After working in fitness for more than 20 years, I've been able to motivate countless people to change their lifestyle habits, providing them with physical activity and nutritional suggestions that would make them feel younger and healthier. Chances are that you have already heard about the following tips on how to improve your nutrition, but are you doing anything about it? These are suggestions for a healthier nutrition that we all should adopt, no matter our fitness goal. These are not specific tips on how to lose weight, but rather simple directions on how to eat better and smarter. However, if your nutrition is not balanced, I wouldn't be surprised if you actually did lose weight by following these tips. Here is the first chapter. Two more will follow shortly after this. :-)
First things first: EARLY SPRING CLEANING. If we want to improve our nutrition, we are not going to be successful if we continue to keep certain foods stored at home. They are an unnecessary temptation, and should be removed from our lack of wisdom. The following goods should depart from your household: candy bars, energy bars, syrup, white sugar and sugar substitutes, most cookies, white pasta, white rice and white bread, soda, energy drinks and juices (yes, I wrote juices), frying oil, margarine, mayonnaise, bacon, cream cheese, ice cream, pre-cooked microwavable meals. These foods are easily replaced with honey, brown sugar and low-sugar/low-saturated fat cookies (in moderation), whole wheat pasta, brown rice and multi-grain bread, skim milk and carbonated water, extra-virgin olive oil, hummus, smoked salmon, butter (in moderation). If we are in love with any of the “forbidden items” chances are that we will indulge in their company when we eat out. Therefore, there’s no reason to keep them at home. A few exceptions every now and then won’t destroy our commitment, but quick availability of these items will mess our plans. And if our goal is to lose body fat, the better we eat, the more the results.
The fact that SKIPPING MEALS is not good for our system sounds obvious, but how often do we go hours and hours without eating? It’s really hard to make healthy choices when we are starving, also because our brain wants us to select sweet foods to increase our glycemia (sugar in the blood). Sweet foods don’t fill us up, are packed with calories and contain very little nutritional value. Furthermore, skipping meals tends to lower our metabolism, which means that our body goes into a starvation mode, and adapts to function with fewer calories. The result is that eating the same amount of food will make us gain weight.
EATING FREQUENTLY, as long as it’s the right food, is the way to stay energetic all day and never be hungry enough to make bad nutritional choices. We shouldn’t go more than 3-4 hours without having something to eat, preferably containing carbohydrates, protein and fat… better if unsaturated.
Speaking of skipping meals, if we rarely eat BREAKFAST, we should try to do whatever we can to change this habit. If lack of time is an issue, we should get up earlier. If lack of hunger is another issue, we should have an earlier dinner and eat less. Skipping breakfast sets us for failure, because we will more likely make worse choices later in the day, with the tendency to overeat when we are not supposed to. In addition, we will have more troubles going through our daily routine, including finding energy to go to the gym. A balanced breakfast sets the pace for the rest of our day, and allows us to feel better right from the start.
Are we making sure we consume enough of the 4 MACRONUTRIENTS every day? Whatever our food preferences are, we should make sure every meal contains some carbohydrates, some protein, some fat, and water. A nutrition that is deficient in any of the above macronutrients will eventually present some health problems. Furthermore, if we eat protein and healthy fat at every meal, we will get full sooner and stay full longer. If we eat only carbohydrates, we will tend to eat more than we need, and will be hungry shortly after. Every meal should be a combination of all macronutrients.
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