Tending to your nutritional health is vital to both losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, says Dr. Joey Shulman, a registered nutritionist and founder and CEO of Shulman Weight Loss Clinic in Thornhill, Ont. Following these easy tips and tricks will have you looking and feeling great in no time.
• Be a label reader. When buying snacks, breads and cereals, "look for things that are made with whole grains, not refined flours, and be wary of things that say 'made with,' which indicates only a little has been added in," says Shulman. Look for products that are 100 per cent whole grain or whole wheat.
• Always eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast will have you hitting the vending machines come 3 p.m., snacking while you prep dinner and overfilling your plate when you eat. Shulman recommends having protein at breakfast; it keeps you full longer, helping to curb snacking, and gives you an extra jolt of energy for the day. Your kids will love eggs, natural peanut butter on their toast and a small amount of cheese before heading off for school. And whether you're 25 or 55, a handful of nuts or some quinoa will give you a protein boost to get you ready for that big presentation at work. If you love breakfast cereals, says Shulman, practise the "five in five" rule: Pick a cereal that has five or more grams of fibre and less than five grams of sugar per serving.
• Top-load your days. "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper," says Shulman, who recommends filling up on a breakfast of 300 to 400 calories, eating a lunch with a similar calorie count, enjoying two healthy snacks throughout the day and finishing with a light dinner.
• Practise the mantra, "nutrient-dense, calorie-light." Repeat this over and over again until you've filled your grocery cart with foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre, such as fish, poultry, fruits and veggies, and whole grains. "Nutrient-dense, calorie-light foods fill you up," says Shulman. "[Avoid] the products where 14 ingredients are listed, or the first words end with an 'ose ' [such as glucose, fructose]."
Page 1 of 4 – Discover which foods to keep handy to combat your worst junk food cravings on page 2.
• Be aware of what you eat. Have you ever opened a package of chips and five minutes later found yourself staring at an empty bag? We've all been there. Experts call this "mindless eating." The trick to beating it is practising mindful eating: paying attention to what goes on your plate, and eating slowly and enjoying your food.
Sound too New Age for you? Consider this: Researchers asked 30 women to eat a meal quickly and, several days later, to eat a meal slowly, then measured the amount of food they ate and how satisfied they felt at the end of each meal. When the women ate slowly, they consumed fewer calories and drank more water than when they ate a meal rapidly. After the slow meal, they reported greater satiety than they did after the quick meal.
• Fill up on fruits and veggies. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men and women who include large helpings of fresh fruits and veggies in their diets lose 33 per cent more weight after six months than those who focus only on cutting back on fat.
• Drink at least two litres of water a day. Water not only keeps your body working properly, but it also helps you metabolize fat – and it doesn't add to your daily calorie count. "It also prevents you from eating when you're not hungry, but actually thirsty," says Mazzuca Prebeg. Kerr adds, "If you drink water with or between meals, it keeps your stomach relatively full and then you're not needing to snack as much."
• Regulate your calorie intake. Say no to processed foods and yes to veggies and high-fibre choices. Kerr says eating more protein and vegetables than carbs will make you feel more satisfied. "So you don't need to take in as many calories to still feel full." Try this menu for a satisfying dinner: half a plate of cooked fresh vegetables, one-quarter plate of a lean meat, such as chicken, and one-quarter plate of carbs, such as a baked or mashed potato. High-fibre foods can also help you feel full for longer. Good choices include rolled oats, bran cereal, lentils, black beans, whole wheat spaghetti and raspberries.
• Keep healthy snacks, such as vegetable sticks, on hand for stressful times. Feeling stressed can lead you to seek out comfort foods, which are usually high-fat choices such as potato chips and ice cream, says Posen. A high-fat diet, in addition to being high in calories, will also stimulate cortisol production, which leads to insulin resistance. "When you're insulin-resistant, glucose can't move into the cells to be burned as fuel; it ends up being stored in the body as fat," says Posen. "That can lead to weight gain and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes."
Page 2 of 3 ‐ Think diet soda is a guilt-free pleasure? Find out why low-calorie pop can actually hurt your diet on page 3.
• Pass on the pop. The Nurses' Health Study found that women who increased their consumption of sugary drinks from one or fewer drinks per week to one or more per day gained more weight over a four-year period than women who cut back on sugary drinks. And according to a study published in Physiology and Behavior, dieters who drink soda regularly have higher body mass indexes than those who don't.
• Become a teetotaller. Alcohol has empty calories and will do nothing for you except help you pack on the pounds – and leave you with a nasty hangover. But if you do decide to have some alcohol during your girls' getaway or weekly bridge night, choose a sugar-free mixed drink or a dry wine (dry wines have less sugar), says Lori Kennedy, a registered holistic nutritionist in Toronto.
• Curb nighttime eating. Overloading on refined sugars and flours before bed can really hinder your weight loss, says Shulman. It tends to result in your body producing too much insulin, which can trigger fat storage.
• Manage your sweet tooth. Instead of hemming and hawing over that bag of cookies in the cupboard, put on the kettle and enjoy a cup of tea. Also, flavours such as cinnamon, butterscotch, vanilla and chocolate mint will help keep your cravings at bay. Need some more ways to trick your sweet tooth into satisfaction? "Try veggies, fruit and unsweetened applesauce," says Shulman.
• Indulge occasionally. Keeping yourself on a strict regimen will only make your cravings harder to curb, says Shulman. So go ahead and eat that brownie on Friday night – just make sure that come Saturday morning you're back on your nutritional A-game. Shulman advises her patients to follow the 80/20 rule: Eat healthfully 80 per cent of the time and allow 20 per cent for indulging on special occasions.
• Make the most of weekends. A lack of free time is no excuse to let your diet fall by the wayside. Instead, "practise 'Super Sundays,'" says Shulman. "Getting your food prep done for the week ahead will keep you from falling off track." Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge, make sure you have sliced vegetables ready for a quick snack, and keep plenty of easy to grab fruit on hand.
• Meet with a registered dietitian (RD). "People will often underestimate how much they're consuming, and they have no idea what a normal portion size is or what a healthy diet would be," says Dr. Dara Maker, a family physician with Women's College Hospital in Toronto. "If you're following up with a dietitian, someone else is checking your progress – and that can be very motivating." Visits with an RD aren't covered by most provincial health plans, but many family doctors work with one. You can also look into whether your work plan will cover the cost; some do. And residents of Ontario and British Columbia can phone or email a dietitian directly for nutritional advice.
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