We hear statements all the time like “it’s 90% diet” or “results begin in the kitchen.” We are fully aware that nutrition is paramount to fitness success, but we still have a hard time getting our diets on track. Eating consistently clean can feel overwhelming, as it seems to takes a lot of time and energy and not be a whole lot of fun! However, don’t despair. I have seven simple, stress-free ways that you can improve your diet. Focus on making incorporating each suggestion one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll start seeing the results you want!
1. Drink water all day. Water helps to keep your cells hydrated and shuttle essential nutrients to your cells. Also, it’s important for eliminating waste and toxins from your body that would otherwise weigh you down and make you feel lethargic.
Tip: Carry a 32-ounce water bottle with you at all times, and aim to drink at least 2-3 a day! When you have water with you at all times, you are more likely to drink it!
2. Eat plenty of vegetables. View green veggies as a free food (eat as much as you like) to help you stay feeling full and satisfied. Vegetables are very high in fiber, vitamin C, folic acid and minerals. Not only do they help you feel good, they fire up your metabolism, as veggies’ high fiber content require your body to work hard to break them down.
Tip: Aim to try a new vegetable each week. You never know which one will become your new favorite! Try different ways to prepare them–they don’t have to be eaten raw or steamed. Try sautéing your veggies or grilling them with olive oil and fresh garlic.
3. Eat before you go to bed. Rather than being afraid to eat after a certain time, just be choosy about what you eat. A small meal before you go to bed will help you sleep, facilitate muscle repair and keep your metabolism boosted.
Tip: Stick with a lean protein and a fat source for your nighttime snack. A few of my favorites are: protein shake with chia seeds, Greek yogurt with flaxseeds, egg white and veggie omelet or a no-carb pancake with 1 tbsp almond butter (see recipe below).
Gina’s Nighttime No-Carb Pancake
1 scoop protein powder
2 egg whites
1 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon, to taste
Mix all ingredients and cook on medium heat in a pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Top off with a tbsp of almond butter.
4. Eat slowly. Taking the time to thoroughly chew your food helps improves digestion and gives your body the necessary time to tell you that you are full. Not chewing well stresses your digestive system and can lead to poor absorption, gas, bloating and overeating.
Tip: Try eating with chopsticks to help you eat more slowly.
5. Never skip meals. If you are trying to lose weight, not eating is the opposite of what you want to do. Not eating frequently will cause fatigue, decreased metabolism, potential muscle loss, mental fog, and ultimately, gain weight. You want to aim for a minimum of 5 small meals a day.
Tip: Don’t wait until you are starving to eat! This increase your potential to overeat or eat the wrong things. Aim to eat every 2.5-3 hours.
6. Avoid refined sugar whenever possible. Eating sugar causes blood sugar swings. Blood sugar increases immediately after consuming sugar causing the body to produce insulin. Excess insulin creates a crash in blood sugar and more sugar cravings, which lead to fat storage, stress on the pancreas and a plethora of other medical issues.
Tip: Use a natural, no-calorie sugar substitute such as Stevia, whenever possible, and find healthy alternatives to beat your sugar cravings.
7. Avoid refined carbohydrates. Did you know that the average American gets 50% of their calories from refined carbohydrates? Refined carbohydrates are grains that have had the fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, bran and germ removed. In other words, the nutrients have been extracted, so you are left with only starch. The health concerns related to refined carbohydrates are similar to those for refined sugar.
Tip: When reading labels, look for “whole grain” not “enriched.” Also, look for products with a limited number of ingredients, and if you can’t pronounce an ingredient listed, you most likely shouldn’t be consuming it.