I often get asked what to eat to lose weight, and for health in general. Good question. Like many good questions, it cannot be easily answered. The world of nutrition is complex and ever changing. Trendy diets, lure people who are desperate to fit back into their skinny jeans with the easy way to lose weight. Statistically insignificant studies show partial truths. Food manufacturers realize they can turn a profit by touting their product as being healthy- take the example of red licorice that is low in fat. A personal anecdote tells the story of the man who cured his cancer by supplementing with a special type of oil. Fads, studies, smart marketing and stories corrupt common sense.
At Ascend Fitness, we encourage clean eating. Basically, clean eating is moving away from processed, nutrient poor foods and toward a diet of whole, real, natural foods. Clean eating means you get to enjoy a variety of food from all the food groups, emphasizing lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, fibre and healthy fats. The seven basic ‘guidelines’ for clean eating are:
1. Eat 5-6 meals per day- starting within an hour of waking up.
Forget the three large, square meals per day. Start with breakfast, and continue eating small meals every two to three hours during the day. Frequent eating fires your metabolism, helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels, and keeps you energized all day long!
2. Eat protein and fibre at each meal.
Protein and fibre give you staying power. They are slow to digest and minimally affect blood sugar levels. Protein helps build muscle and plays a part in many cellular functions. Fibre also helps to keep you regular, lower cholesterol levels and may protect against some types of cancer. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, eggs and dairy products. Fibre is in whole grains, beans, nuts, fruit, and veggies.
3. Drink 2 1/2 -3 litres of water each day
Water is necessary for metabolism and regulation of body temperature. Water also decreases appetite. Often we think we are hungry, when we are really thirsty. Keeping well hydrated will prevent you from snacking when your body is craving water. If you don’t like the taste of water, try drinking herbal tea or adding a slice of lemon to ice water.
4. Eat 2-5 servings of healthy fats each day.
Getting fat into the diet usually isn’t a problem; getting healthy fats however takes conscious effort. Fat is used to protect and insulate the internal organs and to help the body conserve heat. Fat is also slow to digest- and, like protein and fibre, helps increase satiety. Good sources of fat include nuts and nut butter, seeds, avocados, fatty fish, and oils, such as olive oil.
5. Eat plenty of fresh produce each day
Fruits and veggies are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and enzymes. For weight loss, emphasize non-root vegetables in your diet, as they are lower in sugar and calories than fruit.
6. Eat food as close to it’s natural state as possible.
Eating whole foods means eating as nature intended. Eating whole, unprocessed foods means you get all the nutrients (fibre, protein, vitamins, mineral and enzymes), but get to skip the preservatives, added fat, processed sugar, and sodium. Regular chicken breast instead of pre-packaged, fatty, and sodium-laden chicken wings or strips, potatoes instead of French fries, vegetables instead of V8, whole grains instead of nutrient-stripped processed grains. Heart healthy oils instead of margarine, plain instead of sweetened yogurt, roasted meats instead of deli meats or hot dogs, water instead of pop, oranges instead of orange juice.
7. Stick to proper portion sizes.
Eating too much of anything, including healthy food, can squash your weight loss efforts. The amount of food required will depend on your metabolic rate, activity level and weight loss goals.
Simple sound nutrition is not a diet; it is a lifelong way of eating. Clean up your diet to feel better and look better, and to maintain the changes for life.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and Fitness Coach, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, home to Ascend Fitness Boot Camp, Stroller Boot Camp, and personal training programs. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.