With so much information pouring from all ends of the internet about diet, weight-loss and healthy eating habits, I thought I would list out my facts, tips and tricks for achieving and maintaining a truly healthy lifestyle, which starts from what you eat.
Too much fruit is not a good thing. Fruit is composed of sugar and carbs, and although some fruit is necessary, too much can be harmful for blood sugar, weight loss, and overall health. Stick to 2-3 servings of fruit, ensuring that high carb fruits like apples and bananas are consumed early in the day instead of in the evenings or before bed. My favorite fruits include blueberries, strawberries, avocados, mango, pineapple, kiwis and pomegranate- all delicious and full of essential nutrients!
When your parents told you to eat your veggies as a child, they knew what they were talking about. This is an obvious essential food group and is one of the rare options that you can eat almost unlimited amounts of, if eaten raw. I will be the first to admit that my ideal snack idea is not crunching on raw carrots, but I do enjoy a nice and colorful mixed vegetable side at dinner. My favorite veggies include, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and spring mixes, zucchini, squash, broccoli, asparagus, and garlic, ginger and onions when cooking. Try to make this your largest food group and incorporate 3-4 servings daily.
Trying to function without grains is like trying to drive a car without fuel. Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, barley and brown rice are full of essential nutrients that will fill you with energy and sustain these energy levels throughout the day without the crash that coffee, soda, or energy drinks inevitably lead to. I like to eat a whole grain oat blend in the mornings, and brown rice to pair with whatever veggie concoction I can come up with for dinner. There are also quite a few whole grain snacks and chips (yes, I said chips) that contain additional ingredients such as flax and chia seeds that I am guilty of snacking on several times a week!
Most people are eating too much protein and not enough grains. Be aware of this misconception and limit your protein to 3 servings per day. Protein was once considered the most valuable ingredient in a diet, and rightfully so- it builds lean muscle and keeps you full until your next meal! For those of you who remember the old food pyramid, protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, and nuts as well as dairy products like greek yogurt and cheese (my other guilty pleasure after fries). I don’t each much dairy aside from the occasional yogurt for its probiotic benefits, but I do eat plenty of salmon, nuts, seeds and lentils- one of the most underrated sources of protein.
Fats are not your enemy; they can be your best friend! No, I am not talking about hamburgers or pizza, sorry. I am talking about healthy fats which are vital to include in your diet for various benefits such as heart health, prevention of disease, and cellular repair. Some sources of healthy fats include olive oil, wild-cot salmon, avocados, eggs (not egg whites, but the actual yolk), and most nuts and seeds such as walnuts and chia seeds.
Don’t skip breakfast. It really is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The longer you go without eating, the more your body’s natural survival mechanisms kick in- so if your body thinks you are starving it, it will actually store more fat instead of burning it. A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism so you can burn more fat throughout the day, along with the obvious benefit of literally providing you with the energy to carry out the responsibilities of the day ahead.
Eat late, gain weight. Basically, eat an early dinner- or at least at a semi-decent time as your schedule allows. Going straight to sleep after a high-carb dinner allows those carbs to turn into fat while you sleep, so it’s always a good idea to finish your last meal a few hours before bedtime- bonus points if you can squeeze in a quick 20 minute walk after dinner, because sitting around watching TV in the couple of hours between dinner and bed is almost just as bad!
The key to a healthy diet is awareness. A balanced diet is an integral part to living your healthiest life, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. This means to eat with awareness, along with the science of balancing the right foods, in the right amounts, at the right time. Awareness means to eat mindfully without distractions and pay attention to what you are putting in your body, to listen to your body and notice how each person reacts differently to certain foods, and to eat intuitively but not skip meals or restrict yourself from enjoyable foods entirely- these are just a few ways to stick to a nutritious diet and create lifelong healthy eating habits rather than falling prey to the newest temporary diet fad.
Everyone is different, but we all deserve to feel good. For those of you with the primary goal of lowering the number on the scale, keep in mind that weight loss is only 20% exercise but 80% diet, so you may consider tracking your macros for better progress. Fat loss is a science with no way around it: you must burn more calories than you intake. Above all, remember that what is most important is how you feel (especially if you’re gaining muscle and healthy weight) and there is no benefit in losing weight if you are unhealthy and unhappy.