Making a resolution to improve your health this year? Avoid fad diets and follow my top 5 tips for a healthier year ahead. Counting calories is not a sustainable way to stay healthy. I recommend the principles below to any client, regardless if they are at a healthy body weight or not.
1. Eliminate all sugar sweetened beverages from your diet.
Did you know that 8 oz of orange juice has as much sugar as 8 oz of coke? Although the sugar from orange juice is naturally occurring, it still has the same impact on weight gain and blood sugar as a soda. Instead of drinking juice, try having a glass of water and eating a piece of fruit. As far as sports drinks are concerned, they are not needed unless you are engaging in greater than 1 hr of cardiovascular activity. Most of us don’t realize that we are drinking 500-1000 calories daily. We also don’t realize that sugar, more so than fat consumption, plays a significant role in raising our blood triglyceride levels. When I counsel a client on weight loss, this is the first tip I give. Given that 500 additional calories daily amounts to an additional pound of weight gain per week, make the decision to kick your sugary drink habit. By the way, claims such as “all natural”, “organic” and “no sugar added” do not necessarily mean healthy.
Don’t feel like drinking water all the time? Check out some easy substitutes for your favorite sugary drinks:
Soda or Pop
- Try one sweetened with a natural sugar free sweetener, Stevia. Try Zevia, which comes in all of your favorite flavors.
- Don’t need the sweetness but craving the bubbles? Try carbonated flavored water such as La Croix or Dasani Sparklers
- Try Nuun tablets- these are portable tablets that you can carry with you and drop into a bottle of water anywhere, anytime. Plus, you get all the electrolytes without the added sugar.
Try water infused with one of these delicious combinations below:
- citrus (lemon, lime, orange or a combination)
- mint & cucumber for a refreshing twist
- an herbal tea bag such as Passion by Tazo
2. Make half of your plate non-starchy vegetables.
By filling your plate with vegetables, you leave less room for more calorically dense starches and proteins. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to include some starch and protein, as these are important for satiety- BUT- in the appropriate portion sizes. As a rule of thumb, your portion of starch should be the size of your fist. And avoid having a second helping; however, if you’re still hungry, you can always have more non-starchy vegetables. Try tossing green vegetables such as broccoli or asparagus in a small amount of olive oil, minced garlic and a light sprinkling of seasoning. Roast in the oven for a crispy (and more delicious version) of your classic steamed (and mushy) vegetable.
3. Listen to your body.
Many of us mistake the desire for the taste of food with true hunger. A large portion of us turn to food when we are stressed, emotional or bored. Ask yourself when you feel the desire to eat: “Is this mouth (desire for taste), heart (emotional coping), or stomach hunger (true hunger)?” If the answer is not stomach hunger, go for a walk, phone a friend, or take a bath to put the craving at bay.
4. Stick to set meal and snack times.
I think some of us (myself included) once got a little carried away with the idea that it is beneficial to have smaller, more frequent meals. However, there is a difference between having set snack times and grazing. I recommend setting 3 meal and 2-3 snack times throughout the day. By snack time, I mean sitting down at a table, distraction free (that means electronics off), and enjoying your food. In the “in between” times, avoid having that cracker or cookie that tempts you when you walk by your pantry every 15 minutes. Many of us forget about the “nibbles” throughout the day, yet wonder why we can’t lose weight. The nibbles add up.
5. Include 30 minutes of activity daily.
I always tell my clients that 30 minutes of activity does not necessarily mean going for a run. More vigorous activity is important here and there, but meeting a friend for a walk, bike ride or swim does play a role in weight maintenance. A word of caution- many of us over estimate our energy expenditure and therefore feel we can “splurge” on days we are active. This is not the case. Find an activity that you don’t dread doing. My favorite this year has been Barre 3– it’s a mix of pilates, yoga and ballet (don’t get scared off by the ballet, I really have no artistic talent). I love it, and so does my mind and body! Most importantly, I look forward to it at the end of my work day. If you are looking for online workouts that you can do just about anywhere, they have that option available too.