Because I don’t do diets.
I do, however, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle when it comes to what I put into my body. After all, 80% of what your body looks like is determined by your diet. Contrary to popular belief, that 45 minute run you did on the treadmill this morning doesn’t cancel out the cheeseburger and fries you ate for lunch.
You can still maintain your weight while enjoying the things you love. It’s all about moderation and balance. The key is a gradual change to a healthier way of eating rather than a drastic diet that you won’t can’t stick with. Once you get used to it, you’ll never have to think about it again.
I’m all about following the below rules pretty strictly during the week, so that when the weekend comes around I can have that cheeseburger.
- Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day. Shoot for about 200-300 calories each. This will not only rev up your metabolism, but it will keep you from getting so hungry that you end up overeating later. The ideal mix would be 40-50% protein, 20-30% carbs, 20-30% fats (but this doesn’t need to be an exact science by any means). Obviously the healthier the better, but even if you are treating yourself remember to use portion control. Try only eating half the portion, or splitting it with someone.
- Make sure protein is a component in every mini-meal you eat! I aim for about 65-85 grams of protein a day, but this depends on your weight and goals. It may seem like a lot, but trust me – it’s crucial. It keeps you full and builds muscle. Proteins include fat-free yogurt, low-fat cheeses, lean meats like turkey or chicken breast, eggs, beans, soy products like tofu, nuts, and of course protein shakes (try Myoplex Lite) or protein bars (be careful with these – a lot are high in fat or sugar). A good start to reach your daily goal would be to have at least a protein shake or a chicken breast (giving you about 20 grams or so as a starting point). Some of my favorite easy sources are low-fat cottage cheese, reduced-fat string cheese, canned albacore tuna, and of course hard-boiled egg whites. For smaller mini-meals in a hurry, I will often pair one of these with a piece of fruit.
- Choose whole wheat instead of white breads, flours, pastas, rice, and other grains whenever possible. Check the label to make sure the first ingredient is 100% whole wheat flour or grain; a lot of products that claim to be “multi-grain” or “stone-ground” are not actually made from 100% whole grains. Whole grains are high in dietary fiber (helping you stay full and aiding in digestion), lower your risk for heart disease, and are even thought to help you fight belly fat.
- Cut down your carbs. People often make the mistake of cutting them out completely, which is the wrong move – complex carbohydrates are good for you and your body needs them, especially when you are working out. Just try eating less of them when you want to whittle down. For example, when I order a big sandwich with lots of bread (even if it’s wheat), I take one of the slices of bread off. Double up on veggies and lean protein and halve your carbs – this way you can still enjoy the things you love and feel good about it.
- Avoid processed foods. When you grocery shop, try to shop on the outer sides of the store as much as possible (hello fresh produce, dairy, and lean meats) rather than the sections in the center, which tend to be full of processed and prepackaged foods.
- Healthy fat is your friend. While you definitely want to limit your saturated fat intake (and trans fat – duh), polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are essential for your body. Not only are they good for your heart and brain, they also protect your joints, bones, and organs – all while keeping your hair and skin gorgeous and glowing. Think olive oil (and other plant-based oils like canola and vegetable) avocados, nuts and seeds, and omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, flax seed, and walnuts.
- Drink PLENTY of water and avoid sodas, sugary juices, and yes…alcohol. But let’s be realistic here. Moderation is key: try to stick to light beers, wines (bonus points for antioxidant-rich red), or low-cal drinks like vodka and club soda (try mixing it up with a flavored vodka like raspberry and a lot of lime or my perfect margarita). Basically you want to avoid high-calorie/sugary mixers.
- Eat nutrient-rich and try to eliminate “empty calories.” Think foods that are rich in nutrients (fruits and veggies provide vitamins, whole grains provide fiber and complex carbs which your body needs, dairy products provide calcium, and so on). “Empty” calories are calories coming from high-energy foods (read: sugar) with little to no nutritional value, like potato chips or cookies.
*There are tons of sources online that will help you easily find nutritional contents of every food you can imagine. If you want to track your intake, SparkPeople is a great website. You create a free account, enter your goals, and the site will calculate what you should be getting daily in terms of calories, protein, carbs, etc. There is a HUGE database of foods, and you can even input your own foods with nutritional info if it’s not already in there. Using a program like this to tracking your daily calorie intake is *extremely helpful* if you want to lose weight; trust me – a couple of summers ago this site helped me lose 10 pounds.
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