Eating Healthy: Where to Start
Beginning a diet can be a daunting experience. You’ve decided that you need to lose weight, but where do you start? Many people have eating habits that they find highly comforting, and good food can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. So changing your habits can be both physically and psychologically stressful. When committing to a new diet, many people make the mistake of drastically cutting portion sizes overnight, which leads to hunger and, sometimes, poor nutrition. Beginning dieters need to remember that what you do eat is absolutely as important as what you don’t eat. Instead of starving yourself and skipping meals, gradually cut back on portion sizes, and begin switching out healthier alternatives for some of your fattier food choices. Here are a few basic diet tips that anyone can follow, and that will you help you lose the weight and stay healthy! After all, successful dieting can also be one of the most rewarding achievements a person can make, and you will find that you feel healthier and more confident once you stop worrying about your weight.
OK, a salad may not sound as appealing as a hamburger, but they are an amazing source of nutrients that can definitely fill you up. Raw vegetables are about the healthiest thing a person can eat. Try to use a dark leafy lettuce mix instead of iceberg lettuce as a base. A good rule of thumb for any vegetables is, if they’re dark green, they’re full of iron, which is essential for energy and health. Salads can also be a great base for another protein source. Having a grilled chicken salad instead of a grilled chicken sandwich is a great way to cut back on carbs but not flavor or fullness.
Avoid thick, calorie-heavy dressings if possible. These are especially prevalent on fast food salads, and often they can turn a good salad into a calorie-fest that’s just as unhealthy as that burger. A good way to judge salad dressings is; can you see through it? If you can (likely just an olive oil or vinegar base) then it’s probably healthier than a mayo-based or ranch dressing. Finally, when composing your salad, try to avoid extras like cheese and croutons, or at least add them sparingly.
Snacking: It’s Not As Bad As You Think
For many dieters, snacking is a temptation waiting around every corner. When you’re dieting, you’re thinking about food. And when you think about food, you want to eat it. But no, get away from that bag of Doritos! Instead, surround yourself with healthy snacks that you find equally appealing. Nuts and dried fruits can be great if you’ve got a sweet or salty craving, as can fresh fruits and some baked chips and cereals. Air popped, fresh popcorn can also be a nice low-calorie alternative snack, just be sparing with the salt and butter. Some research shows that eating six small meals throughout the day is much better than eating three traditional meals. So stay away from the processed and fried treats, and instead reach for a more natural snacking alternative.
One word of caution about nuts, however. They are a great source of protein, but they are also very fatty, so eat them sparingly. Also, many big-brand packaged nuts are loaded with extra salt and oils, which can negate possible health benefits, so make sure you know what you’ve got.
Fiber: A Filling Secret
Here’s an experiment. Make a sandwich on white bread, then the next day make the same thing on a high fiber whole wheat bread. You’ll probably see that the sandwich on the high fiber bread kept your stomach happier for much longer then the white bread, which is really half air. Incorporating high fiber foods into your diet is a great way to curb food cravings. Many dieters get there fiber from fiber-added foods like bread, and cereals can also be a great and natural fiber source. Supplement manufacturers offer fiber powders (Metamucil is one of the most popular) that can be mixed into your drink of choice, which can be another way to avoid calories and stay full. Some dieters choose a fiber-added smoothy as a filling lunch-time option.
Eggs: All Protein, No Carbs
Eggs have gotten a bad rap lately. It’s true, a three-egg omelet does have cholesterol, but not enough to affect the average dieter unless you’ve been instructed by your doctor to watch your cholesterol levels. If cholesterol is an issue for you, you’ll still be safe eating the egg whites only, although you also lose a lot of the protein from the nutrient-dense yolk. What eggs do bring to the table is a lot of protein, which is important for staying healthy on your new die and for maintaining lean muscle tone while still shedding fat. Add different vegetables to omelets to keep things interesting, but try to avoid adding other popular ingredients like cheese or fried sausage. You probably don’t want to do eggs every day, but a couple times a week is a great dieting staple.
Beverages, Beware: Sneaky Diet Killers
You may think a lot about what you put on your plate, but what’s in your drinking glass is just as important. Many beginning dieters don’t realize that their beverage of choice could have as many calories as their entrée. Obviously, sodas have a bad reputation for a good reason. They are all sugar and calories, and no nutrients at all. Try to switch to a diet soda, or opt for fruit juice with no added sugar. Some beverages are sneaky, like regular Snapple teas or Vitamin Water, both of which promote themselves as healthy soda alternatives, but which still pack a substantial number of calories into every bottle.
Alcohol is also terrible for dieting. One glass of red wine is ideal and, according to some studies, may actually offer some health benefits without adding too many calories to a meal. However, beers and hard liquor offer no real nutritional value and only empty calories, especially when consumed in excess. You can easily drink a thousand calories on a night out if you like to drink and you’re not careful! Ideally, stick to drinks like homemade iced tea, coffee, hot tea, water and seltzer, all of which contain no calories.
OK! Now you’ve got some dieting basics, so you can prepare yourself mentally for the challenges of changing your eating habits. It’s probably true, your new diet will be a challenge in the beginning, but following these tips can help you stay on track and lose the weight.