There are tons of fad diets out there that could leave you wondering, which one is the right one for me? Paleo, Atkins, Ketogenic, Weight Watchers- it can all be overwhelming. The issue with diets is they tend to have a yo-yo effect. An individual will go on a diet, lose a number of pounds, come off of the diet and gain it right back. Sustainability of weight loss isn’t found in a diet, it’s found in a change of lifestyle.
Below are ten simple rules that will take out the guess work, and get you on the path to a healthier lifestyle and help you clean up your diet!
Staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects of optimal health. Your body needs water to function and nearly 60% of your body weight consists of water. Water assists in digestion, energy levels, metabolism, flushes toxins from your system and carries nutrients to cells. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and loss of energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Drinking water can also assist in weight loss, aim for about two cups of water 10-20 minutes before a meal and it’ll leave you feeling satiated quicker. The 8 x 8 rule isn’t necessarily valid, it’s just easy to remember and couldn’t hurt you. A good gauge on proper hydration is the color of your urine. Light yellow to mostly clear is a good indication of proper hydration.
Refined sugars are difficult for the body to process, and they are a quick way to add an abundance of excess calories with no nutritional value. Try a natural sweetener like stevia or agave syrup.
Too much salt or sodium in your diet can cause bloating, weight gain (water retention) and issues with indigestion. You don’t need to eliminate salt completely, sodium is necessary especially with intense exercise (think those sugar-sodium loaded sports drinks that aid in hydration), but when you’re cooking be conscientious.
Foods that boast a fat free content have gone through an extensive chemical process in order to remove the fat. These processes generally strip the foods of nutritional value where the manufacturers can add in sugars or sweeteners. The more processed it is, the worse it is for you. You’d be surprised at how little the FDA actually regulates the chemicals used in processes for human consumption. If you’re feeling adventurous, look up aspartame and the negative effects it has on the body- then look up how many products it’s in.
Alcohol is 7 calories per gram, that can add up very quickly. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, causing a halt in muscle development and requires immediate hydration. Alcohol metabolizes quickly and stores the calories as fat.
Unless your goal is hypertrophy (muscle gain) the actual need for protein is overrated. What is more important is the quality of protein you are consuming. There are nine essential amino acids (meaning the body does not produce them naturally). Food combining to get these combinations is popular, or looking for foods that are a complete protein i.e. Quinoa, Soy, Meats and Poultry, eggs and dairy. 46-60 grams a day for non athletes is generally recommended with varying factors on age, gender and activity level.
Healthy fats are essential for a balanced diet. There are a couple different kinds of fats. Polyunsaturated fats: These actually help lower your cholesterol levels and contain essential fatty acids (meaning the body does not make them, so you need to consume them), Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. You can find them in nuts and seeds. Unsaturated fats: a good way to identify an unsaturated fat is remembering they tend to be liquid at room temperature while trans and unsaturated fats are solid. Try replacing your solid fats (butter) with vegetable oils (coconut oil is great for cooking and consumption!) or switch out your red meats for vegetarian or seafood options.
Everything in moderation, don’t go spreading 5 avocados a day on your sandwich…even though its delicious. Saturated fats- these are the ones we hiss and claw at…but taste so good that you know they’ve got to be bad for you, typically found in butter and other dairy products.
A good rule of thumb for grocery shopping is to avoid the aisles if possible. The exterior shelving of the grocery store tends to have the most natural whole foods such as produce, dairy, meat, grains, etc. If the ingredients have a bunch of stuff you can barely pronounce, it’s probably not good for you. If it comes pre-made in a can, box, plastic or is packaged, it is more than likely not good for you. If the food naturally does not have a long expiration date (canned fruits for instance) and you buy canned fruit, it is generally loaded with additional sugar and syrup as well as preservatives (Think about it, a peach rots in about a week, but can be shelved for much longer) This doesn’t apply to traditional canning methods, as most are canned with natural preservatives, if any, without the chemical additions . There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but as a general guideline it is a good, conscientious way to shop for your food.
The key to success is balance and moderation. So you ate a cookie? Congratulations, you’re human. Just remember not to let a cheat meal turn into a cheat day…or even worse a couple of cheat days where you fall off of the wagon. Every aspect of living a fit and healthy life is simply taking it one step, one adjustment, one minor change at a time.