There is no shortage of information when it comes to nutrition. And unfortunately there isn’t a universal method or diet that will work for everyone either.
You hear about diets like Paleo, Atkins, The Zone Diet, eating for your blood type, etc. Each author will make a sound argument for the benefits of that approach, touting it as the “holy grail” of all diets, while critics will quickly line up to point out all of its pitfalls.
Now I’m not here to decipher or break down the pros and cons of each. Most plans are effective in helping the dieter to consume fewer calories than they burn, resulting in weight loss. But many other factors like genetics, environment, food allergies and daily energy demands will influence how an individual responds to dietary intake.
For example, a weekend warrior training for a triathlon will naturally have a higher need for carbohydrates and overall calorie intake compared to an office worker who hasn’t been physically active for five years. But regardless of individual differences and nutritional needs, the commonalities all people need is consistency, behavior change and an environment for success.
Let’s face it: Change is hard. Especially when it comes to nutrition. But if we start by implementing the right strategies first and foremost, our likelihood of success can only increase. Outlined in this article are three areas to begin with to get you on the right path and on your way to better nutritional wellness.
The majority of us have busy lifestyles and need to hit the ground running first thing in the morning each week. This means that gaining control over our food consumption will require setting aside a few hours or so weekly (usually on a Saturday or Sunday) to write out a menu and then shop for and prepare our meals for the week. The idea is to simply make the rest of your week easier by doing a little work in advance. The process goes like this:
▪ Sit down and come up with a meal plan, ideas and needs for the week.
▪ Decide roughly how much of each food you’ll need for the week and generate a shopping list.
▪ Hit the grocery store and, once you’re home, start cooking for the week. Cook the meat/beans, chop the veggies, set up snacks, etc.
You can either choose to prepare all the meals for the week or figure out which meals will be easy to cook just prior to meal time and save them for later. Typically, preparing meals that will need to be eaten during work hours or during busy times of the day when food prep becomes difficult is best done in advance. This usually consists of lunches and two or three daytime snacks.
Initially, this process will take some getting used to, but with time and practice it will become second nature and make a world of difference in terms of your consistency and success.
Create mindless eating solutions
In his book “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life,” Brian Wansink gives powerful solutions to healthier eating just by making simple tweaks in your home.
A 2015 Syracuse University study in which 230 homes were visited uncovered some interesting statistics based on what was visible on the kitchen counter:
▪ Participants weighed anywhere between 9 and 29 pounds more when they had items like cookies, crackers/chips, breakfast cereal and regular or diet soda on the counter compared to those who didn’t.
▪ Participants who had only fruit on the counter weighed 7 pounds less on average.
Also, how you serve dinner in your home can have an influence on the amount of food consumed. When serving food from the stove or counter, people ate 19 percent less food compared to those who served food “family style” directly from the table. Having to get up and walk is just enough for people to question if they are really that hungry.
Below is a checklist of ways to set up your kitchen and meals for better success. The goal is to achieve at least seven or more.
▪ Salad and vegetables are served before the entrée and starches are brought to the table.
▪ The main dish is pre-plated and served from the stove or counter.
▪ Your dinner plates are 9-10 inches wide.
▪ You eat sitting at the table with the TV turned off.
▪ There are two or fewer cans of soft drinks in your refrigerator at any one time.
▪ Your kitchen counters are organized (not messy).
▪ Pre-cut fruits and veggies are on your middle refrigerator shelf.
▪ At least six single servings of protein are in your fridge: eggs, yogurt, string cheese, tofu, etc.
▪ Your snacks are kept in one conveniently placed cupboard.
▪ The only food on your kitchen counter is a fruit bowl.
These are just a few of the countless ideas that Wansink provides in his insightful book. You can learn more by visiting www.slimbydesign.org.
There is a saying: “If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it.”
So if you wish to become leaner and healthier, you must remove or minimize foods that aren’t part of a healthy eating program and replace them with a variety of better choices. Here are some examples of what to have and what to eliminate:
|Foods to have in|
|Foods to have in your fridge/freezer||Foods to eliminate or minimize|
Source: “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition” by John Berardi and Ryan Andrews