Daily Nutrition: 12 Strategies that Work

22 Aug

When I started my journey to health all of the daily eating plans I saw seemed a little overwhelming.  I wasn’t willing to jump right from my delicious diet to egg whites, quinoa, plain Greek yogurt and ground turkey overnight.  I wanted my transformation to be a lifestyle change, something I could live with long term.  I’m glad I did it that way, the results came slow but I didn’t fail.

When asked now about my eating habits I typically shy away from the question.  Unless you have worked hard at eating right for a long time the diet I adhere to would be daunting, particularly now that I am eating to prepare for competition, and not just to live a healthy lifestyle.  I’m very glad I didn’t try to adapt to the diet I am on now two years ago, I would have failed.  All things come in good time.

I’m not a dietitian, nor a nutritionist, but I do know what worked for me.  When discussing diet I’m asked a lot about how I did it, what worked, and those are some of the things I’ll share.  I’ve given these tips to a number of people and have seen them have success.  I hope some work for you.

Tip #1
Apply ONE tip at a time!  Don’t do them all at once.  Give yourself time to adjust and you will have a better chance at success.

Tip #2
Stop going through the drive-thru.  Allow yourself the freedom to eat your regular foods, but just commit to not ordering fast food anymore.  It is just as easy to run into the store and grab an apple and a yogurt as it is to go through the drive-thru.

Tip #3
Don’t EVER be without food! Always carry a few snacks in your bag.  Ideas include 100 calorie bags of almonds, a banana, a protein bar or drink, an apple, turkey jerky or a pack of instant oatmeal.  You will always at some point find yourself hungry, and if you have something with you then you are more likely to eat that.  Plus, studies show when we allow ourselves to get too hungry we over eat.  Why wait, eat it before you need it!

Tip #4
Drink water!  Enough said.  It’s non-negotiable.

Tip #5
Pack your lunch.  How many times have you found yourself at an event, been hungry and eaten what is being served?  I always use the example of taking my kids to birthday parties at Pump It Up and staring at the pizza.  The pizza they provide is not good, it’s really not.  If I am eating pizza, it better be worth the calorie hit!  I always bring a snack or meal with me so when everyone is eating I have something too, even if I don’t think I’ll be hungry.  My snack prevents me from “wasting” calories.

Tip #6
Read labels.  I’m not saying you can’t have something, just know exactly what you are putting in your body. (Look at the calories, the saturated/trans fat, and sodium as you get started). Quit frankly, some things amaze me with their poor nutritional content, others are pretty good bang for the buck.

Tip #7
Eat In.  The reality is, chances are even the healthiest things on the menu at restaurants are far less superior to what you would make yourself.  If you have to eat out, opt for restaurants that will cook to order or offer fresh fruit and vegetable selections.  If you really enjoy going out, resolve to eat something before you go, so you can share a dish, or just have an appetizer.

Tip #8
Look up nutritional content online.  A lot of restaurants post their information.  In addition, many times you can ask for a nutritional guide.  Educate yourself on the choices.  Finally, many restaurants will cook to order. McDonald’s, not so much, but they will hold the ketchup, which is very high in sugar.

Tip #9
Eat every two hours, and only enough to last you about 2 hours.  You should never feel full, but you should also never feel hungry.  Once you are really hungry, you’ve missed your opportunity.  Don’t let yourself get to that point.

Tip #10
Keep a food journal.  Write down everything that goes in your mouth for a week and be honest.  Three handfuls of your kid’s gummy bears, bite of chicken nugget, a handful of cheese-its, 5 sticks of gum.  We don’t always count these as foods we eat during the day, but they add up.

Tip #11
Always eat breakfast!  Put something in your mouth with one hour of waking up, preferably sooner.  Breakfast kick starts your metabolism.  When I talked to people about weight lose one of the first questions I usually ask is do you eat breakfast.  The answer is almost always no.  I can relate, I never ate breakfast either before I started working on my eating habits.  Oh, and by the way, coffee does not count as breakfast.

Tip #12
As a general rule of thumb, I try to remember not to drink my calories.  People are more satisfied when they have something to eat (e.g. – swap orange juice for oranges).  Here’s a tough one to follow, this rule includes alcohol.  The bottom line, if you want to get healthy and loose weight, you can’t drink every night.  Try limiting yourself to a few times a week and limit what you drink on those night.  When ordering, opt for wine when you can.  Studies show wine has some health benefits.  Fruity, sweet alcoholic drinks pack tons of calories.  Limit then to the very occasional treat.

Tip #13
Begin to slowly transition your food choices.  Here are the common ones I tackled one at a time.
*From white carbs to whole wheat (e.g., bread, pasta, tortillas, rice).
*From salted nuts to unsalted.
*From yogurt, to Greek yogurt (Chobani was my preferred for a long time), to plain Greek yogurt (plain Greek yogurt seems to be easier to eat with some fresh fruit, or honey mixed in).  I think Fage total 0% gets the gold standard, but Trader Joe’s makes one that has added fiber that seems to taste a little better.
*From flavored beverages (e.g., lattes, teas), to sugar free drinks.  Then slowly cut down the amount of sugar-free syrup or add-ins.
*From ANYTHING canned to fresh, especially when it comes to vegetables.
*From eating any fruit you want to choosing berries first.
* From baked potatoes to sweet potatoes or yams.
*From butter, to non-fat no calorie spraybutter to no butter at all.
*From liquid sauces you marinate meats and poultry in to salt-free seasoning or lemon juice.
*From dressing, to low-fat dressings, to vinegar.  If nothing else, make this one thing you resolve to do.  Dressings can be ridiculously high in calories.  Also, try putting dressing on the side and dip your fork as you eat.  Chances are you will eat much less of the dressing.  I also think making salads using things like salsa or nonfat cottage cheese on them add moisture while still keeping the calories low.
*From soda to water. A tough one!  Start by just cutting back on soda slowly.
*From peanut butter to natural peanut butter to natural, organic, salt-free peanut butter.
*From ice cream to frozen yogurt.
*From any cereal to something high in fiber and low in sugar (Kashi Go Lean is my favorite).
*From regular chocolate to dark chocolate.
*From adding toppings such as chocolate on desserts to adding fruit.
*From full-fat dairy to non-fat dairy items.
*From beef to chicken (I have a rule at home.  I eat red meat, but only as an occasional treat when I am out to eat.  I never cook it at home ).
*From regular lunch meats to higher quality low sodium lunch meats, then  possibly to no lunch meat (substitute chicken or fish you make at home).
*From items with ingredients you cannot pronounce to items with one ingredient.
*From pre-packaged lunches like Lean Cuisine to items you make or prepare.  Pre-packaged lunches market themselves as low calorie and good for you but in reality they rarely are.  They extremely high in sodium and highly processed.

Finally, and I really can’t stress this enough.  Do these one at a time.  If you are going to aim to take foods out of your diet, take one out at a time.  Allow yourself room for set-backs and indulgences.  Incorporate exercise into your routine.  That paired with diet changes are the best way to getting healthy.  To this day I can’t figure it out, but when I exercise, I crave better foods, and I typically eat less.

A lot of the tips I share here I picked up from friends along the way.  If you have ideas I’d love to hear them.  I’m always looking for new snack ideas and healthy eating tips.  Good luck in getting started, and if you are already started, let me know how your journey is going!

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