Healthy eating can be very daunting for many people who didn’t grow up learning those habits. Nowadays, there is so much information on food, exercise and how those things impact your health and the science around it that hopefully healthy habits will start to be easier for next generations. But for those of us who did not have these ingrained in us from the start I’m going to give you the one secret to making it manageable and a few tips on how to execute it!
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American consumes around 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar every day. But AHA guidelines say adult women should limit their intake to 5 teaspoons of sugar per day; for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons daily; and for children, it’s 3 teaspoons a day.
Saying “no” to sweets isn’t as easy as it seems. Try the following tips to reduce your sugar intake:
Read the label. Fructose, glucose, lactose, maltodextrin and dextrose are all types of sugar. Read grocery labels to see what’s in your favorite foods. Salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, soups and even pizza crusts can contain sugar. Look for products labeled “low sugar” or “sugar free” to help reduce your sugar intake. Also read the portion size. It may be much smaller than what you’re used to eating.
Watch your breakfast. Deep-fried dough topped with icing and candy sprinkles isn’t anywhere near healthy. Start your morning with oatmeal and fruit or a breakfast shake with almond milk, frozen bananas and a little peanut butter. Breakfast meals high in fiber and protein will keep you satisfied until lunch.
Use a sugar substitute in your coffee. Sugar substitutes can sweeten without adding calories because they offer a concentrated dose of sweetness and are generally calorie-free. This small change of mind can save you several sweet teaspoons every single day, and you will most likely find that you do not miss it.
Free sweets aren’t free. Many work sites, businesses or offices have candy, doughnuts or other sweets to snack on. Instead, keep a stash of fruit, gum, or sugar free candies in a draw at your desk. You have more control over those items because you know the serving size and calorie count.
Indulge your sweet tooth naturally. Fruits, honey, maple syrup and molasses all contain natural sugars. A juicy granny smith apple, will give you a sweet burst of flavor along with beneficial vitamins and fiber. A slice of lemon will perk up a glass of flat or sparkling water without adding a lot of sugar. Just be careful- natural sweeteners are still as calorie-dense as sugar, so use them sparingly.
Indulge in the highest-quality sweets that you can afford. You will get more satisfaction from enjoying one divine chocolate truffle than you will from a couple stale cookies. Only eat sweets that you really, really like. Forget the rest, and then don’t beat up on yourself when you have a sugary treat that you really enjoy.
The best way to cut down on added sugars is to read the labels and know how much sugar you’re consuming. By limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising nutrition.
“Trendy” in the dieting world currently means low carbohydrate. You can’t walk the aisles of a grocery store, turn on the television, or pick up a magazine without seeing something about carbs. The best-selling diets out now, some of which include the Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet, and The Zone, exclude carbs almost entirely or limit certain types of carbs. And, more and more restaurants and fast food chains are now offering carb-conscious menus.
- Almost no carbs allowed (including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
- No calorie or fat restrictions (diet contains almost three times the recommended saturated fat)
- Overall, the diet lacks many nutrients including vitamins C, D, and E; thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc
- Diet contains very little fiber
South Beach Diet
- Some carbs that are high in fiber are allowed
- Restricts saturated fats: no butter, bacon or fried foods
- Each meal or snack has to be split up as follows: 40% carb, 30% protein and 30% unsaturated fat
- Carbohydrates have to be combined with proteins in certain amounts in order to stabilize blood sugar
The Low-Carb Diet Lowdown
Limited studies have shown that following a carb-restricted diet, like the above, will produce weight loss; however, there are no long-term studies yet available that show how safe or effective these diets can be in maintaining weight loss. Many health and nutrition experts question the nutritional quality and one’s ability to follow these diets after an extended period of time.
Most people will lose weight initially on too-restrictive diets, but after they begin to incorporate some of the foods they have been avoiding, they tend to gain the weight (plus more sometimes) back. A more sensible approach that moderately limits (not excludes) carbs increases your chances of getting all your nutrients and keeping the weight you lose off for good!
Not All Carbohydrates Are Created Equal
Carbs have gotten a bad rap, but the bottom line is that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates are found in most foods, with the exception of meats, fats, and oils. That’s why it can be hard to follow such an extremely low-carb diet. However, a more moderate carb diet that consists of whole grains instead of refined grains is a safe and effective way to lose weight and get all the nutrition you need, including meeting the daily requirement for fiber. If you’ve decided to watch your carb intake, you should know the difference between refined (“bad”) and unrefined (“good”) carbohydrates.
Refined (simple carbs, processed)
- Get absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing an almost immediate spike in the blood sugar and insulin production which can make you hungry
- Contain few vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals
- Contain little to no fiber
- Generally found in white rice, bread, and pasta; certain cereals, and sugary foods like candy
Unrefined (whole grains, complex carbs, unprocessed)
- Unlike refined or simple carbs, whole grains need to be broken down before they can be absorbed. This breaking down process avoids a spike in your blood sugar and insulin production
- Contain many nutrients that have been shown to be protective against chronic diseases like cancer
- Good source of fiber
- Generally found in fruit and vegetables, oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, whole-grain bread and any whole grains, such as brown rice, couscous and bulgur
You’ve given up your favorite candy bar, favorite fast food restaurant and many of your favorite meals. Trying to lose weight and being on a “diet” is no fun, right? Wrong! Once you learn that it’s not about being on a diet but rather learning to live a healthier lifestyle you’ll come to realize you don’t need to eliminate certain foods and beverages from your diet. It’s all about moderation!
Believe it or not, some of your favorite foods are actually good for you when consumed in moderation.
Nuts get a bad rap because they’re high in fat. Fortunately, nuts are high in “good fats” — monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for the heart. They are also a great source of protein and vitamins. Because nuts contain mainly protein and “good fat,” you will feel fuller for a longer period of time as these nutrients take longer to digest.
Best Bet: Have a handful (25 nuts) between meals to stave off hunger. Or, try adding a handful of nuts to your salad for an extra boost of flavor.
Chocolate is a weakness for many people, especially those trying to lose weight. Although chocolate can be high in calories and fat, it also contains antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. In addition, a recent preliminary study suggests cocoa may also help lower blood pressure.
Best Bet: Go for dark chocolate, which contains less fatty cocoa butter. If you enjoy chocolate, go ahead and indulge, just choose a smaller portion such as a “fun-size” candy bar. Also, there are a variety of sugar-free chocolates available that taste great without a lot of calories!
To lose weight you’re not just stuck with chicken, turkey or tofu. Red meat is a great source of protein and iron, and can be lower in calories if you trim the fat ﾖ so choose leaner cuts of meat.
Best Bet: Go for a serving (the size of a deck of playing cards) of lean meat. Look for words such as “round” or “loin” (such as round steak or sirloin), which means the meat is leaner.
You don’t need to eliminate cheese from your diet if you’re hoping to lose weight. Cheese can be high in fat and calories but it’s also a great source of calcium. Calcium helps keep your bones strong and helps prevent osteoporosis, which is especially important for women. The good news is that the lower-fat and lower-calorie varieties provide the same nutrients! Cheese is also a great way to add flavor to a dish without using a large portion.
Best Bet: Use cheeses that have a strong flavor such as feta and blue cheese. You will use less and still enjoy the flavor of the cheese in your meal. Also, there are numerous low-fat cheeses that taste delicious. Many of them are even great for cooking!
It’s not practical to think of foods as “forbidden” while you’re trying to lose weight. Sure, some foods may be better for you than others but it’s okay to indulge every once in a while. As you can see, many popular foods often considered “bad” can actually provide health benefits if eaten in the context of an overall healthy diet.