So, here we are again vowing to stop eating so much. The holidays are over and you have probably been avoiding the scales for at least the last two weeks. If you are the one that has managed to enjoy all the parties and family gatherings without gaining an ounce, good for you, but don’t get too smug, we still have the winter months to get through! We all tend to eat more over the holidays and certainly we consume richer foods with more fat and sugar than we generally would—it sure is fun, huh?
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the scale can be part of the problem. Yes, you should know what you weigh and you should try to maintain a healthy weight, but what’s more important is what you eat. Becoming a slave to the scale does not necessarily mean you are eating healthy foods. Good nutrition is the key.
Here are some simple healthy food choices you can make that will keep off unwanted pounds, but more importantly will help prevent some serious health problems.
Number one on the list of health trends for 2012 from Dr. Roshini Raj, a contributor to Health Magazine, is fiber. Very few of us get the optimal amount of fiber—25-35g a day—from our diet. The one thing that will have a beneficial effect on our overall health is to get more fiber. A high-fiber diet appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, constipation and colon cancer. Fiber is important for the health of the digestive system and for lowering cholesterol. The top fiber sources are:
– Grains and cereals
– Legumes and beans
– Fruits and vegetables (juices don’t contain fiber)
A wonderful source of Vitamin C and polyphenols. Polyphenols play a critical role in keeping us healthy, they are potent antioxidants can help prevent many kinds of cancer. Organic and sustainably grown berries have been found to be higher in these powerhouse nutrients.
Eat a diet rich in immune boosting vegetables including (my favorite) dark leafy greens—kale, mustard greens, collard greens, watercress, Swiss chard, arugula, Brussels sprouts—packed with Vitamins A, C and K.
4. WHOLE GRAINS
Whole grains are the “good carbs” and ancient grains in particular are full of fiber, protein and antioxidants. They are satiating, so keep you feeling fuller, longer. Two terrific whole grain cookbooks will have you making the most delicious and satisfying meals are:
Whole Grains Every Day Every Way – Lorna Sass
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals – Maria Speck
5. DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate is high in plant phenols and antioxidants. Chocolate with a higher proportion of cocoa solids — like unsweetened or dark chocolate — will contain more flavonoids. Dark chocolate, for example, contains from 46 to 61 mg of catechin, a type of flavonoid, in 100 grams (about one ounce), while milk chocolate contains only 15 to 16 mg. That doesn’t mean you should eat chocolate instead of a piece of fruit, however, if you need a little sweet treat, one square of dark chocolate a day was found to help lower blood pressure for people with hypertension, according to a Harvard study in March 2011.
Tea has been touted as a healthy beverage and there has been significant research to back this. While much has been written about green tea, black tea seems to be just as beneficial. Some health benefits specifically related to drinking tea include:
– Allergies – green tea was found helpful in reducing allergic responses to triggers such as pollen, pet dander and dust
– Arthritis – green tea catechins are chondroprotective and consumption of green tea may help reduce inflammation and slow cartilage breakdown
– Bones – the bioflavonoids in tea have been shown to help improve bone density
– Cancer – People who drink about 4 cups of green tea a day seem to get less cancer. This seems to be due to a compound called EGCG, a powerful antioxidant in tea, inhibited an enzyme that cancer cells need in order to grow.
Other benefits include anti-aging, lowering cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and weight loss.
Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.
According to the Mayo Clinic, what you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and tomatoes, are 90 percent or more water by weight.
In addition, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly of water. Even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages — such as coffee, tea or soda — can contribute, but these should not be a major portion of your daily total fluid intake. Water is still your best bet because if you drink 6-8 glasses of water a day—you will stay well hydrated. This will help avoid headaches and overeating as well as maintain energy levels.
Don’t overdo the snacking. A couple of 100 calorie or less snacks a day are OK but that’s it. Here are some low calorie, healthy snacks:
– Low fat string cheese
– Soy chips
– Kamut® agave cakes with a spoonful of peanut butter
– Carrots, celery with hummus
– Single serving container of cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit preserve
– Peanuts in the shell – they have no salt and take longer to eat!
– Kale chips
– Piece of fresh fruit with a spoonful of peanut or almond butter
– Handful of raw almonds or walnuts
– Sunflower seeds
Or, my new favorite snack is a brand called Somersault – supper delicious little morsels of seeds, fiber and antioxidants!
You should be consuming at least 20-30% of your daily calorie intake in healthy fats, a quick way of calculating that is as follows:
Start with your ideal calorie intake and multiply it by 0.20 and 0.30.
Then, since 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, just divide both of your answers by 9.
The amount you get now is the ideal range for how many grams of fat you should eat each day.
You can get theses from a variety of sources:
– Omega 3s — From fish such as wild salmon or sardines, omega 3s are essential for brain development in babies. Try Wild Planet, they’re line is delicious and sustainable.
– Nuts — Almonds are considered to be one of the healthiest nuts and walnuts are high in Omega 3s. It’s best to stick to raw, unsalted nuts and only a small handful
– CLA and ALA — Grass-fed pastured animals contain CLA (conjugated linoleic acid a fatty acid that may help reduce weight and prevent cancer) as well as ALA (alpha linolenic acid an omega3)
10. FOODS AND BEVERAGES TO BAN FROM YOUR DIET:
– Sodas—regular or diet, they still pack on the pounds and are a main contributor to obesity, diabetes and liver problems.
– White foods—White flour, white bread, white rice, all the essential nutrients are stripped away in processing
– Artificial sweeteners—loaded with unwanted and sometimes harmful chemicals
– High fructose corn syrup—just because it comes from corn, it does not make it a healthy product
– Fast food—if you do eat it, one check the calories and nutritional box and two, make it a rare occurrence, not a regular thing
– Energy bars—unless you are in serious training, or want to put on weight avoid them. Have seen how many calories there are in one bar!
– Fried foods—bake it, shake it, any way you make it is better than fried.