Monday, June 22, 2015

The "container" approach to diet/nutrition

The 21 day fix and 21 day fix extreme container approach to diet and nutrition are getting a lot of publicity lately.  I've had three different friends mention that they've read about it online or seen something about it on TV.  Since I've been using them on and off for almost two months now, I thought I'd share my perspective.


The basic concept is that there are color-coded containers for different food categories, along with a booklet explaining what foods belong in which categories, which foods are just plain no-nos, and which foods can be considered for a once a week treat ("extreme" doesn't allow treats, but I gave myself some anyway :) ).

Depending on your calorie needs - based on your gender, weight, activity level, and weight loss goals - you eat the corresponding number of each container.  For example, when I started out and was trying to lose weight, I was eating 2 "yellows" of carbs and 2 "purples" of fruit a day.  Now that I'm just trying to maintain, I'm up to 3 "yellows" of carbs and 3 "purples" of fruit.

For me, this approach was perfect.  It really drove me to eat healthy foods.  But I don't have to obsess about counting calories, or macro-nutrients (carb/protein/fat grams) and ratios.  I just kept a running tally of my containers as the day progressed, and after a few days it became super easy.  It is quick and simple.

The basic idea is that if you follow the containers - some days you will have more calories and some less, but it will work out to be about where you should be.  And you will have the right nutrients.  I like that philosophy.

After using the containers consistently for a few weeks, I took a couple weeks off, and found that my eating habits slowly became worse again, but they remained better than before I had started.  Then I just resumed using the containers again, to kick myself back into shape.

Sample Meals/Snacks

Here are a few of my favorite container-based meals.  Now the crazy thing is that the meals I've pictured below still don't add up to my required total.  So on a typical day I'd have to eat all this, plus some!  That's another amazing thing to me about this plan.  I ended up eating actually more than I used to.  It's just that it is such healthy food, that I still ended up slimming down. 

One red (protein) - 8 egg whites (scrambled with vanilla and cinnamon), 1 purple (fruit: same size as green, and I misplaced my purple!) - a pear chopped up.  And some coffee w/ stevia.

Snack (not pictured)
1 red (6 oz) of plain greek yogurt + 1 purple (1 cup) of blueberries

1 red of chicken plus 1 green of onions and bell peppers, plus about 1/8 purple of salsa (not pictured but I would often add - some avacado (blue container - healthy fats)):
(And yes, that is a full-size dinner plate, and not a salad plate.)

1 green of celery sticks + 2 tsp of peanut butter

Lamb stew with lamb (red), garbanzo beans (yellow), carrots and onions (green), and currants (purple)

Post-workout snack/Dessert:
Shakeology protein shake, made with a little bit of greek yogurt and lots of ice to make a super-yummy dessert.  And you know, if it's Friday, maybe a little bonus scotch.  ;)  That one's not part of the plan.

Why do containers make sense?

It seems like most people fall into one extreme or another when it comes to counting calories and watching what they eat: Either don't have the time or energy to keep it up, or they end up obsessing and it becomes psychologically unhealthy. 

The Weight Watchers point system was designed with that in mind, and has worked for thousands of people (mostly women) over the decades.  But even with that, for most foods there's a step of checking how many points it's worth.  One also has to measure or weigh food on one's own to make sure it's the right serving size to map to the number of points.

Autumn Calabrese's container approach takes a similar idea - let's simplify healthy eating for people, and make it easy for them to stick with it - and takes it to the next level.

Ultimately, I think it makes sense for one simple reason: It is fast and easy to follow.
And the little details - like the fact that the suggested diet is one that is well balanced and healthy, makes the person using it feel full and satisfied, etc., certainly help.

That's my take!  :)
If you're interested in trying it, Beachbody sells the diet/nutrition component on it's own, or you can buy it in conjunction with the fitness programs (which include 8 different 30-minute super-efficient workouts), or in combination with the fitness programs and the Shakeology super-shake.  The more you buy the bigger the discounts, and I personally recommend the "Challenge Pack" which combines all 3, but all 3 options are available.  You can browse and read up more, or see all the options, on my official Beachbody Coach Site, here, or let me know and I can send you more direct links. You can also see my 21 day fix extreme review and results here.


  1. When you post about it, it sounds like a lot of food. When I eat it, it does not feel like a lot of food!!!

    I guess I should take pictures of my food and see what I could do to add some bulk.

    But overall, I like this approach. Its great for portion control. If I had to go back to a more relaxed eating style, I would keep everything the same but cut out one fruit, and add 1 protein. And packing the containers is the highlight of evie's night. :)

  2. That's great! You could try adjusting your containers like that right now - 1 more protein and 1 less fruit - maybe for a week and see how you feel. Or you could try doing that when our challenge is over. I keep wanting to add more protein too, but resisting. :) It turns out certain types of protein though... - we had steak last night - whoo! 1 red container of steak is *a lot*!