5 Things to Start Improving Your Nutrition Today

Find out how many calories your body needs:

While determining how many calories you need may seem complicated, many online calculators will give you an approximate number. This simple one from the Mayo Clinic requires you to plug in Age, Height, Weight and Sex. By discovering how many calories your body requires, you inherently become more aware of the calories you take. 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.

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 must be indicated on product packaging. This new labelling will help you know how many grams of extra sugar are in a particular beverage or food. Some replacements for sugar-sweetened beverages would be essence waters, such as the HINT line of products that contain no sugar. You may also want to replace them with drinks that contain natural calorie-free sweeteners, such as stevia. You could also make spritzers with seltzer water, using fresh fruits to flavour the water. While consuming sugar-sweetened beverages in moderation is not an issue, it is difficult. With small serving sizes, consuming recommended amounts of added sugars is easy. These calories can add up fast when consumed daily. Below are some interesting facts surrounding sugary drinks from the University of Utah.

Move More:

While this may seem rudimentary in principle, this is a concept that is many times overlooked. If you work a job requiring you to sit still for long periods, your energy expenditure decreases drastically. This means you may be unable to eat as many calories as 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 get active, no matter how long it may be. You may start 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.

Be Conscious When Portioning Food:

Whether you pack your lunch or eat out often, portion control is a major concern. America, in particular, is notorious for large portions that are good for our taste buds but not always so good for our health and weight. Just because you 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 at a later time. Portion control is also important if you pack your food. The USDA’s MyPlate is great for portion size and other nutrition-related information. A larger portion translates to more calories that your body may not necessarily need if you are not expending lots of calories.

Slow Down When Eating:

There have been numerous studies on eating speed and caloric intake; most studies have found that the faster you eat, the more calories you consume, which may have adverse health effects such as excessive weight gain and unhealthy blood markers. 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 tell the brain that your stomach is filling up. Eating slower allows the brain more time to register the food in your stomach. This may lead to fewer calories consumed if you recognize you are getting full sooner. Try this next time you sit down to eat. Chew each bite fully and allow at least 10 seconds before you take another bite.

(Bonus) Eat voluminous, Nutrient dense foods:

This last one is a bonus tip that is many times overlooked. Some foods are inherently more voluminous than others. Let’s 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 fewer 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 fewer calories. Fiber content also plays a role here. The more fibrous the food is, the more effort it takes your stomach to digest, slowing down digestion and 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 are nutrient-dense because they contain many vitamins and minerals and low overall calories. Use these strategies to your advantage when preparing your meals to feel fuller for longer! (More voluminous foods usually require more water to process in your stomach, so stay hydrated!)

While this is not an all-inclusive list of nutrition strategies, these are some strategies you can use to kickstart your goals towards fitness, whatever they may be. Please comment below with any strategies you 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!

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