New Year, New You!

Happy New Year! What’s your New Years resolution this year? If it’s to lose weight, you’re not alone- it has been the most common resolution in America for over a decade!

 

Now that you’ve made it your resolution, you’re probably wondering- where do I begin? There’s tons of information on the Internet about dieting and nutrition, and much of the research done out there in recent years has created a very different “food pyramid” from the one we remember from grade school.

 

You may have talked to a dietician at some point, or read some articles online about nutrtion out there, and the most common thing you’ll hear from any expert is that sustainable weight loss can only happen from a true change of your food lifestyle, not just from following a specific diet for a few weeks until you reach a certain weight.

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The first step in changing this lifestyle is to be honest with yourself about what you put in your body. Think about everything you’ve eaten for the week. Was it all the healthiest choices you could’ve made? You don’t need to feel guilty about what you’ve eaten in the past. Nor should you think that embracing a healthy lifestyle means depriving yourself of some your favorite less nutritious treats. It’s about making better choices when you eat, finding healthier alternatives, having things in moderation, and letting yourself indulge, just doing it a lot less often. Will it require some more time, effort, and commitment than the diet you’ve been eating in the past? Yes, especially at first as you adjust to your new lifestyle. But as soon as you see the results, the time and effort become worth it. Not to mention how much your overall health will improve with living the healthy lifestyle; proper nutrition and exercise has even been proven to cure some serious illnesses, like Type II diabetes.

 

So for the first blog entry of the year, we have put together a guide to help you make these healthier eating choices, and some other tips to make the transition to a healthier you in 2014 easier and even more fulfilling.

 

  • Having too much sugar is having the most detrimental affect on your health.
    • Sugar comes in many forms, from the white crystals poured into coffee and desserts, to what’s produced when white flour pasta passes through your digestive system. Starches turn into sugar in your body. Even some your favorite fruit and its juices are loaded with tons of sugar.
    • Avoid: anything with refined sugar in it and/or white flour in it, and Also, avoid fruit juice, and only consume high sugar fruits like bananas, grapes, pineapple, and oranges, cherries, mangos, and any dried fruits, including raisins and dried figs, in moderation. Omit any starchy vegetables, like corn and potatoes, or those with a naturally higher sugar content, like beets and carrots.
    • Craving something sweet? Go for low sugar fruit options, like papaya, guava, and cantaloupe. Your best option it to go for berries, which are not only low in sugar, but high in antioxidants and other healthy stuff.
    • There’s really no such thing as a good sweetener, but if you need to put something sweet in your coffee, go for a natural alternative sweetener, like whole leaf stevia extract. Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal won’t spike your blood sugar like regular sugar, but are filled with nasty chemicals. Honey and other non-sugar sweeteners, like molasses and agave, are only a little bit better for you than table sugar and may not raise your blood sugar quite as much, but usually have much more calories than its counterparts. All sweeteners should be avoided if possible, but a pack or two of Stevia in your coffee is perfectly ok.
  • Not all fat is bad for you. There is such a thing as bad fats and good fats and good fats can actually help you in your quest to keep healthy and lose weight.
    • Good fats: avocado, olives, olive oil, fatty fishes like wild salmon, trout, mackerel, and catfish, and nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. These should still be eaten in moderation
    • Bad fats: red meat cuts with high fat contents, poultry skin, full fat dairy products, lard, and coconut oil.
  • Protein + veggies are an unbeatable nutrition combination
    • A foolproof way to make a great meal is to have a healthy sized portion of a lean protein and some vegetables, either raw, steamed, or roasted lightly in a little bit of olive oil.
    • The best kinds of proteins are lean proteins like light meal poultry (dark is ok once in awhile, but it is a bit higher in fat than its light counterpart), all seafood, pork tenderloin, lowfat yogurt, beans, soy, eggs, and lean cuts of beef. Other proteins tend to be higher in fat and should only be eaten in moderation.
    • Vegetables are pretty much the best food out there for you: very low in carbohydrates and very high in nutrients. Just make sure you avoid the starchy and high sugar vegetables discussed before, and that you avoid preparing them with ingredients that have a high bad fat content.
  • The dairy debate
    • In terms of weight loss, most dairy is high in bad fat, and also contains some sugar. But you can enjoy low or non-fat dairy products in moderation, and it won’t hinder weight loss.
    • However, more and more studies in recent years have been verifying the connection between acne with diary and sugar products. So if you’re someone who experiences acne, you may want to consider avoiding dairy.
  • The grain predicament
    • Any grain made with white flour, like bread, pasta, and flour tortillas, as well as white rices, are very starchy and should rarely be eaten.
    • Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat bread, contain significantly less starches than white ones, but still have enough to be considered something that should be consumed in moderation.
    • Gluten-free products are often made with potato and corn, which are higher in starches. Your best bet here is to use a gluten free brown rice or tapioca product.
  • Always check your food labels!
    • You’d be surprised what’s in your food, so you MUST check ALL of your food labels, including the ingredients. Example: there are some brands of soups and stocks that add sugar to their vegetable, chicken, and beef stocks.
    • Sugar and sodium are the ingredients most often to be found snuck into food. The best way to avoid added sugar? Makes sure it says unsweetened, then check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t have sugar in it under it’s many pseudonyms. Here’s a great article from the Huffington Post that explains this in more details and provides a great list of “sugars” to avoid.
    • Foods labeled “low” and “no-fat” are usually loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, so be sure to get the whole picture of the real nutrition of the product before you buy it.
  • Limit your alcohol intake
    • It’s sad but true: alcohol is high in sugar.
    • Some alcohols have less sugar than others. Beer is made with grains and sugar is what helps those grains ferment into beer (and what helps it carbonate in the end), so it’s the worst on the list. Wine being made from fruit makes it a little better, but grapes are naturally high in sugar, and sugar is also the product of the fermentation process in wine, so it’s still pretty high sugar to be something that’s consumed often.
    • Your best bet is go with something distilled, rather than fermented, like vodka, whiskey, or gin, but these are all made from starches, so they should still only be enjoyed in moderation. And don’t mix it with anything except for some seltzer, since fruit juices and sodas will raise the sugar content even more.

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Following these basic guidelines will help you on your way to changing your lifestyle over to a healthy one; if you stick to them, only good things will happen, not just to your waistline, but in your overall wellbeing as well.  Healthy is often associated as not being as delicious but there are so many recipe resources out there that will help you eat the right foods and not the bad ones. Next week, we’ll help you get started with some of those tasty recipes and prove that healthy food can be even more appetizing!

 

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