18 Eating Habits To Keep You Healthy and Lean in 2018
By: Julie Mancuso, B.A., R.H.N., JM Nutrition
How to keep healthy and lean? As a nutritionist, I am asked this question all the time, it seems. And my answer is always the same: develop a healthy mindset and reinforce it regularly with healthy eating habits.
Easier said than done, huh?
I know, I know. But as the old saying goes, every journey starts with a single step. To help you take those first few steps, I offer eighteen tips to help you make positive changes to your eating habits.
Here’s a list of 18 of those habits that will keep you healthy and lean well into the new year and beyond:
Chicken should become your go-to meat. Chicken is lean (read: low in fat), high in protein–which will keep you full for longer, and contains zero carbohydrates. Meat just doesn’t get much better than this. Chicken, then, should become your centrepiece protein. Buy organic, if you can.
Up the vegetable intake
Increase your vegetable portions. If you up your intake of vegetables even a little, you will likely reduce your starchy carbs portions, which often contribute to the consumption of excess calories.
Speaking of carbs, vegetables are low in carbohydrates as well as calories and, as such, are a great way to consume essential nutrients and vitamins while keeping you healthy and lean.
As an added bonus, vegetables contain a great deal of water and fibre–two elements that will keep you sated, preventing you from overeating or reaching for that unhealthy snack to top up your tank, so to speak.
In addition to raising the level of good bacteria in the gut, ensuring gastrointestinal and immune health, probiotics may also assist with the prevention of yeast overgrowth, which is known to cause tiredness, bloating, sugar and refined carbohydrates cravings—factors detrimental to healthy weight maintenance.
Not all probiotics are created equal, however, so choose carefully. I encourage you to seek the help of a qualified professional (naturopath, nutritionist) to help you choose the right probiotics with the right bacteria type and count for you.
Dry, dry, dry
If you’re selecting an alcoholic beverage with one eye placed firmly on staying healthy and lean, then turn to dry wine. Dry wine, whether red or white, contains less sugar than its sweeter counterparts, making it the healthier option. This, of course, doesn’t mean you have free rein to indulge. You still need to consume it in limited amounts or, as they say, in moderation.
If wine does not strike your fancy and you’re compelled to have a drink, then try clear hard liquor drinks such as vodka because they contain no sugar, few—if any—additives, and fewer calories.
The hidden load
In a concerted effort to stay healthy and lean you should also keep an eye out on hidden loads of sugar in foods such as bottled sauces and dressings, condiments, jams, spreads and many juices.
What good is eating well if you self-sabotage bit by bit through incremental sugar ingestion. A few grams of sugar here and a few more there accumulate quickly, contributing greatly to future weight gain. Steer clear.
The sure way to avoid the hidden sugar load pitfall is to read food labels carefully, only selecting products which contain the least amount of sugar and the fewest additives.
Certain glutenous foods (e.g., wheat, barley, rye) contain a protein called gliadin, which some people cannot digest, leading to inflammation. It can also result in a stimulated appetite, when digested. A voracious appetite usually leads to the cravings of unhealthy, refined carbohydrates, and in turn, more calories in than out. And we all know what happens next.
To stay lean, I recommend reducing food products containing gliadin to see if your inflammation and cravings peter out.
Read more about gliadin at Livestrong.com.
Drinking adequate water is a must for several reasons:
- It can relieve fatigue and boost energy.
- It can help eliminate toxins stored in the body.
- It can facilitate bowel movements.
- It can prevent headaches.
Drinking water can also fill you up, potentially suppressing the appetite. When thirsty, some people tend to reach for a snack or even a meal. Drinking adequate amounts of water can prevent this unwise action and help to keep you more healthy and lean.
To find out more about water and weight loss, this is a must-read: 5 Ways Drinking More Water Can Help You Lose Weight.
Trim your portions
From my experience as a nutritionist, an effective stay-lean tip is to simply consume smaller portions of the food you’re eating. Although this sounds like a tall order, it is simpler than it sounds.
This change can be gradual, so as to wean the body slowly off the larger, waist-expanding portions. You can start by piling on one or two fewer ladles of pasta or eating an open-faced sandwich. No matter how small, these reductions can have a huge impact on your health, helping you to stay healthy and lean. So remember, trim your portions and you trim your body.
Although I’m not going to suggest you eliminate dairy altogether, reducing its consumption can prove to be a wise course of action if you want to keep fit, healthy and lean.
As you no doubt know, most dairy packs on the calories and fat, so it’s not exactly conducive to weight loss or weight maintenance, for that matter.
And if you’re concerned about not getting enough calcium should you cut back on dairy, calcium-rich foods abound and will do you just fine, providing you with all the calcium you need.
Easy on the cereal
On more than one occasion, I’ve written about making informed decisions when choosing cereal. I implore most people to avoid most cereals because of their high-sugar content. I am particularly insistent about this when it comes to buying cereal for children, who often tend to select cereal brimming with sugar and with only minimal nutritional value.
The same principle applies to adults who have grown up eating this breakfast-fave and continue to do so well into adulthood.
Despite the fact that they deliver some nutrients, regular consumption of most cereals can be detrimental to overall health as a result of the long-term cumulative effect of constantly packing on the sugar and extra calories. This includes your waistline.
To be sure you’re buying the right stuff, give those food labels a cold, hard look.
And because the matter is made worse with the addition of milk, I recommend selecting an organic milk, or even better, a non-dairy beverage such as unsweetened almond, cashew or coconut milk—the operative word being unsweetened.
Leave it open
That’s right, leave it open—the sandwich, that is.
Using one slice of bread instead of two for your sandwich effectively cuts those carbs by fifty percent. This way you still get a taste of your favourite bread, but only half the calories—something that’s often on the mind of those for whom staying healthy and lean is of great importance.
If you feel the need to have a more far-reaching effect when it comes to the reduction of carbohydrates, try what I call a lettwich or lettwrap, which calls for the contents of your sandwich or wrap to be wrapped by a lettuce leaf.
Substituting sugar—a substance which plays a major role in expanding waistlines, amongst other adverse effects—is no doubt an important step in keeping trim.
A much more healthy alternative, and one I highly recommend, is Stevia. Stevia, a natural sweetener, contains no calories and no carbohydrates, making it an ideal companion of the health-conscious.
Add it to coffee or bake with it—either way, Stevia and weight maintenance go hand-in-hand.
Protein over granola
To stay healthy and lean it is important to do away with seemingly harmless but unhealthy snacks. Granola bars are such case in point.
As I’ve written previously, many granola bars just contain too much sugar to form a healthy snack, which they are often purporting to be in those commercial ads. Now I’m not saying that granola bars do not contain essential nutrients and vitamins because many do. But as beneficial as these nutrients and vitamins may be, their benefit is largely marred by the excess sugar, making the granola bars a very far cry from a healthy snack.
So, choose low-sugar granola bars, or reach for a protein bar. Protein bars can stave off hunger quite well, providing you with the necessary energy to get you through your day, and perhaps give you that extra boost at the gym. Just make sure the protein bars are also low in sugar.
Eat sweet… potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain a number of vitamins, which is reason enough to eat them. But the good news doesn’t just stop there. Sweet potatoes also contain fewer calories and carbohydrates than your average potato, making it the perfect carb-companion of the fit, healthy and lean.
I highly recommend replacing white rice, white pasta and white potatoes with the sweet spud.
Try spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash is a fantastic alternative to pasta for those watching their waistlines simply because it contains fewer calories and carbohydrates. Spaghetti squash also carries a plateful of vitamins and nutrients needed by the body.
But the best thing about squash is that it just tastes great. Eat it as a side, or as a substitute for pasta. No matter how you take it, you won’t go wrong.
To keep those extra calories, additives and unhealthy fats in check, turn to extra-virgin olive oil as salad dressing. You can supplement the olive oil with balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar, if you find the taste a little plain. Either way, doing so is a wise choice if the goal is to stay healthy and lean.
Whichever way of eating your salads you choose, give the bottle salad dressings a pass as most of these can only sabotage your goals of staying fit, healthy and lean.
Eat out less
It’s a simple concept: if you eat out at a restaurant, you are at the mercy of the chef and what ingredients he or she decides to add to the food you’re eating. And, for the most part, his or her main concern revolves around making the food tasty, not healthy.
To avoid the unknown, it is best to stay home and cook your own meal, which is the only way to be able to control what goes into your food. And if you just must pop out to the neighbourhood restaurant for dinner once or twice a week, make healthy food selections in order not to negate all your hard work.
The choice is yours: convenience or health—it’s difficult to fulfill both needs.
Early bird needs the protein
Don’t skip out on protein at breakfast.
Protein has to form the mainstay of your breakfast. Its importance cannot be underestimated as it keeps you full for longer, staving off the mid-morning hunger.
Why is this important?
If loaded up on protein and feeling sated, you are less likely to reach for that coffee break donut or cookie for the badly needed energy boost. One or two of these small indulgences every day, and you’ve accumulated 30-60 of these delicacies at the month’s end. That’s a staggering number when you look at it this way.
A proper protein portion at breakfast can help you resist those mid-morning office temptations.
So that’s it. Eighteen practical eating tips to keep you healthy and lean for 2018.
Do you have any tips worth sharing? Please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
For more healthy eating tips and ideas aimed at weight loss or maintenance, take a look at my other posts.
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