Sometimes, the amount of nutritional information around can be overwhelming. With much of it being contradictory, it’s hard to know just where to start! With that in mind, the purpose of this blog post is to provide you with 10 common sense and easy to apply changes so you can, little by little, re-route your current eating habits towards and healthier and more nutritious diet.
1) Cut down on sugar
Fat generally gets lambasted as being the biggest dietary evil but it’s sugar that is actually the biggest problem in Western nutrition. Sugar causes an increase in insulin secretion and insulin suppresses fat burning. Refined sugars are the worst so check your food labels for sugar content.
Naturally occurring sugar in fruit is fine in moderation but packaged foods, breakfast cereals, baked goods and sweets all contain lots of sugar and are best avoided if you want to be slim and healthy!
2) Get more nutrients
It’s amazing but many people suffer from malnutrition despite being drastically overweight. How is this possible? Many modern, processed foods provide calories but that’s about it. No vitamins, no minerals, no fibre, minimal water but lots and lots of salt, sugar and other harmful additives.
Build your meals around vegetables and fruits and you’ll increase the nutritional value of each and every meal you eat.
3) Eat the rainbow!
By eating a diverse mixture of naturally brightly colored foods, you ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients in your diet. Eat reds, greens, yellow, oranges, purples, whites etc. Try to eat three differently colored vegetables or fruits in each and every meal.
4) Drink water, not soda
Your muscles are approximately 70% water; your blood is around 90% water. You need water to help keep your joints lubricated, your body cool, remove toxins from your digestive system, and even the whites of your eyes are mostly water. On average you need around five pints of water per day, more if you exercise regularly or live in a hot country.
Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water – drink little and often. Dehydration interferes with fat burning and you will likely feel more energetic and healthy if you consume adequate amounts of water every day.
5) Get your protein
Protein is essential. Protein is necessary for tissue repair and normal growth. Most people are protein deficient while being carbohydrate sufficient. Carbs are not essential as your body can burn fat for energy. Unfortunately, your body has no such alternative fuel options when it comes to protein.
Fish, meat, eggs, dairy and poultry are all good protein sources, as are soya, quinoa, beans and pulses – especially if you combine them properly. Protein also raises your metabolism which makes it an important factor in weight management.
6) Eat little, eat often
Most nutritionists agree that small, regular meals are better than fewer, bigger meals. Eating little and often helps with controlling appetite and blood glucose levels. Small, frequent meals also boost your metabolism which helps with weight management.
Start your day with breakfast and then eat a small meal every 2-3 hours. Make sure each meal contains protein and fruits or vegetables. Add in some whole grains and healthy fats and you are all sorted!
7) Select whole grains
Refined grains such as white wheat, white rice, white pasta etc. are devoid of fiber. Fiber is essential for intestinal health. It helps to keep your bowels in good working order and also contains no calories so it is an ideal nutrient for weight management.
Eat whole grains and not refined grains to ensure you are getting plenty of fiber in your diet. Select wild rice, wholemeal pasta, sprouted grain breads, leave the skin of your fruits and vegetables, eat oatmeal and not refined breakfast cereals.
8) Don’t drink your calories
Water is calorie free. Tea and coffee are also very low in calories. However, blended coffee drinks, soda, fruit juices, milk shakes and alcoholic beverages are packed full of calories – usually from fat and sugar.
As calorie-dense beverages are not very filling, it is possible to consume a lot of energy without realizing it – especially as these types of drinks often stimulate hunger rather than satisfy it! Slake your thirst with water and save your calories for food.
9) Don’t skip breakfast
After 8 hours or so sleep, your body is in a fasted state. This means that muscle catabolism or breakdown is elevated and blood glucose levels are decreased. You are literally running on empty. Breaking your fast (breakfast – get it?) gets your body back on a level footing so that it can function optimally. In studies, regular breakfast eaters are slimmer than non-breakfast eaters.
Non-breakfast eaters often experience a mid-morning energy crash which results in an over reliance on sugary snacks. Sugar, as you now know, inhibits fat burning and merely results in a short-term energy fix. By lunch, you’ll be crashing again. Consume protein and complex carbs at breakfast and you’ll have energy to spare all morning!
10) Don’t starve yourself
Very low calorie diets result in fast and significant weight loss but only as long as you stick with them. As soon as you go back to eating your regular diet, you’ll just regain the weight and, most likely, some extra weight for good measure! This is your body’s natural response to severe calorie restriction and explains why some people simply get fatter when they diet.
Instead, reduce your calorie intake slightly, increase your exercise levels slightly and lose weight slowly. This way, you’re more likely to keep it off. Aim for 1-2 pounds per week but don’t worry if you lose slightly less than that. Rapid weight loss equals rapid weight regain so take it slow.
Don’t try and implement all of these points overnight! That’s not the aim of this post. Read the list, take one or two of the points that you can implement right away and then gradually add one or two more points over the coming weeks. A month or two from now, your diet may well be unrecognisable and your body will thank you for it!