No carbs after 3:00 PM is the trick to losing weight, right? Or is it following a gluten-free diet? Wait…isn’t Paleo diet the in-thing? What about 5:2 intermittent fasting diet? And oh… what about the 21-day smoothie challenge? So many diets and rules to follow! Enough to make one’s head spin! How is a girl supposed to keep track of them all?
There’s a wealth of diets and dietary rules out there- all of which promise to whip your body into shape in a flash. Although diet plans will always have a place in the world of health and weight loss, they come with their own pitfalls. For instance, imagine never eating carbs after 3:00 PM, or having to give up your favourite alcoholic drink! The downsides and the contradictory plans are enough to keep many people from trying to pursue the bodies of their dreams. To make matters worse, most diets can make you feel deprived- which intensifies cravings for the restricted foods.
If only there was a way to eat to your fill and still lose weight! Well, there is a way. Forget dieting and eat whole unprocessed foods throughout the day. If you feel like having a cocktail at happy hour, go for it! If you crave ice-cream for dessert, have a tiny tub. Allow yourself cheat meals- a maximum of twice a week. A cheat meal won’t make you unhealthy, just as one healthy meal won’t make you suddenly healthy. Just remember not to go overboard with the “unhealthy” foods. If you stick to a healthy diet, eat regular well-portioned meals, eat healthy snacks, you will lose weight steadily and be more likely to maintain the loss.
Use these guidelines to make every meal healthy instead of following punishing diets:
This is the most important meal of the day. It kick-starts your day and sets you on a healthy eating path throughout the day. The first breakfast rule is consuming alkaline foods. For instance, you can opt to start your day with a glass of lemon or orange juice, or even white tea and an apple. Secondly, have wholegrains such as almonds, oatmeal, quinoa, or brown bread. Wholegrains will keep you full for longer, staving hunger pangs and boosting digestion. Now add a good source of protein such as eggs or milk. However, note that vegetarian protein sources are preferable as there are generally healthier and easier to digest. You might also want to avoid dairy products, especially if you’re prone to respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies. Remember to hydrate well- at least two glasses of water- before leaving the house.
A snack an hour or two before lunch can be just what you need to keep the hunger pangs at bay. The rule of thumb is to go for something rich in protein and/or healthy fats. A serving of almond (35 nuts), is one of the best midmorning snack options. If you’ve fallen into the groggy pre-lunch slump, low-fat yoghurt, string cheese, nuts, or peanut butter will heighten your alertness. Feeling harried at work? Snack on a small bar (or 4 squares) of chocolate to soothe your nerves. Remember to keep your midmorning snack at 100 calories or less.
By 12 to 1pm, it’s likely that you will start to feel a slump in energy and start losing concentration. Experts estimate that women need 400-600 calories for lunch to sustain them through a hectic working day. Be careful not to overeat- more than 800 calories will make you feel sluggish. An ideal lunch should have a mixture of vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Don’t gorge on carbs like white bread, pasta, or potatoes- carbs encourage the body to produce serotonin which causes lethargy. Go for wholegrain carbohydrates which release energy more slowly into the bloodstream and keep you fuller for longer. For protein go for chicken, egg, beef, cheese, pulses, or fish. Don’t forget to add a portion of veggies and fruits.
A study found that most diets fail at around 4PM- that’s the time most dieters succumb to afternoon munchies. Beat the afternoon energy slump by reaching for a protein-rich snack such as Greek yoghurt or whey protein shake. A scoop of whey protein contains around 100 calories and 20 grams of protein- which makes it an excellent snack choice, especially if you’re heading to the gym later. For extra energy boost, blend a banana into your whey protein shake.
If you’ve eaten healthily throughout the day, you will notice that you are not very hungry at dinner time. Many people are under the impression that eating dinner leads to weight gain. However, scientific research has proved that’s not the case. In fact, in studies, people who ate dinner lost more weight and had less hunger cravings. Your body’s ability to gain weight is mainly about what and how much you eat, not when you eat it. Make protein the star of your dinner plate. Load up on grilled chicken breast, salmon, sirloin steak, and tofu (for vegetarians and vegans). Add a large portion of non-starchy veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, or leafy greens. Round up your meal with a serving of complex carbs and healthy fats.