GET LEAN & FEEL GREAT THIS SUMMER
How to “be healthy¨ means different things to different people. The media and social media in particular, focus on quick fixes to ¨LOSE WEIGHT FAST¨ or ¨GET A FLAT BELLY IN 7 DAYS¨ often with unhealthy ´rules´ that will challenge the body, leaving us undernourished. These weight loss plans often require us to dramatically reduce our energy intake and/or cut out whole food groups, which can lower the speed of our metabolism and make it harder for us to lose weight in the long term. It is so important to focus on how we can make our bodies healthy and lean for the long term, rather than a short term fix that could actually do us more harm than good, both physically and mentally.
So, this guide is based on five simple, but powerful steps that can be introduced into your diet with great long term results. These steps should be seen as the foundation for healthy eating that will kick your body into action, helping to create a leaner body with more energy and prevent sugar cravings.
When making changes to our diets, it is important to take small steps and not make too many changes all at once. Therefore, it is best to introduce each one of these steps one at a time. Maybe a new one each week or every two weeks! If we don´t make changes slowly, we will never be able to stick to our new way of eating.
Here are some of the most important steps that can be introduced slowly to kick start healthy eating, helping us feel leaner, have more energy and be healthier!
1. Eat Protein at Breakfast
This is often over looked, but it will stop sugar cravings throughout the day, prevent over eating and stabilise our mood.
Eating protein at breakfast is one of the foundations for weight maintenance, stabilising blood sugar levels and powering the brain with some energy first thing in the morning. It will also reduce overall food intake throughout the day, reduce hunger pangs and prevent food cravings. Eating a breakfast that is high in refined carbohydrate or high in sugar will spike blood sugar levels to a high level, making us crave more food mid-morning, eat more throughout the day and leave us with an unstable mood. Some high protein breakfast ideas are eggs, salmon and nut butters. Here are some more great breakfast ideas for inspiration on how to get more protein first thing in the morning. In short, protein at breakfast will help us to eat less during the day and make us happier.
2. Balance Blood Sugars
This is important for stabilising weight, increasing energy levels, stabilising mood and preventing sugar cravings. The easiest way to do this is to eat protein and/or healthy fat with every meal and snack, avoiding carbohydrate only snacks. Check this out for a more in-depth review on balancing blood sugars .
3. Portion Size Control
Large portions seem to be becoming the norm, especially in restaurants, so it can be confusing to understand how much we should actually be eating at each meal. Understanding portion sizes is a big part of getting lean. Protein (nuts, seeds and legumes, as well as animal proteins) healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds), whole grain carbs (oats, quinoa, wild rice and millet) and vegetables, should be included with each main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
The below chart is a great guide for how big each portion size should be on your plate for each meal:
This guide will provide you with sufficient energy and macronutrient intake to stay lean, whilst preventing you from going hungry. Fruit should be consumed in moderation (1-2 times a day) and it is best eaten with a meal or with some nuts and seeds as a snack.
We also need to be careful with liquid calories, as a lot of energy can be consumed from drinks such as juices, coffee lattes and sugary drinks without us being aware of the amount of energy we are consuming. So just be mindful of this and choose water as much as you can.
4. More Veggies
Vegetables should make up the main bulk of our diets. A lot of ´trendy diets´ tend to focus on eating more protein and cut out carbohydrates or grains, but this can be quite harmful to our bodies in the long term. Focusing on vegetables, which are full of nutrients, fibre and are low in fat, will provide a great foundation for your diet. Focusing on vegetables can aid weight loss whilst providing your body with a lot of nutrients that it needs to function and will make you look vibrant. If you feel you are not getting enough veggies at the moment, ease them into your diet gradually by sneaking salad into sandwiches, add a few more veggies to a stir fry or try an omelette with tomatoes, peppers and spinach. It is also best to eat vegetables whole and in their natural state rather than juice them. This will ensure that you get all the goodness from the fibre as well as all of the nutrients, which are stored close to the skin and are often removed by a juicer. Also, juicing vegetables does not necessarily help to increase our intake of vegetables, this is because a lot of juices do not contain fibre or any of the nutrients from the vegetables, meaning that it is mainly sugar. If you do want to drink your veggies, blending them in a smoothie will help to retain all of their goodness, just go easy with the fruit and it should be about 80% veggies.
The new healthy eating pyramid released in Australia, is a great example of how we need to make vegetables and legumes the most important part of our diet. It also advises that we should go easy on animal proteins, focusing on legumes as well for protein (beans, lentils and chickpeas) and that whole grains should be our main source of carbohydrates. Added sugar and salt are in a separate section, indicating that they should be a limited part or our diet and used sparingly, while fruit also has its own section which is significantly smaller than the vegetable section. This is definitely a great guide to live by in order to get lean and stay healthy: www.nutritionaustralia.org
5. 80:20 Rule
This rule is quite an important one when we are trying to make changes to our diet for the long term. It is so important not to feel guilty when we eat something that is unhealthy. If we feel guilty about eating certain foods, we can start to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and this is a path that should be avoided.
It is so important not to forbid any foods from your diet. Allow yourself to eat what you enjoy, but only 20% of the time. If we eat healthily 80% of the time, it is ok (and healthy) to treat ourselves to what we enjoy 20% of the time. If you have an ´off day´ where you treat yourself or eat more than you feel you should have, don´t worry about it! This will not impact your over-all weight significantly. It is what we do on a regular basis that will affect our over-all body weight. Our bodies use hormones to maintain our weight at the same level, therefore, if we do have an off day, we should not feel guilty about it. Just make sure that the rest of the week is followed by healthy eating. The 80:20 rule can also be applied on a daily basis, so that you are eating healthily 80% of the time and allow yourself what you really enjoy 20% of the time. This will ensure that you can eat what you want and also strive towards a lean body because you are eating healthily the majority of the time.