal of the day. This is because you’re breaking a fast: Your blood sugar levels are definitely low after eight to 12 hours without food, so you need to get something in your body to bring them up soon after you rise. Eating breakfast also decreases the likelihood that you will overeat later in the day. You’ve probably tried this—you skip breakfast, but by noon you’re really hungry, so you eat a big meal for lunch, and by the time you get to dinner, you’re really, really hungry because you’ve gone all day with just one meal. So you end up eating a huge meal at night, not long before you go to sleep, when you won’t be burning those calories. That’s not the best way to go about it.

You also have to remember Rule 1 with this: When you eat breakfast, don’t eat carbs alone. A good breakfast might be two whole eggs with a piece of sprouted whole-grain toast and a quarter to half of an avocado. The eggs provide protein and a little bit of fat. The toast provides carbs—and bread made from sprouted grains has less of an effect on your blood sugar than processed grains. The avocado provides additional healthy fats. This breakfast is going to keep your blood sugar levels fairly steady without ever getting super-high. It’s going to take a long time for all that to break down in your body. You’re going to have sustained energy for many hours with a breakfast like that.

5. Eat four to six small meals per day. Eating small meals frequently is another strategy for maintaining your blood sugar levels. You’re not overloading your body with a huge meal two or three times a day and then getting really hungry in between. You’re eating every three to four hours and avoiding those big swings in blood sugar levels. It helps me to know I’m always going to have another meal in about three hours, so I don’t feel like I have to stuff my face. Even if I don’t feel super-full from what I just ate, that’s okay, because within three hours I’ll get some more food.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.



I am Dustin Maher, America’s Trainer to The Moms. I am a leading expert on getting moms in shape. I have appeared 88 times on local and national TV, appeared in many magazines, and newspapers and been on over 25 radio shows. I have a blog (www.dustinmaherfitness.com) that receives over 1,000 visitors per day and an active mailing list of 6,000 people. I run 11 fitness bootcamp locations in Madison, Wisconsin, and have sold over 10,000 fitness DVDs. My mission is to reach one million moms by the end of 2015 with the support they need to change their mindset, eat better, exercise effectively, and be part of fit families and communities so they can transform their bodies and their lives.


4 Vega-Lopez, Sonia, et al. “Palm and Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oils Adversely Alter Lipoprotein Profiles Compared with Soybean and Canola Oils in Moderately Hyperlipidemic Subjects.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 84.1 (2006): 54-62. 5 Hollis, J. “Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 35.2 (2008): 118-26.




  1. 1
    Alex Liz Robinson says:

    These are great rules. I am definately going to save this page. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2

    Wonderful tips! Most are so simple, yet, so many of us don’t do them!

  3. 3
    courtney b says:

    great tips! thanks!:)

  4. 4

    Posted this in our private fitness group! Great tips and reminders!

  5. 5
    Jennifer Reyer Young says:

    Thank you for these, I will be sure to remember and use them!!

  6. 6

    love these tips ! Most of them I had already considered, except for the eating grains in teh evening. thanks for sharing.

  7. 7
    Andrea says:

    Great tips! I’m really going to have to work on #1: Don’t eat carbs alone. I’m a carb-aholic!

  8. 8
    chattie hale hinkle says:

    great tips thanks

  9. 9
    Robin Wilson says:

    I just love these tips! I have Lupus and I firmly believe (finally!) that exercise, based on my health at the time, and diet are so important. They go a long way towards helping me able to fight and control this cruiel disease. I am pinning this to my Lupus board. I esp. love 3. If your great-grandma didn’t eat it, don’t eat it!! My dad used to tell me that and I didn’t listen…now I hear ya!

  10. 10

    Those are all great tips. I already do a lot of those, but I will have to incorporate the rest of them

  11. 11
    rochelle haynes says:

    This is nice like to try this


  1. […] groups per day. He also has his 16 rules to eat by which have been stated in an earlier post here. Maher has tips on what to eat before and after a work out […]

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