When you search the word “nutrition” online you come across many claims that are not always true. Web sites stating losing X amount of weight in a week or a month. Typically the weight loss claim is not a healthy way to lose weight and most people gain all of the weight back and then some. Any site claiming a “quick fix” or “magic pill” is a sure sign of a terrible way to either lose weight or be healthy. But how do you decipher what is legitimate information? I have listed 5 key rules to live by… and I do follow them myself. Balancing a healthy diet along with regular exercise if the best thing you can do for yourself to either get or stay healthy.
1. Choose the least processed foods possible.
Do you read food labels? If you answered no, you probably should start. Knowing what is in your food is key to staying healthy. Aim for foods that have the least amount of ingredients especially if those ingredients are not recognizable. Now in all fairness, anything packaged can be considered “processed.” For example, frozen vegetables are “processed” because they are flash frozen and packaged in bags for purchase. What I’m referring to are those foods that you find in the center isles of the grocery store. These are products that contain added sugars and fat.
2. Do not skip meals.
Skipping meals wreaks havoc on your metabolism and can cause overeating throughout the day. Each meal is an opportunity to fuel your body. It not only gives you energy to get through the day but also to make it through your workout. Your meals should contain a carbohydrate, a protein and a healthy fat. If you’ve ever consumed a carbohydrate and noticed you were hungry shortly thereafter. Well it’s because you did not combine it with a protein or healthy fat. Fuel up, start with breakfast… it’s the most important meal of the day! My go to breakfast is one 6-oz plain greek yogurt mixed with one cup of frozen strawberries sprinkled with 1 cup of bran flakes on top.
3. Be sure to drink plenty of water.
Our bodies are made up of mostly water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintain normal bodily functions. A dehydrated state can cause confusion, light headedness and nausea/vomiting to name a few. Our bodies can also confuse dehydration with hunger as well. So how much should you consume daily? I typically say at least 2 liters. This number can be more depending on how much you exercise, your working environment and how much you sweat. A good indicator is monitoring the color of your urine; you want it to be a pale yellow. If it’s a golden or dark yellow color, start drinking more water. If it’s a shade of brown you are becoming dangerously dehydrated. Staying ahead of the curve is important so keep a water bottle with you at all times.
4. Add color to your plate.
Keep variety in your diet. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your daily intake will not only help ensure you receive enough fiber but also obtain enough vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. My rule of thumb is you can obtain all vitamins and minerals from food sources, there is no need to waste money on a multivitamin. However, one exception is if you have a food allergy or food intolerance where you have to omit certain foods or food groups.
5. All foods in moderation.
I’m not one to be restrictive and say you cannot have (insert your favorite unhealthy food here). That’s not realistic nor is it healthy. When you restrict, you end up bingeing later on which in itself is not good either. So if you allow yourself those foods that are not so healthy in MODERATION, you will find yourself healthier and happier in the long run. Your day in and day out food intake should be a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and low fat or fat free daily so when you do indulge on that unhealthy food, it will not hurt your diet. Also, I understand life happens. There may be times you do not have the option of having a healthy food choice. While you should be planning your meals and snacks daily, I get it doesn't always happen. So choosing the best of a bad situation when it comes to food choices if you’re stuck is important too. One of the first things I learned as a dietitian was balance, variety and moderation!