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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slimming Down Healthfully

A friend of mine wrote in with a question that I've been asked repeatedly as people have gotten to know me and my enthusiasm toward a healthy lifestyle. The question is about what to eat if you want to trim down a few pound healthfully. I love that this question included the world HEALTHFULLY! So many people make unhealthy choices when trying to lose weight and those approaches eventually backfire, even if they work temporarily. Why would you ever want to do anything to your body that is detrimental to your health? We all want to live long, healthy lives and a healthy diet and a healthy weight are all part of that. Here is what I have found to be most beneficial to me when I need to trim down a bit. I feel like a million bucks when I follow this plan. I hope it works for you too.

First of all, cut out anything artificial. Condiments and packaged foods have many man-made, chemically-produced ingredients which confuse your body, causing it to have trouble digesting them. The big problem areas I encounter are salad dressings and other condiments, diet drinks with artificial sweeteners, and anything in a box or bag. Also, avoid items with added salt. I try to make my own salad dressings with different vinegars and a little olive oil or I sometimes use a squeeze of lemon or lime. Play around with different herds and seasonings to keep things interesting. You can make your own "soda" with seltzer and lime, or seltzer and a splash of 100 percent fruit juice. Don't eat anything from a box or bag that has more than 5 ingredients in it and make sure you recognize what all of those ingredients are. They should be real food, not chemicals. To avoid processed foods, I avoid the aisles at the grocery store. I have a feeling you'll find you can save money by doing this, another bonus!

Also, eat lots of lean protein. Protein is very important for satiation. You want to make sure the protein sources you choose are lean. Some examples include boneless, skinless chicken, fish (not the breaded kind), pork tenderloin, filet mignons, shrimp and other shellfish, bison, tofu, tempeh, egg whites, quinoa, beans (be sure to rinse them to cut down on sodium if you buy the canned variety), cottage cheese, greek yogurt and protein powders (BSN, EAS and Optimal Nutrition have some tasty ones). If you're active like I am, you want to aim for about 1 gram of protein for each pound of body fat. I think you'll find that if you do this, you will get less hungry throughout the day.

Next, eat healthy fats. Another way to help keep yourself feeling full is to eat healthy fats. So many people make the mistake of thinking they need to avoid fats altogether, but what they need to realize is that the fats aren't the problem, it's the type of fat. Stick to monounsaturated fats like the kinds found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Be careful with portion control, though, as fat has a higher calorie count. A little goes a long way.

Also of importance is to eat lots of produce. You can eat as many fresh or steam vegetables as you want. The more color you can get in your diet, the better. An easy way for me to get lots of veggies is always have at least one meal a day with a giant salad as the entree. I also try to snack on veggies instead of other snack foods. Also, load up on berries, melon, and apples. Bananas are fine too but try to limit yourself to one small one a day as they are higher in carbs. Also, try to avoid potatoes unless you buy the sweet potato variety. I love them! Just microwave your sweet potato for 5 minutes, put some cinnamon on it, and enjoy. I try to stick with organic produce whenever possible, as it is so much healthier for your body.

In addition, avoid anything white. This includes white bread, anything with added sugar, mashed potatoes, chips, cookies, and crackers. Again, if you can avoid the grocery store aisles, you can avoid the white stuff much more easily.

Say no to fried foods! This might be the hardest tip for me to stick to since I love chicken wings and french fries but there is NOTHING healthy about fried foods and I notice a significant difference when I avoid these foods. They contain unhealthy fats, cooked at dangerously high temperatures, and often contain breading which adds to the unhealthiness factor. If it's breaded, battered, crispy, or tempura, it's bad for you and should be avoided.

It's imperative that you drink lots of water. Often times people mistake thirst for hunger. I try to drink at least 10 glasses of water a day. To name just a few of the benefits, staying hydrated keeps your hunger in check, helps your body systems to keep working more efficiently, gives you a better complexion, helps you feel more alert, and flushes your body of toxins. I find that by keeping a water bottle with me at all times, I have a much easier time making sure I am drinking plenty of water. Drink up!

Finally, move your body! Anytime you get your body moving, you increase your metabolism and that helps you to burn calories which helps to keep you fit. Try to squeeze in random acts of fitness any time you can, such as walking 10 minutes during your lunch break, taking the stairs, standing or pacing while on the phone, parking in the furthest parking spot rather than the closest, using a basket instead of a cart at the grocery store, the list could go on and on. Don't be lazy, be fit!

As you do all of these things, it's also important to try to spread your food out over 5-6 small meals throughout the day, never exceeding 500 calories, rather than filling up at three bigger meals. It will help you avoid getting hungry, as you get to eat every 2-3 hours and it will also keep you from getting lethargic from eating too much at any one sitting. I find I feel more energetic and much healthier when I have mini meals rather than big meals.

Here's a sample day of eating in case you want to give it a try:

3 egg whites, scrambled
1/2 cup oatmeal with ground flaxseed and cinnamon, you can add a little honey too

Mid-Morning snack:
Protein smoothie made with 1 scoop whey protein
1/2 cup frozen berries
1/2 cup skim or almond milk
1/2 cup nonfat yogurt
ice cubes

Salad consisting of mixed baby greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and radishes
Splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
4 oz boneless skinless grilled chicken
1 small apple

Afternoon snack:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup GoLean cereal used like granola

4 oz grilled salmon
1 cup brown rice
1 cup steamed broccoli

Late night snack:
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/4 cup berries
1 Tbsp sliced unsalted almonds

A great resource I have found for good, healthy recipes is Tosca Reno's Eat Clean Diet. She's got some cookbooks and workout tips as well. It's a way of life, not a diet and it is all about eating real, whole foods and not depriving yourself. I highly recommend reading it. I hope my tips are helpful to you and I look forward to hearing more questions and comments from you all. I'm always listening. Do something today to make yourself proud!

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