When it comes to proper nutrition, consistency is the key to long term success. While I do not believe in radical short term changes to the diet, I believe there are some particular actions you can take to start improving your nutrition today. Below I will outline some simple but powerful changes you can make to your diet with minimal effort and maximal positive impact on your diet and waistline.
- Find out how many calories your body needs
While determining how many calories you need may seem complicated, there are many calculators available online that will give you an approximate number. This simple one from the Mayo Clinic just requires that you plug in Age, Height, Weight and Sex. By finding out how many calories your body requires, you inherently become more aware of the calories you are taking in. If you want to take this a step further you can use a nutrient tracking app to keep track of your calories for a few days to get an idea of what you are taking in. This allows you to make small changes and objectively work towards your goals.
2. Cut back on sugar sweetened beverages
This one may seem like a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many beverages contain large amounts of added sugars. With new updates to the standard nutrition label by the FDA, added sugars will have to be indicated on product packaging. This new labeling will help give you an idea of just how many grams of extra sugar are in a particular beverage or food. Some replacements for sugar sweetened beverages would be, essence waters such a the HINT line of products that contain no sugar. You may also want to replace them with drinks that contain natural calories-free sweeteners such as stevia. You could also make spritzers with seltzer water, using fresh fruits to flavor the water. While consuming sugar sweetened beverages in moderation is not an issue, it is very difficult to do. With small serving sizes it is easy to over consume recommended amounts of added sugars. These calories can add up fast when consumed on a daily basis. Below are some interesting facts surrounding sugary drinks from the University of Utah.
3. Move More
While this may seem rudimentary in principle, this is a concept that is many times overlooked. If you work a job that requires you to sit still for long periods of time, your energy expenditure goes down drastically. This means you may not be able to eat as many calories as if you were a construction worker moving around all day. While this seems like a grim outlook, there are many things you can do to modify your energy expenditure to allow your body to tolerate more calories without weight gain. The first step is to just get active, no matter how long it may be for. You may start out with a 15 minute walk on your lunch break or you may want to make it a point to get up from your desk and walk around for a few minutes every half hour. These small energy expenditures can add up and increase your caloric tolerance, not to mention a slew of other health benefits which I will save for another post. 4. Be Conscious When Portioning Food
Whether you pack your own lunch or eat out often, portion control is a major concern. America in particular is notorious for large portion sizes which are good for our taste buds but not always so good for our health and weight. Just because your are served a certain portion when eating out, does not mean you have to eat all of it. Don't be afraid to take the rest to go and eat a later time. Portion control is also important if you pack your own food. The USDA's MyPlate is a great resource for portion size and other nutrition related information. At the end of the day, a larger portion translate to more calories that your body may not necessarily need if you are not expending lots of calories.
5. Slow Down When Eating
There have been numerous studies on eating speed and caloric intake, most of the studies have found that the faster you eat the more calories you consume, which may have adverse health effects such a excessive weight gain and unhealthy bloodmarkers. Here is an interesting article from Harvard Health outlining the principles surrounding the slower eating phenomenon. The article touches on the brain-gut connection through certain hormones. When you eat, these hormones take time to send the message to the brain that your stomach is filling up. By eating slower you allow the brain more time to register the food in your stomach. This may lead to fewer calories consumed if you recognize sooner that you are getting full. Try this next time you sit down to eat. Chew each bite fully and allow at least 10 seconds before you take another bite.
This last one is a bonus tip that is many times overlooked. Some foods are inherently more voluminous than others. Let take for example, Regular Cheerios vs. Honey Nut Cheerios. Calories for calorie you will get more food volume when you eat regular cheerios due to less added sugars. This means you can eat more of a particular food item while taking in the same or less calories as another less voluminous food item. This is a strategy that can be used to give your stomach the sensation of feeling full, while consuming less calories. Fiber content also play a role here. The more fibrous the food is the more effort it takes your stomach to digest, slowing down the digestion process, allowing you to stay fuller for longer. Some other examples of voluminous foods are vegetables and some fruits. These foods are not only voluminous but they are also more nutrient dense. Nutrient density can be defined as the amount of nutrients per oz/gm of food. Fruits and vegetables in particular are very nutrient dense being that they contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals, and a low amount of overall calories. Use these strategies to your advantage when preparing your meals in order to feel fuller for longer! (More voluminous foods usually require more water to process in your stomach, so make sure to stay hydrated!)
While this is not an all inclusive list of nutrition strategies, these are some strategies that you can use to kickstart your goals towards fitness, whatever they may be. Please comment below with any strategies that you have found helpful in your fitness journey! If you found this post useful, don't hesitate to share it with a friend. Until next time, Be Elite!