There is never a shortage of diets that you can choose to follow to help with your weight loss attempts – low carb, high protein, low fat, low calorie plans that promise you the body of your dreams. Unfortunately, deep down we all know that despite the ever increasing number of diets and commercial weight loss programs available, sustainable weight loss eventually comes down to developing a strong eating plan that you can maintain for life. The good news is that these core habits are probably even easier to implement and maintain than you would ever imagine, and are far more likely to help you control your weight, for life than any commercial weight loss program has ever been proven to.
1. Focus on vegetables
If you do not eat 1-2 cups of vegetables or salad at lunch and another 2-3 cups with your dinner, you simply are not eating the volume of low calorie, nutrient dense plant based food in your diet to be at your best. Not only are vegetables important for the key nutrients that they offer, but their low calorie content means that you can literally eat vegetables and salad to your heart’s content without worrying about weight gain. Perhaps more importantly when it comes to weight control, vegetables and salad keep you full so you are far less likely to snack throughout the day. Increase you vege intake by simply adding mushrooms, tomato or spinach to your breakfast, enjoy vegetable juices, always eat a salad or soup with your lunch and aim for ½ of your dinner plate to be filled with salad or vegetables no matter where you are eating your dinner.
2. Remember the golden rule
If there was just one golden rule of nutrition, it would have to be to always eat a carbohydrate rich food with a protein rich food. Combining these two nutrients in your food choices ensures that your blood glucose and energy levels are kept well regulated throughout the day, and teaming carbs with protein also helps to regulate insulin levels which help to regulate appetite and keep you full. Low GI, slowly digested carbs including grain based breads and crackers, oat or bran based cereal or wholegrains are the best choices as are lean proteins including reduced fat dairy, lean meat and fish and nuts and legumes. Examples of meals and snacks that fit this carb and protein combo include grain toast with eggs for breakfast, cheese and wholegrain crackers as a snack and a salad with tuna and beans for lunch – in all of these examples one protein rich food has always been teamed with a low GI carb.
3. Watch the coffee
There is nothing wrong with enjoying a cup or two of coffee each day, but if you regularly sit down to a numerous large milk based lattes or cappuccino with your friends, or drink coffee continually throughout the working day, you may be consuming far too many liquid calories. Unfortunately the body does not compensate well when we consume liquid calories, which means they simply becomes extras that we do not need. For this reason, always order a small based milk coffee and try and limit yourself to just one or two coffees each day. Piccolo serves are a good option as you get ½ of the milk with the same serve of coffee or better still swap to black tea or coffee to reduce your calorie intake from milk.
4. Always carry a protein rich snack with you
Often it is not that we do not know what we should be eating but we find ourselves in situations hungry but without any nutritious snack options available. Get into the habit of always carrying a protein rich snack with you, whether it is a protein or nut bar, some prepackaged cheese and crackers or some roasted chic nuts or broad beans and you will find that you are never forced to go and pick up a high carb, high calorie muffin or cake simply because you were hungry and that was all you could find.
5. Be strict with your eating times
The funny thing about food and weight control is that it is often about the time we are eating as opposed to what we are choosing. Often busy lifestyles means that breakfast is not eaten until after 9am, lunch is pushed back to 2 or 3pm and you are lucky if dinner is on the table by 9pm. As the human body is programmed according to a circadian or 24 hour rhythm and our hormones work to burn food during the day and store at night, this means the more calories we eat during the second half of the day, the more likely is it that they will be stored. For this reason, always aim to eat your breakfast by8am, lunch by 1pm and where possible dinner by 8pm to give your body 10-12 hours without food overnight.
6. Go light at night
For the vast majority of us, we eat so many calories during the day that we really do not need a heavy meal at night. During the week, when your meals are under your own control, focus on lean protein teamed with plenty of vegetables for your dinner choices. Heavy pasta, noodle and rice based dishes may be needed by active young people or athletes but for most of us who spend far more time sitting than we should be, “go light at night” is a perfect dinner mantra.
For some light recipe ideas, check out my free Shape Me recipes such as my Tomato Soup, Chicken & Pumpkin Stir Fry, Salmon Patties or my Roast Veg Soup.
7. Take a meal off
There is nothing wrong with enjoying a meal out – in fact socialising and enjoying good quality food creates much pleasure for human beings but of course it depends on how often you do this. With the average meal eaten away from the home containing at least 200-300 more calories than a meal you would prepare at home, try and limit your heavy meals eaten away from the home to just once or twice each week so you can keep your calories tight and controlled for the rest of the week.
8. Develop your alcohol rules
Some of us may choose to drink only on weekends, while others may prefer a small glass of wine each night with dinner. While there are no rules about how much you should and should not drink, there are guidelines that suggest we need at least two alcohol free days a week and really should not drink more than 2 standard drinks at any one time. If you know that too much alcohol slips into your week, and that it is negatively impacting on your health and your weight, it may be time to really consider how much you are drinking and whether it is time to cut back.