We could all do better in general when it comes to our diet, no matter what our health or fitness goals are. Maybe we don’t have fitness goals yet. I want to give you some ideas for tweaking your diet. Some of these tips may sound familiar, but it can't hurt to revisit them. I am a Certified Personal Trainer -- not a nutritionist -- so it is only in my scope of practice to give general diet guidelines. You will not find dietary advice specific to your situation. Consult a doctor before changing your diet if you have any health concerns.
1. Watch your portions.
This is number one because so many people want to lose at least a little bit of weight, and controlling portions is the best strategy to make it happen. Use a smaller plate at dinner time.
The visual experience of eating from a full plate -- as opposed to a half-empty plate -- will send a subliminal signal to your brain that you are taking in an abundance of food.
2. Strike a balance.
You don't have to become a fanatic about your diet to eat healthier. Try to incorporate a wide variety of healthy choices. You don't have to go extremes. Carb-free, low fat, high protein, or any other diet fads should be avoided unless medically prescribed. Simply observe the axiom: Everything in moderation. Concentrate on taking in a wide variety of nutrients.
3. What are healthy foods?
Healthy foods come from: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy and oils (These are the food groups listed at choosemyplate.gov). Unfortunately, these food groups can also be used in unhealthy ways. Here are ways to avoid that. Look for foods that are whole grain and avoid foods that are deep fried. Limit foods that are processed or packaged in a factory. Foods with added salt or sugar are not your friends. Stay within your daily caloric needs. You can track your calories by using an app like “Lose It” or “My Fitness Pal”
4. Choose foods from all of the groups
Start with vegetables because they have the lowest caloric content and yield the highest nutritional value. Fill half your lunch or dinner plate with a variety of vegetables. Include a green, red, and orange vegetables. Perhaps include a legume (beans). The other half of the plate could contain a whole grain and a lean protein source. Finish off with a fruit even if it doesn’t fit on the plate.
5. Eat nutritious foods for a lasting sense of fullness
Nutritious food will satisfy your hunger for a longer period of time. The longer lasting energy this brings will prevent you from snacking on junk food. What foods do this? Your best bet is to incorporate a protein, some healthy fat, and a carbohydrate source into each meal. Doing so will prevent an energy crash and suffering the temptation to reach for empty calories.
A lot of times you might think that you are hungry, when you are actually dehydrated. Next time you eat a meal and are still hungry afterwards, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 10 minutes to see if the hunger goes away. Better still, drink water throughout the day and avoid soft drinks. How do you know if you are hydrated? Urine color holds is a good indicator. If you drink enough water, urine stays mostly clear with a only a slight yellow color to. Darker urine indicates you may not be getting enough water. Coffee, tea, and soft drinks will not suffice. Drinking plenty of water prevents the dehydration that may lead you to think you’re hungry when you’re not.
7. Don't drink your calories
A common mistake people make in their diet is to drink fruit juice, soft drinks, Gatorade, frappes, and lattes. You can easily consume 500 calories from partaking of these tasty delights. A nutritious alternative would be a smoothie made with fruit, vegetables, and yogurt. Click here to learn how to make my favorite smoothie. Smoothies have the added benefit of helping you hydrate.
8. Don't eat out as much
You can save yourself a load of calories by staying at home and cooking yourself. Eating out is the best way to consume too many calories. You open yourself up to much bigger portions, foods cooked with too much butter, and very fatty pieces of meat. It can be more fun to cook at home as well. Saving you money is an added benefit.
9. Avoid skipping meals
When we get busy during the day, eating a proper meal can take a backseat. You may forget to eat or lack the time. When dinner time rolls around, you find yourself HANGRY! We’ve all been there. You end up eating far more than your actual caloric needs. You may resort to a less-than-healthy option because it’s the easiest to prepare. Plan ahead. Aim to have at three balanced meals with maybe a healthy snacks in between them. Even though you will be eating with more frequency, you can keep the calories at an appropriate level by preparing healthful meals. In a later post, I’ll give you some ideas for stocking your pantry, shopping for fresh food, and maintaining a supply of lean protein for tasty, nutritious meals.
Certified Personal Trainer and Movement Training Specialist
River Valley Club