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The Exact Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Plan that Changed My Life

The anti-inflammatory diet changed my life.

Two years ago I was in pain.

Over 25 years of baseball and football in addition to a general disregard for proper care and maintenance had left me with early onset arthritis and chronic foggy brain.

I was miserable. Something had to change.

The answer was a stringent adoption of an anti-inflammatory diet.

The results were epic.

Over the course of six months I lost 24 pounds.

In sharing my story, the number one question I’ve received about the anti-inflammatory diet is, “What do you eat?”

While the basic tenets of the anti-inflammatory diet revolve around what not to eat, (sugar, dairy, chicken and processed food), developing a meal plan can be challenging.

Before You Begin an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

If you’re new to the anti-inflammatory diet, here are a couple things to consider:

  • Track What You Eat — You will struggle to be successful if you’re not tracking your fat, carb and protein intake. Use the MyFitnessPal app, it’s easy and free.
  • Hydrate — Drink as much water as you possibly can. Period. If you’re feeling froggy, but some lemon in it. Drinking water also keeps your body from triggering a false feeling of hunger.
  • Stop Eating Late at Night — Give your body as much time as possible to digest food before you go to sleep. Your gut does a terrible job processing nutrients when we sleep. Gut health is a huge part of reducing inflammation.
  • Live by the 80/20 Rule — I still drink coffee and beer (both highly acidic), I just make sure they fall inside my 20 percent. Live anti-inflammatory 80 percent of your life and you’re going to feel tremendous.
  • Stay Away from Anything Acidic — Acidic food and beverages are the devil. Period. This means that Coke Zero you drink every day. Get rid of it.
  • Find a Routine — The anti-inflammatory diet is much easier when you can lock into a routine. This goes for all diets but is just as true for this one.

These are the guidelines that worked for me. While your anti-inflammatory life may include different guidelines, I’m confident these are a good place to start.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Plan

This bring us to our anti-inflammatory beginner meal plan. For those looking to get a feel for what an anti-inflammatory diet looks like, below is an outline of what my average daily food intake.

NOTE: This is the general daily meal plan I’ve used over the last year when I’m working from home (approximately 70 percent of my workdays). My meal plan changes on days I’m traveling for speaking gigs or client visits). This exact meal plan may not work for you. Do your own research, test everything and consult a doctor before making major changes to diet.

The Morning

When I’m in my routine, I wake up at 430am. This is time

The very first thing I do is pound a large glass of water (20oz) with a dash of Himalayan Sea Salt and a lemon wedge to rehydrate my body, replenish minerals we sweat out of our body while sleeping, and flush acid from muscles and joints.

My first cup of coffee is standard black coffee with a dash of cinnamon. The cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels, is packed with antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory properties. Mostly it tastes good and isn’t sugar or dairy.

My second cup of coffee is DIY Bulletproof Coffee. This is my brain fuel and has become a highly important piece of my morning routine. I can feel the energy boast (particularly in brain function) within minutes and lasts well into the late morning/early afternoon.

Time needed: 3 minutes.

DIY Bulletproof Coffee

  1. Ghee Butter
  2. 1 Tablespoon
    note: most DIY Bulletproof coffee recipes call for 2 tablespoons of Ghee butter, but I’ve found that 1 tablespoon is more than enough to get the desired energy burst (saving you 100+ calories).
    Organic Valley Ghee Butter.
  • MCT Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon
    note: most DIY Bulletproof coffee recipes call for organic coconut oil. I’d highly recommend using MCT oil as it is easier to digest and provides the full spectrum of MCT fats.
    Onnit Pure MCT Oil.
  • Coffee
  • 1 Standard Cup
    note: there is no reason to use special coffee ground when making DIY Bulletproof coffee. Whatever you normally get at the grocery store will work perfectly fine.
  • Blend to Emulsify Fats
  • 1 Minute
    note: emulsification is important to break down fats in the Ghee Butter and MCT Oil for easy digestion.

Alkalize Greens

In large part, the anti-inflammatory diet is about reducing acid (and other toxins) from your body. Amazing Grass Green Superfood Alkalize & Detox is the absolute best formula of powdered greens I’ve tried come across for two reasons:

  1. Its a full-spectrum supplement in terms of plant-based greens including a heavy dose of wheatgrass (huge anti-inflammatory green) which is a personal favorite of mine.
  2. Includes healthy dose of beets. Beets and beetroot extract have many benefits, fighting inflammation being of the key benefits.

Somewhere around 930am I’ll put a scoop of greens in a 20oz cup of water and drink it. The taste isn’t tremendous, but you get used to it.

Walnuts

Around this time, (930–1000am), I’ll have my first “real food” in one serving of whole raw organic walnuts. Nuts are an important part of a fat-rich diet and act as a good source of omega-3 fatty acid.

Additionally, walnuts contain polyphenols which help to improve gut health (which plays a major role in fighting inflammation) and possess well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bioactivity.

Anti-Inflammatory Super Shake

Here’s where the fun begins. Around 1130am, it’s time to make my Anti-Inflammatory Super Shake, (a recipe of my own concoction).

I’ll outline why I’ve decided to use each ingredient below but please feel free to adjust according to your own needs and taste.

  • Blueberries — besides containing fiber, vitamins, and minerals, blueberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins which is a compound which may reduce inflammation. They also taste amazing.
  • Vega Sport Vegan Protein Powder (Chocolate) — Whey protein is derived from dairy and can cause inflammation therefore plant-based protein powder is absolutely the way to go. Working out 4–5 times a week, I’ve felt no reduction in performance moving off of Whey to plant-based protein.
  • Chia Seeds — support heart and brain health, while supplying a high dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein making chia seeds a tremendous anti-inflammatory food.
  • Sunfood Superfood Beet Powder — as mentioned above, beets provide tremendous health benefits including nitrates for a boost in athletic performance, and compounds to improve gut health, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
  • Organic Almond Butter — Almonds are tree nut, where peanuts are a legume, creating potentially significant differences in nutrients. While peanut butter is fine from an inflammation standpoint, I prefer almond butter for it’s healthier fats. I also prefer the taste.
  • Celery — celery is high in phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory components, and antioxidants.
  • Kale — besides all the benefits classically associated with kale, it also provides a great source of Vitamin K, an anti-inflammatory powerhouse.
  • Coconut Milk — provides healthy fats and acids similar to coconut oil but far less potent. You can also use unsweetened almond milk.

This Anti-Inflammatory Super Shake has been a consistent part of my diet for over a year now. It’s thick and heavy (fighting afternoon hunger cravings) but at the same time surprising light on bloating and intestinal discomfort.

Occasionally, I’ll add strawberries or blackberries for additional flavor. I used to include bananas, but bananas are basically constipating sugar sticks which provide few benefits other than potassium which you can get from other sources.

The Afternoon

The afternoon is where I’ll add some variety to my routine, as I’m not a robot, do get cravings and enjoy some change on occasion.

That being said, there are two consistent pieces that remain:

  1. Heavy hydration, and
  2. Second serving of Alkalize Greens.

Below are a list of foods that I’ll potentially use as my afternoon snack. In a given day, I’ll only choose one of these items, but may rotate each throughout the week. Essentially, while providing different benefits, they’re interchangeable from my perspective.

Avocado

Half an avocado — Avocados are a great source of healthy unsaturated fat and antioxidants. In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties of avocados are so strong that they may actually offset less healthy food choices.

Apple

Apples are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols.

Oatmeal

Three-quarters of a cup of organic whole grain rolled oats with a bit of honey and some raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. There isn’t a huge anti-inflammatory benefit to oatmeal, but it’s heart healthy, packed with fiber and tastes great.

The Evening

We eat dinner around 530pm. There are many ways to attack dinner. I’ve listed the most common dinner my wife and I enjoy during the week. If you’re looking “satisfaction” in your dinner after a long day at work, let me warn you, this is not the point of our weeknight dinners.

Three places people tend to get themselves in trouble when it comes to dinner:

  • Chicken — chicken has many health benefits, but it’s also high in joint pain causing acid. Avoid chicken at all costs if anti-inflammation is your goal.
  • Pasta — the refined flour and sugar found in most off-the-shelf pasta is a source of inflammation for many people. I’m sure there are types of pasta which reduce or avoid refined flour and sugar, which would make pasta less of an issue. For our purposes, I’d try to avoid.
  • Cheese — cheese is dairy. Case closed.

No matter what you make for dinner, try not to cheat on these three as they’re impact will sneak up on you. That being said, here are our most common dinner:

Stir-fry Organic Vegetables

Use half a tablespoon of coconut oil and then add all the organic vegetables you can get your hands on. We like to use:

  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Corn
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cauliflower

Then we’ll sprinkler in Himalayan Sea Salt and black pepper. To provide some heartiness to the dish we’ll include a baked potato (we split one potato) or we’ll make organic red lentil pasta.

We then add a dollop of organic hummus on the side of the bowl to provide additional flavor to the veggies.

Late Evening

I try hard not to eat after dinner. There are nights however, where the hunger is real. In these cases, my go-to snack after dinner is a handful of red grapes (which have anti-inflammatory compounds).

You could also go with berries or half an apple as well. For quality of sleep purposes you want to keep your food intake to minimum after 600pm.

Supplements

As far as supplements I take to help with inflammation:

I take both on a daily basis and have had noticeable effects on my joint pain.

Note: it does take a while for the impact of these supplements to build up when you first start taking them and reside if you stop.

The Rub

Please take this meal plan as a guide and nothing more. This is what has worked for me and there is no guarantee the same diet will provide the same results for you.

That being said, the version of the anti-inflammatory diet outlined above has worked incredibly well for me over the last two years.

My goal, of reducing chronic joint pain has been accomplished. But it’s all the benefits that I didn’t see coming, drastic increase in energy, weight loss, and cognitive improvement that will keep me on the anti-inflammatory diet for years to come.

Here’s to living WITHOUT chronic joint pain!

If you have any questions or comments about the anti-inflammatory diet or my choices in the meal plan outlined above, hit me up in the comments.

Thank you,

Ryan Hanley

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