13 Steps To Eating Well:
For Weight Loss or Health
by Maren Sederquist, MES, CSCS, CPT
"You are what you eat." I've made the solution to that simple phrase simple for you as well. Whether you want to eat well to lose weight or to be healthy, there only 13 steps you need to take. Take it one step at a time and make it a habit, until you're the healthy eater you want to be!
Focus on what you should eat, rather than what you shouldn’t. If you get all the quality nutrition in that you should, you're not likely to be hungry for more.
Drink water. Often your body’s thirst and hunger signals get mixed up. Try drinking before eating, in case you’re really just thirsty, not hungry. Replace your high calorie sodas and juices with water. You should eat your calories, not drink them, since drinks don’t have fiber and don’t give you the same sensation of fullness that food does. If you don’t care for the taste of water, add lemon or a a splash of juice to add flavor and encourage drinking more.
Eat fruits and vegetables. Recommendations are now for 5 to 9 servings per day. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and help fill you up, while providing you with quality nutrition. They also help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure down, and have phytochemicals to help prevent disease.
Eat whole grain starches. Choose brown or wild rice over white rice. Choose whole-wheat pastas, breads and tortillas. Choose whole oats and whole grain cereals. If it doesn’t say whole grain it probably isn’t. Another way to tell is if one serving had 3 or more grams of fiber. Whole grains are more filling as well as filled with cholesterol -reducing fiber.
Make lean protein choices. When eating poultry, choose white meat over dark, and pass on the high-fat skin. Choose pork chops or lean ham instead of bacon or sausage. Seafood is always a good choice since even the fattier fish are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, but don't overdo it since many fish contain mercury. Shellfish is even a good choice as long as you don’t drown it in drawn butter. Select lean ground beef or sirloin if you have a craving for red meat, and limit high fat cuts like filet or prime rib. Egg whites provide superb protein without the fat and cholesterol of the yolk, and beans and other legumes are great choices for vegans.
Switch to low or nonfat dairy. Wean yourself gradually from high fat dairy products. Give your self a few weeks of getting used to 2% milk before you try switching to 1%, and a few more before switching to nonfat. Look for other ways to limit dairy fat with low or nonfat yogurts, cottage cheese and other cheeses, and by switching to a smaller size latte, or choosing a cappuccino instead of a latte or mocha.
Discern between the different types of fat. Saturated fats can raise your bad cholesterol numbers, but trans fats can also lower your good cholesterol! Cut trans fats out as much as you can, limit saturated fats, and get your fat from unsaturated fat sources such as olives and olive oil, and nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
Keep a food journal. Every study that has looked at people who’ve been successful at weight loss and permanently changing their eating habits, has shown that writing your food down is essential. The simple act of logging your food keeps you conscious of your eating and allows you to see the areas where you can still make little changes.
Watch your portions. The FDA has required food manufacturers to put food labels including the serving size on all packaged food. There is no standardization for what that serving size is however. A serving of bread could be a slice that's 40 calories or 110 calories. Another trick food manufacturers use is to make the calories low, but it's because there are really 4 servings instead of what you think is one!
Eat frequently. Small frequent meals are the way to go. Eating 5 to 6 times a day is ideal, so you’re re-supplying your body with nourishment approximately every 3 hours. Give or take an hour is okay depending on your true hunger level and what you ate at your last meal, but don’t skip meals or even snacks, thinking you’ll lose weight. Eating less often usually makes you just eat more at the next meal since you’re so hungry, and teaches your body to store food rather than to continuously burn it.
Balance your meals and snacks. Protein, fiber and fat are the three things you can consume that will make you feel more full. You don’t want to overdo on fat, but make sure you have some protein and fiber at each meal. A perfect meal should contain a protein source, a fibrous food (fruit or vegetable), and a starch preferably whole grain and also containing fiber. Small, equal sizes of each, and you have a perfect balance!
Reduce sugar and processed foods. Okay, now that you’re eating all the right things you probably won’t have room for high sugar, refined and processed foods anyway. But in case you do, look for more nutritious substitutes for these comfort foods. Lowfat cookies may sound like diet food, but they leave your body searching for more since you’re not getting nutrition out of them. Focus on getting good foods from above, and gradually making your choices better and better.
Listen to your body. Last but not least, try to re-learn what your body’s hunger queues are. Stop eating when you’re not hungry anymore, rather than when you’re full. Remember you get to eat again in 3 hours! It takes your body 20 minutes from the time you started eating to register that your stomach is being fed. If you ate fast, try taking a break and giving yourself permission to go back for seconds if you’re really still hungry 20 minutes later.