Common sense tips for a fitter, happier you
Dieting is a mug’s game. So are all the conflicting food theories. Fat is BAD. No, actually it’s good. Stop snacking in between meals! Actually eight small meals a day is ideal. Let’s forget all this toing and froing and instead let’s talk about good nutrition. After all, it’s only when there’s a balance between healthy eating, exercise, and the foods you love that you can live a great, active and healthy life. All said and done, there are some general guidelines that all nutritionists follow, and recommend to their clients. However, before you attempt to adopt them all, start by making one or two small changes to the way you eat and before you know it, you’ll master this ‘healthy eating’ business completely and overhaul your eating habits. Best of all, it won’t feel like you’ve had to completely changed your life just to improve your diet
This is a cardinal rule. Eat breakfast every day otherwise your body will tap into lean-muscle stores for energy. Besides, breakfast revs up metabolism and jumpstarts your brain. And no, a cup of coffee is not breakfast. Caffeine may give you artificial energy temporarily but that does nothing to stop the eating away of your lean-muscle stores. The ideal breakfast should have a mix of protein-carbohydrates-healthy fats-fiber. A fruit, egg white omelet and whole wheat toast or bowl of muesli with almonds and fruit is the best way to start your day.
Of course we all love the occasional bowl of noodles or burger but eating the least processed forms of food will control your blood sugar, stabilize energy levels and fill you up faster. Like bread? Look for a brand with at least three grams of fiber. Avoid anything that says “enriched” because it means it’s so processed that nutrients have been artificially added in. While choosing fruits and vegetables at the market, fresh or fresh-frozen are ideal. Forgo pre-made, calorie dense dry fruit mixes and instead buy whole almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pumpkin seeds and make your own mix. Even freshly popped popcorn is a wholesome snack as long as you don’t add butter or cheese.
Pick up any ready-to-eat food item in the supermarket. Now try and read the ingredients out loud. If you stutter over half of them, put the box down right away. Cut out overly processed chemically engineered foods and head straight to the ‘real food’ aisles. Stock up on brown rice, veggies, fruits, yogurt, nuts and other whole foods.
Fat isn’t a bad word. In fact it’s critical for good health. It’s a powerhouse of nutrients, regulates blood sugar and releases antioxidants for cellular repair of joints, skin and hair. What you should avoid are engineered fats; trans and hydrogenated fats. Stop feeling guilty about have unsaturated fats that stay liquid at room temperature. These include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil and fish oils. Eat a handful of nuts every day. Add them to your cereal or just enjoy them as a snack mid-morning.
Forget the recommended daily five, make it a daily ten instead. Unfortunately, the way we consume our veggies—over cooked, fried and mushed up—makes it a poor nutritional choice. Mentally divide your plate into two. One half should be the amount of vegetables you should eat with every meal. The more colorful the veggie or fruit the higher its fiber and nutrient densities. Have your fill of red, yellow and green peppers, carrots and green beans. Eat a bowl of salad every day. Mix up baby spinach, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes and add a dash of olive oil to get your quota of daily goodness.
It’s great to have a cup of java when you’re feeling low but caffeine also sends signals to the brain that the body is not hungry when it may be under-fueled. Also excessive coffee can cause your heart to race, increase blood pressure and give you a headache. Instead drink plenty of water and consider sipping on antioxidant rich green or black tea instead.
You ate a heavy dinner or binged on dessert the night before. Now you’re punishing yourself by skipping breakfast. This is the worst thing you can do. Skipping meals sets you up for a metabolic double-whammy by slowing down your metabolism and putting your body into ‘starvation mode’. Then you end up making poorer food choices than you normally would have because you are so hungry. And so the vicious cycle continues.
Grazing between meals is not a bad thing. There, it’s been said! Especially if your next meal is more than five hours later. There are many reasons why snacking is good. Here are two of them. A long gap between meals can cause blood sugars to fall making you reach for calorie dense foods. Eating small snacks every few hours speeds up your metabolism and keeps you from binging at your next meal. Examples of healthy snacks: fruit, fistful of nuts, slice of whole wheat bread with low fat spread, and a bowl of salad.
And juice. Both provide mega doses of refined sugar—up to twelve teaspoons—and lots of gas. One bloats you and the other makes you put on weight and weaken your teeth and bones. In fact, liquid calories from creamy soups, soft drinks, fruit juices and milk shakes are the biggest barriers to a healthy lifestyle.
You are not a saint with iron self-control. Know that you’re bound to give in to temptation from time to time and while you should try and eat healthy most of the time, there’s no point beating yourself up when you fall off the wagon. Follow the dictum—Listen to your body and do the best you can at each meal—and you’ll stay happy and fit.