With any new venture, the key is to eliminate all the clutter (i.e., the "bad" food) and to begin anew. When first starting your cleanse, you will need to arm yourself with a garbage bag, a recycling box and donation bag. All you need to do is follow the simple steps below to get weight-loss ready.
1. Eliminate the processed foods in your kitchen cupboards
Remove every item (yes, I mean everything!) from your kitchen cupboards to see what lies inside. Chances are, you'll find you have multiples of the same item (How did I buy four packages of salt?). Instead of throwing away your hard-earned money on more of the food you already have, keep one item on hand and put the rest in storage or donate to a food bank.
Items to eliminate are those one-way tickets to weight gain, including those filled with refined white flours or sugars (e.g., cookies, white crackers, candy, certain types of granola bars or cereals, pop, pudding, etc). Watch out for the "100 calorie" snack food: While the portion control in these treats is definitely good, many weight-loss seekers find they have difficulty eating just one. Many of these snack foods are also filled with white sugar or artificial sweeteners, which can contribute to your energy fluctuations and sugar cravings. Remember: Having cravings doesn't mean you’re weak! However, it is likely that you are biochemically "off" from eating too many of the wrong types of calories (i.e., those derived from processed and packaged foods).
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2. Clean out your fridge
How can we expect to pack our fridge with delicious, nutrient-dense foods if our shelves are packed with an outrageous amount of bottles, jars and containers? Take the time to remove everything from your fridge and put it on your kitchen counter. Before you put the food back into your fridge, ask yourself these questions.
• Is this food past expiry date?
• Will I eat this food?
• Is this food healthy for me?
Similar to being more effective while working at an organized desk, people have greater success at weight loss once their fridge is organized and clean.
3. Becoming label savvy
Check your food labels and ingredient lists. For example, many food items that are labeled "low fat" are actually quite high in sugar. Simply look at your ingredients list to see if one of the first few words listed are sugar, cane sugar or glucose. If so, beware: these foods will not satisfy you long term, will cause weight gain and will increase sweet cravings. As a general rule, if the ingredient list has words you can't pronounce, or more than five ingredients that you are unable to identify, it will not be good for your overall health – or your waistline.
What should my fridge and kitchen cupboards look like?
Now that you have eliminated all of the "bad" it is time to load up your fridge and cupboards with the "good". Ideal foods to start this season off right for weight loss include:
• Colorful fruits and vegetables – Canadians are still not eating the amount of fresh produce recommended. The key to boosting your fruit and vegetable intake is to make it grab and go. In other words, cut up your broccoli prior to putting it in the fridge, wash your apples, slice your carrots and celery and keep it in water in a container. This way, when you open the fridge door when hungry, you will grab a nutrient-filled fruit or vegetable option.
• Hard-cooked eggs – For the perfect high-protein, fill-me-up snack, opt for a hard-cooked egg sprinkled with a little sea salt.
• Probiotic yogurts – Whether you like strawberry or vanilla, yogurt will help satisfy any sweet tooth. Look for Greek yogurt, which tends to be higher in protein and lower in sugar.
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• Nuts and seeds – Eating a handful of walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds will offer you a healthy dose of good fat, all the while filling you up.
• Nitrate-free meats – Visit your local butcher and request nitrate-free sliced turkey or chicken for quick and healthy sandwiches.
• Cold-water fish – Canned salmon, light tuna, sardines and herring are all wonderful fish options to eat on a regular basis. Other tasty fish options are tilapia, sole, black cod and mahi mahi.
• Whole grain breads, wraps and pasta – Research has demonstrated that whole grains are filled with fiber, which fills you up and helps with weight loss.
• Beans – Lentils, black beans, navy beans and chickpeas are all nutritional powerhouses that are high in fiber, low on the glycemic index and are the perfect addition to salads or soups.
• Dark chocolate – Dark chocolate offers antioxidant, heart-healthy benefits. Enjoy chocolate that is 60-70 per cent cocoa.
• Frozen fruits – Make life easier by stocking your freezer with frozen fruits for creamy morning smoothies or homemade popsicles – perfect to curb that evening sweet tooth!
• Berries – All types of berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, goji berries) are low on the glycemic index and high in anti-oxidants.
• High quality protein powder – add a whey protein isolate powder to your morning smoothie for sustained energy.
• Unsweetened applesauce – Unsweetened applesauce is also a calorie light, naturally sweet way to curb a sweet craving.
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Dr. Joey Shulman is founder of The Shulman Weight Loss Clinic and author of Healthy Sin Foods – Decadence without the Guilt (Penguin, 2009). For more information, please visit www.drjoey.com