Millions of people are overweight and dieting. Many people have health problems such as obesity (BMI 30 or above), high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. If you don't know what your BMI is, go to Google-put in BMI Calculator. When it comes up, put in your information and heaven help you if your number is 30 or above. Statistics show that for many Americans genetics only plays a 10% role, exercise a 10% role and what you eat plays an 80% role in your health and shape. This is good news.
How many foods in your kitchen are over-processed especially with white flour and sugar? Do they have preservatives? Artificial sugars? Saturated fats or trans fats? Colas and juices with lots of sugar? Cookies, cakes, chips or other junk food? Calorie dense foods containing little nutritional value? Take an inventory of your pantry and refrigerator. Great now let's do a Spring Cleaning and talk about the rules of clean eating. This isn't about another diet or even depriving yourself. It is a lifestyle change in learning to eat healthy and clean. It involves planning healthy meals for the week, but first you must develop healthy habits.
Habit #1: Eat six meals per day, one every three hours. I know it sounds unbelievable and it is the opposite of what most popular diets tell you, but eating better foods more frequently actually increases your metabolism and keeps your energy levels high all day. Eating small meals throughout the day will also stabilize blood sugar levels and cravings will stop. When you eat just three meals a day or less, your sugar levels dip and you are more likely to eat unhealthy snacks.
I like to compare metabolism to a wood burning fire. As long as you keep putting wood on that fire, the fire is going to do what? That's right keep burning. If you quit putting wood on that fire, what is going to happen? That's right it is going to go out. This is just like metabolism. If you try to starve to lose weight, your metabolism is going to come to a screeching halt or slow weigh down. Then when you do eat, your body is going to store and hold on to every ounce for dear life. So it is best to feed your metabolism every 3 hours or so to keep it going.
Habit #2: Never skip meals, especially breakfast. How many of you skip breakfast? The research shows that people who skip breakfast, they gain more weight. You think you are saving on calories, but skipping breakfast will lead you to snack before lunch or overeat at lunch because you are hungry.
Habit #3: Don't eat calorie dense foods that offer no nutritional value. Processed and fast foods such as French fries, chips, donuts, cookies and candy are a nutritional wasteland. The calories in these foods are considered "empty" because they give you a quick burst of energy but no vitamins, nutrients or natural ingredients. You usually have a sugar high followed by a crash that leaves you without energy and feeling hungry soon after. These foods tend to generate cravings for even more energy calories because you never really feel satisfied.
Habit #4: Think about portion sizes, not calorie counting. It is important to keep in mind how much fuel your body really needs. Most portion sizes in restaurants like Applebees, and Chilis are nearly twice the size of a true serving. I always ask to have half of my entrée served and the other placed in a doggie bag. You could order salads and appetizers, but you have to be careful of which appetizer you order! Fried cheese curds are yummy; however, they are fried and contain a lot of fat. At home, it is easy to clear your plate or eat that last little bit in the pan to avoid leftovers which is in effect overeating. And, it is never just a little bit!!! So, here are some guidelines... a serving of protein should fit in the palm of your hand or roughly the size of a deck of cards. A serving of complex carbohydrates from grains should fit in the cup of your hand. While a serving of complex carbs from veggies should fit in the palm of two open hands. Fruits should fit in one open hand.
Habit #5: Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day. How many of you do this? I am not talking about coffee or soda. Staying hydrated is essential for good health as 80% of our body is water. When you are low, you will show symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, headaches and constipation. Now, if you are one of those people who think water is boring and you don't like the taste, you can flavor your water. Cut up some lemon, limes or oranges and put them in your water bottle. It doesn't take a lot to infuse flavor and antioxidants. If strawberries are on sale, you can add these to your water. Just make sure you take out the strawberries within 48 hours as they are not acidic and can grow bacteria.
Habit #6: Eliminate sweets from your diet especially white sugar. Candies, cakes, cookies and ice cream are obvious. However, sugar has a way of sneaking in the most seemingly healthy snacks and is often the reason you can't lose those last pesky 5-10 pounds. Examples include sweetened yogurts, processed peanut butter, granola, protein bars and canned fruits in syrup. Many condiments and salad dressings contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup that stop your progress in its tracks without the sweet taste!
Habit #7: Eat fruits and veggies. Clean eating does not have to be boring. Processed foods seem healthier because of all the unhealthy ingredients and fats. Your taste buds will recalibrate by the intense flavor of food without artificial ingredients. Some of my favorite nonfat condiments that heighten taste include fresh and dried herbs, horseradish, garlic, mustards, ginger, vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, citrus fruit, freshly made salsas, pureed fruit and veggie based sauces, unsweetened apple butter or sauce, Bragg's, and low sodium tamari or soy sauce. By Lauren A Ebbecke