Many of us know our nutrition needs to be improved in order to achieve our fitness goals. But where do you start? The following 6 healthy habits will naturally lead to improvement in calorie control, nutrient timing, and food selection.
HABIT 1: Eat slowly and stop at 80% full
Slow down and listen to hunger and appetite cues. It takes 20 minutes for our gut to tell our brains “okay, I’m content, you can stop eating now.” Therefore, it only makes sense to strive for a 15-20 minute feeding window. The best way to achieve this goal is to have a seat; slow down; turn off the TV; put your cell phone down; and eliminate all other distractions. Now, take smaller bites; chew food completely to taste it; put the fork/spoon down every few bites; have a drink; chat with a friend. I know it may sound strange but the idea here is to really experience the process of eating. This way we can truly tune into our appetite cues to better gauge fullness. Once this goal is achieved, the next goal of this habit is to stop at 80% fullness. This will most likely be a brand new territory so it will take some trial and error. One way to practice this habit is by setting a timer while you eat.
HABIT 2: Eat Protein at each meal
There is no magic pill to make you achieve your goals but if there were, I’d swear it would be protein. The amino acids that make up a protein also makeup EVERYTHING in our bodies(from bones to hormones to immune chemicals) Maintaining our amino acid pool is like keeping a sink full without a drain plug. That’s why it’s necessary to keep replenishing this pool by ingesting a protein rich diet.
A portion size of protein is about the size of the palm of your hand(about 20-30g). Women should aim for one portion of protein per meal while men should aim for two portions(40-60g) per meal. (A meal means every time you eat. Yes, this includes “snacks.”)
HABIT 3: Eat vegetables at each meal
You’re probably rolling your eyes because you’re probably tired of hearing this. But maybe it’s time to finally listen. Vegetables will keep you full; make your plate appear fuller; and keep you regular. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals. If you eat a variety of vegetables throughout the day you may be able to obtain your daily vitamin requirements without the use of supplementation (That means you can save some money!)
A portion size of vegetable is about 1/2 a cup or the size of your fist. A target number of servings is 6-8 per day. Eat mostly green veggies because they tend to have less sugar and less calories.
HABIT 4: Eat carbohydrates around exercise
This does not mean eat a low-carbohydrate diet. It means eating carbohydrates strategically. Think of it like this, If you want to lose fat, you must earn those higher carbohydrate meals by exercising first. The best time to ingest bread, rice, pasta, and sugary foods is immediately after exercise.
Majority of Americans eat far too many carbs. Not only that, but the carbs we eat are highly processed and sugary. Keep in mind that carb sources are all on a spectrum. At one end we have the slower digesting (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, quinoa) while at the other end we have fast digesting (white rice, sugar, bread, fruit). If someone were to switch from consuming high amounts of sugary carbs to slower digesting carbs they would make huge positive improvements without making adjustments to carbohydrate timing. However, the next step would be to plan your carbohydrate meals.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel. We need them to function to our fullest. Eat slower digesting carbohydrates at breakfast to give you long lasting energy to take on the day. However, don’t consume carbs again until just before exercising (again to give you energy). Then, consume carbs immediately after your workout (this is they only time you may consume the more sugary carbs). Again, If you want to lose fat, you must earn those higher carbohydrate meals by exercising first. The best time to ingest bread, rice, pasta, and sugary foods is immediately after exercise.
*Of course there are exceptions to the rule especially for athletes and other special needs, but this is a general guideline for 80% of the population whom exercise 1-3 days a week and need basic nutrition assistance. More advanced? Read my post Peri-Workout Nutrition
HABIT 5: Eat healthy fats daily
Dietary Fats do notmake you fat! In fact, all those “low-fat” alternatives are actually loaded with… guess what… unnecessary carbs!! Steer clear of those processed sources and stick to single ingredient foods. About 30% of the food you eat should come from fat. But rather than focusing on a number, focus on keeping a balance between saturated, mono saturated and polyunsaturated fats. Consume about 1/3 from each category.
Some saturated fat sources include animal fats(eggs, butter, dairy, meet, cheese), coconut oil, palm oil
Some monounsaturated sources include macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews,pistachios,tahini, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, olives, olive oil, and avocado
Some polyunsaturated sources include fish oil, hemp seeds, algae oils, safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanuts, canola oil, soy nuts, walnuts, flax seeds, flax oil, chia seeds, Brazil nuts
Want more? Read my post Macronutrients
HABIT 6: Drink more water
You know that little headache you get when you’re dehydrated? That’s your body screaming at you to drink more water! Our bodies are made up of 70% water. That’s a lot! It only makes sense to keep replenishing with new, clean, and fresh water. Sufficient Intakes of water throughout the day will help flush any toxins out of our systems. We have to keep the flow of flushing constant. If not, it’d be like sitting in an emptying tub of dirty bath water and soon enough all that’s left is murky crap …that’s gross. Also, drink water and/unsweetened tea, not sugary drinks like soda and juice!
Aim to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces of water. So if you weigh 140lbs, you should drink at least 70 fl oz water per day. One way to measure how much water you get is to use a gallon jug everyday but that isn’t always practical in a week setting. So get a 16-32oz water bottle(the ones with measurements on the sides are the best!) and track your water intake that way!
Want more? Read my post Drink More Water