I like to categorize food and eating habits under nutrition. Eating is probably the biggest change a person needs to make. Luckily, we eat all the time so it is actually the easiest in a way. Before I go any further, working out extra so you can eat more isn’t a thing. Yes, you will need to eat more if y0u workout but no, that burger and fries still isn’t a great choice. Not that it can’t happen now and again 😉 I will be focussing on weightloss so one’s calorie intake will be lower than maintenance with a higher calorie number on days used to work out.
There is no magic to losing weight in the nutrition category. You need to be at a caloric deficit and that means that you may feel hungry at the beginning. Period. To help remedy that, prepare your calories for the day and split up your food. Instead of eating lunch all at once, eat 1/2 and save the other 1/2 as a snack a few hours later. This will help curb the hunger. Another option is to snack on vegetables because they tend to be low in calories and good for you. Do not snack on a lot of fruits as they have sugars, albeit good sugars. Keep your mouth busy by keeping a bottle of water or green tea by your side. Start off by seeing what your daily calorie intake should be just as maintenance:
Although it might be a chore at first, download a free app like MyPlate and input your food. Invest in a food scale. They range between $20-$30 and will help you familiarize yourself with portions and weights. Be accurate in your food records, especially the first week. It is ok if you are over. The first week gives you the opportunity to get to know your habits and what you are intaking.
Planning is also very important. Planning consists of preparation of healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables can be cut/washed in advance each week so they are ready to go. Part of planning means your cupboards as well. Yes, this means saying good-bye to junk food. Do yourself a favour and keep it out of the house. We all have our moments of weakness and it is best to leave out temptations. Shop local and fresh when you can, especially if you leave near farms and markets. Keep track of how many calories are in your foods. You will eventually become familiar with them but it is good practice when learning your nutrition.
Consider the nutritional component. Two foods may have the same calories count but your body will not use and store the nutritional content in the same way.
Once again I will mention Pinterest because I think it is such a great resource. Eating healthy can become boring when you start out. There are things you can do to spice things up, like adding spices or herbs. There are also a lot of healthy alternatives. I never use yogurt anymore. I use kefir or Greek yogurt instead. They are much healthier on a micronutrient level. I use dry cottage cheese in lasagnas instead of ricotta. Brown rice pasta instead of wheat. Turkey or chicken instead of beef. I don’t usually use a lot of fats in cooking but I use olive oil and butter. I don’t think margarine or other modified foods are good choices. Most important is to eat a little of everything in moderation; for example, I replace red meat with chicken or turkey but red meat once in a while is ok too. When I have doubts I think back to what self-sufficient farmers would have eaten: whole, natural, foods (what we, unfortunately nowadays, can purchase as “organic” or grow ourselves if we have the space and time. . .and $ is purchasing). There are plenty of handy charts that you can use as reference like this one found on http://www.skinnymom.com:
I also want to talk about protein. There are diets out there like paleo which focus on high protein intake. Some people swear by it but, again, it is all about lifestyle. I prefer a diet that is less limiting and more varied because it is more realistic to my busy schedule. That being said, many people have incorporated protein shakes after their workouts. From a personal experience, I do believe in increasing protein once you have developed the habit of exercise. Protein basically feeds your muscles so if you are working hard at building them, it would be a shame to starve them out. When you input your food, there is a part that tells you how much protein your are consuming. If you are active about 3 times a week, your daily intake of protein should be about 0.5 – 0.65 grams per pound so a 160 lbs woman should aim for about 80-104 grams of protein daily (while bearing your calorie count in mind). This means a lot of vegetables with it as they are lower in calories. Below are a few examples of approximate protein content in some common foods:
4 oz chicken breast (23 g) (123 calories)
1 large egg (6 g) (74 calories)
4 oz steak (24 g) (200 caloires)
3/4 C Greek yogurt (18 g) (100 calories)
1 C cottage cheese (28 g) (180 calories)
4 oz tofu (8 g) (72 caloires)
1 C 2% milk (8 g) (120 calories)
Once again, keep in mind your protein choices. Think of it this way, lean proteins, like chicken and fish, for lean muscles. They have lower calories but don’t worry about tossing in other proteins because you don’t want your body to become so accustomed to just a few things. Keep the diet varied.
Finally, try out different cooking techniques. You already know that frying is probably not the best. Poaching and steaming are good options but can be pretty bland until your taste buds get used to it. The solution is to use herbs and spices for seasoning. They are very low in calories. If I sautee vegetables, I add water which softens the vegetables as they cook down so I don’t need to add as much oil. I use curry powder for a lot of things. Olive oil is a good fat, as is avocado and they both can be incorporated into foods for added flavour and texture. There are also a wide variety of sauces like chimichurri that can make a dish more palatable. You can also experiment with substitutions.