It can be confusing for the average person as to what sort of foods they should and shouldn’t eat for optimal health, especially when weight loss is a key goal. First of all, dieting is a very self limiting, self defeating concept. It has a negative connotation surrounding it and ultimately prevents you from becoming the healthy vibrant person you envision. Going on a ‘diet’ conjures up images of half empty plates, restrictive meal plans, starvation, and constant hunger pangs. You end up discouraged and defeated before you even start. So when I use the term diet I am simply referring to its meaning as it originated: the foods you choose as a way of life. Furthermore, restrictive dieting ultimately has a rebound effect resulting in more weight gain and a slower metabolism. This can set you up for future health issues such as insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, and even diabetes.
That’s why I encourage people to adopt a healthy, balanced, and consistent lifestyle. Not just a temporary fix for that little outfit your dying to fit into. A healthy lifestyle is eating wholesome foods, clean foods, unprocessed foods; it is eating with mindfulness, awareness, and appreciation. Food becomes a way to nourish the body, to feed your cells the nutrients they need to keep you healthy. Calorie counting becomes unnecessary when you’re choosing nutrient dense, quality foods.
That being said, let’s be realistic for a moment. It’s easy to choose only healthy foods if that’s all we’re exposed to, but that is just not the case. We’re constantly bombarded with temptations: deep fried foods, chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, cookies, pizza. The list is endless. The key here again, is balance. Allow yourself some indulgences, try to follow the 90/10 rule. Eat really good 90% of the time and indulge 10% of the time, that way you won’t feel deprived. As your body adjusts to a clean healthy diet, those cravings will diminish and your indulgences will become less frequent and desirable.
I have chosen 5 basic concepts that should be your dietary foundation. If they seem familiar that’s probably because they are. These are simple, tried and true rules for a healthy lifestyle.
- Water – People often mistake hunger for dehydration. The next time you feel like reaching for a snack, have a glass of water instead. See how you feel, many times it was just thirst, not true hunger that you were experiencing. Water is an excellent and simple tool in your weight loss bag of tricks, it can help to stave off hunger, especially if you add some fresh lemon juice to it. That helps to stabilize your blood sugar and keep cravings down. Water is also essential to the health of your body, it transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and lubricates your joints. Aim to drink 8 to 10 glasses of pure, filtered water everyday. More accurately you should drink the ounce amount of half your body weight. So for a 140 pound person they would need 70 ounces, or 8.75 full 8 oz glasses of water per day. This is especially important when you’re active, you may even need more, so get drinking!
- Greens – Green vegetables are packed with nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, fiber and more. They are very low calorie, so you can load up on them without any guilt. Ideally you should eat greens at every meal. Breakfast can be tricky for some but if you drink a smoothie it is easy to throw in a handful of spinach and your taste buds will be none the wiser. You can also purchase green powders if fresh greens don’t seem appealing, but whole foods work just as well. Greens powders are another amazing appetite suppressor, they provide your body with so many nutrients that cravings and hunger don’t stand a chance. Have a glass of water mixed with a greens formula for your mid afternoon or morning snack. Other super food greens include broccoli, kale, chard, lettuce, parsley, and asian greens. Keep an open mind, it’s easy once it becomes a habit. Your body will thank you.
- Protein – Protein is an absolute must with every meal and snack. Protein provides the amino acids the body needs to build and repair muscle and tissue. Consuming protein regularly will keep your blood sugar levels stable and satisfy your hunger. It does this by lowering the glycemic index of your food. So, for example, if you’ve just eaten pasta it will digest very rapidly and and cause a quick rise in your blood glucose levels. An energy crash will follow, and then hunger with a desire to eat something else. If you add protein to your pasta meal, digestion will slow, blood glucose will rise at a steady rate, your satiety will last longer and you won’t get a blood sugar dip followed by cravings for more food. This goes for everything: fruit smoothies, dried fruit snacks, crackers, chips, rice. Add protein and you will eat less, feel satisfied longer, build muscle, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Fat – Many weight conscious people make the mistake of cutting fat from their diet. Good fats like Omega 3’s are absolutely essential to the health of every cell in your body. We must ensure that adequate amounts are being consumed through our diet. Omega 3’s are needed for hormone production, regulation of inflammation, cellular communication, brain function, and more. One major use that is often overlooked is the ability of Omega 3’s to speed up metabolism. That’s right, it takes fat to burn fat. The high caloric value of fats is essentially irrelevant because good fats are used up quickly by the body in structural, hormonal, and electrical functions. Plus, when taken in excess, above what your body needs to maintain cellular function, Omega 3’s rev up your metabolism and help you lose weight. Another metabolic boosting fat is the medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil. MCTs are burned directly in your liver, they are not stored as fat and can actually give you energy for your workout. Try a teaspoon of organic coconut oil with your preworkout snack. Good fats also increase satiety so ultimately you are eating less and feeling satisfied sooner and for longer. Bonus! ( The thermogenic effect of these fats will only be effective if you keep your levels of saturated fats to a minimum)
- Fiber – I saved the best for last, my personal favorite, fiber. It’s the slim down secret of the century. Who knew that something mostly thought of as a constipation reliever could be helpful for weight loss. Another glycemic index reducer, fiber binds with your food to slow the rate of digestion and release of blood sugar. This, again, keeps you feeling full and satisfied for longer, and helps reduce cravings. It can also cause you to eat less because fiber fills your belly and expands when it comes into contact with fluids, leaving less room for your meal. If you take a fiber supplement about 15 to 30 minutes before your meal it will help to regulate your appetite. Make sure you drink adequate water with your fiber to allow it to move through your system. Also incorporate high fiber foods into your diet such as berries, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables. Not only will it keep you regular, it’ll slim your waistline too.
Whole foods should always be your first choice when it comes to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss plan. A number of the above things can also be taken in supplement form if your lifestyle is too busy and you don’t have time to prepare certain foods. I would always, no matter how healthy you think your diet may be, recommend a good quality multivitamin. Our foods today simply don’t supply us with the proper amount of nutrients they once did 50 years ago. In addition, I will quickly note a few other superstars in the weight loss bag of tricks.
- Chromium– a mineral needed for blood sugar regulation, can also help reduce body weight while increasing lean body mass, take 400 mcg of chromium picolinate
- Green Tea or Yerba Mate – excellent thermogenic effect, appetite suppressor, and high in antioxidants, drink 2 to 3 cups daily, add lemon juice and sweeten with stevia, YUM!
- 5 HTP – helps produce serotonin, our feel good, antidepressant hormone, great for people with strong sugar and carb cravings, especially around the menstrual cycle, take 50 – 100 mg, 20 minutes before meals, 3X per day
- Phaseolamin (Phase 2) – this is white kidney bean extract, it actually binds to amylase (the enzyme that breaks down starches) to prevent the body from digesting carbohydrates and thus reducing the calories absorbed. Phase 2 is a really effective tool when used periodically for those times when our cravings get the best of us. (Think pizza party followed by box of cookies) Just don’t use it as an excuse to have a day to day free for all!
- Metabolism Booster Formulas – there are many safe, herbal based formulas that when taken preworkout and midday, can keep your metabolism running at top speed and give your weight loss a jumpstart.
These tools can greatly enhance your weight loss goals, just make sure you are still following the healthy lifestyle foundation. Always check with a health professional if you’re taking prescription medication or have specific medical conditions prior to trying some of these formulas.
We must also realize and accept that every one is an individual. A diet that works for one person, may not work for another. There is no one size fits all lifestyle. The above core 5 points provide an excellent foundation for everyone, but what will fluctuate is the amounts and types of certain foods some can tolerate. Listen to your body and go with what feels right for you. Congratulations and good luck on your journey.
Written by: Krista Boulding