By Ed Shepherd CHC, CPT
1. DRINK WATER
Hunger is often confused with dehydration. Next time you feel like having a snack, have a glass of water. Even mild dehydration can alter our body’s metabolism, so aim to drink eight glasses a day and limit soda and fruit drinks. Drinking water before meals can help promote weight loss, and studies show that those who drink two glasses of water before meals feel fuller and eat less.
2. EAT CARBS: REAL CARBS!
Replace refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, bagels, cereal and pretzels with complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which slows digestion and promotes stable blood sugar levels. Complex carbs are also packed with antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body.
Whole grain carbohydrates should always be chosen over refined varieties. Think about eating foods in their most natural forms. For example, breads are made from wheat that’s milled, while brown rice is simply taken straight from the plant – complete with fiber and phytonutrients the way Mother Nature intended they be eaten!
3. CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS
A common misconception is that fat should be completely eliminated.In reality, we could not live without fat. The body utilizes dietary fat for energy, healthy hair, skin, nails, vitamin absorption and normal everyday bodily functions.
Good fats promote several health benefits such as protection against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression as well as reduced blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Choose sources such as nuts, seeds, fish, avocados and extra virgin olive oil.
4. EMPHASIZE LEAN PROTEIN
Our bodies require protein to continuously renew and replenish our cells, stabilize our blood sugar. Our bodies are literally made out of the amino acids that make up protein in our food. Many foods contain protein, but the richest sources include animal products like meat, dairy, eggs and fish as well as plant sources like beans, nuts and seeds.
When choosing animal protein sources be conscious of the way the animal was raised and what it ate. Grass-fed beef and free-range chicken are healthier and more ethically sound choices than feed lot meats. Organic yogurt and cage-free eggs are great for vegetarians, while tofu, tempeh and peanut butter are good vegan protein sources.
5. EAT BREAKFAST
By eating a hearty breakfast you’ll give your metabolism a jumpstart and be in better control of your cravings. When we miss our first fuel of the day we are often hungry by mid-morning and more likely to engage in mindless nibbling, snacking, overeating and over compensating for any calories “saved” by skipping breakfast.
Studies repeatedly show daily breakfast consumption is associated with maintaining a healthy weight. But if you’re not ready for breakfast early in the morning, listen to your body and eat when you feel it’s best for you.
6. EAT MORE FREQUENTLY
It’s important to balance your food intake throughout the day to help maintain normal blood sugar and decrease the chances of binging when hunger strikes.
Try to keep track of your meal choices and balance your caloric intake. Feeding your body on a regular basis lets it know food is available and it’s okay to burn energy rather than conserve and store it as fat.
7. EXERCISE YOUR BODY AND MIND
Exercise has enormous benefits for your mind and body with research boasting decreased body weight, smaller waist circumference, lower resting heart rate and blood pressure, AND it boosts your mood! Strive to be active at least 30 minutes every day to help keep your body strong and lean.Even playing with your children in the park or trying a hand at gardening will keep your body active. It’s also just as important to keep your mind active. Boost brainpower by spending time thinking positively, meditating, or practicing activities that require deep thought like reading or playing Sudoku.
8. CATCH SOME ZZZZ’S
Research suggests that those who sleep five hours or less weigh five pounds more than those getting at least seven hours of shut eye per night.Lack of sleep disrupts circadian rhythms and can lead to inefficient body regulation of energy balance, metabolism and appetite. Abnormal leptin and ghrelin levels – hormones that tell your body “I’m full, stop eating” – can go away with too little sleep. Said simply: Sleep more, eat, and weigh less! Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
9. LEARN TO COOK
Cooking meals at home allows you to control portion sizes, the quality of ingredients, and cuts your intake of sodium, fat and calories.Try to avoid frying foods by learning how to roast or bake, and eat more raw foods to boost flavor and cut calories. Also try experimenting with herbs and spices to reduce salt intake.
10. KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU EAT
Be a food detective and investigate what you choose to put into your body. Check labels and avoid ingredients such as sugar, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and long chemical names that are hard to pronounce.
The healthiest foods are those found just as nature intended – whole and unprocessed. When was the last time you saw an ingredient list on a stalk of broccoli or a fresh fillet of salmon?