A helping of healthy eating tips
First and foremost, make yourself some goals. However, the biggest mistake most people make in their efforts to improve themselves are that they make overly simplified goals such as “I want to get in better shape.” This is a vague statement will get you nowhere, except stuck in a circle of complacency: you want to be better, but you don’t know how much, how, or in what timeframe. Instead, make S.M.A.R.T. goals. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Specific relates to breaking it down: what is it you wish to do – Lift weights? Run? Lose inches or pounds? If you are not specific, you will not be able to solve that problem area and might waste valuable efforts elsewhere. Measureable relates to what degree – how many pounds to lose, how many inches to shed, or how fast to run. If you don’t have this in mind, there is no way to track progress. Attainable is applicable to your capability: is it an attainable goal to knock off 5 minutes on your run time by next week? Likely not; goals must be attainable for them to be effective. Relevant relates to the necessity: what events are coming up in your life that you want or need to see changes in? Having struggles with your PT test run time? If your goal is to improve in your spin class – although spinning improves your cardiovascular health – that is probably not a relevant goal at this time. If you want to improve your running, you must run.
Plan. You didn’t make a list before you went to the store, so you just grabbed what you could remember, then got back home and realized you couldn’t make your healthy recipe. Alarm clock didn’t go off on time, so you didn’t have time to put your lunch together and now will have to grab fast food (or skip eating entirely, which is terrible in its own way). Your workout buddy can’t make it today and you don’t have a plan on what to do by yourself so you decide to just skip the gym altogether. Any of these sound familiar? We’ve all experienced at least one of these set-backs before. Planning ties in with goal setting. You cannot expect to improve your eating and fitness habits if you just fly by the seat of your pants, hoping things will fall into place. Planning is absolutely vital to success. Does it sound daunting to have to cook every single night of the week, on top of your other responsibilities of work projects, school work, children, house cleaning, etc.? Of course it does! However, if you take the time to make a schedule of meals for your week, you can prevent much of that stress. If you have a recipe that takes hours to make, split up the prep work so it’s not such a hassle all at once – cut up the veggies and mix the sauces/
marinades one day, then cook it the next day. Here are some more ideas for cooking during the week: Mondays could be a crock pot meal (find a good bean soup recipe online, ahead of time) which could last a couple days, depending on family size; Wednesday could be a “frozen day” and include simple frozen options such as salmon filets, edamame pods, and a whole grain option (use a rice cooker) where you just unthaw the food in the morning, then cook them up in minutes, with a bit of seasoning. Cook in a large pan, all at once, to have leftovers for another meal (plus, this cuts the cycle of dirtying, cleaning, and putting away dishes and utensils in HALF!). Friday could be sandwich day, with canned tuna, mayo, and relish, mixed in a container; then you just put in on two whole wheat slices with a few leaves of spinach and bring it along (or to prevent the soggy sandwich issue, leave the tuna mix in the container and bring a loaf of whole wheat bread and bag of spinach/lettuce, and make the sandwich fresh in the break room). Need an absolutely lazy solution, for when all other efforts fail? Keep nuts, granola bars, and cans of tuna, veggies, and fruit at work, in your locker or desk, for a last-minute pinch; just try to avoid the saucey and syrupy options, due to the excessive sugars and sodium.
Understand food labels and how much you actually need from each category. Many companies are aware of consumer gullibility and therefore label their products as being “healthy” and suggest that consumption of their products is the key to success for anyone’s weight loss struggles. Many of these products are primarily overly-refined carbs and sugar, and are simply low in calories because of their incredibly small serving sizes yet offer little other benefits such as fiber, which aides in satiety (the feeling of fullness (think of particular cereal brands and diet snack bars). To get a basic picture of what the regular person needs per day is broken down as such: Fat – no more than 20-30% of total calories should come from fat, meaning a 1500 calorie diet should be around 33-58 grams; an 1800 calorie diet should be around 40-70 grams. Sodium – the average person should consume no more than 2300 mg per day, but those diagnosed with or at risk for having high blood pressure should consume no more than 1500 mg.
• Calories – Women under 67 inches tall should not eat less than 1200 calories/day;
Women over 67 inches and men over 72 inches should not eat less than 1500 calories/day;
Men over 72 inches should not eat less than 1800 calories/day. These levels are bare minimums, just to maintain daily living activities. These numbers should be increased based on activity level, muscle mass, and individual goals.
• Sodium – the average person should consume no more than 2300 mg per day, but those diagnosed with or at risk for having high blood pressure should consume no more than 1500 mg.
• Cholesterol – the average person should consume less than < 200 mg/day.
• Fiber – Women need 25 g/day and men need 38 g/day.
• Sugar – intake should be limited to 6 tsp (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women, and 10 tsp (42 grams) of added sugar per day for men, but actual consumption is about four times this amount. Added sugar is in nearly everything we eat, but in many seemingly unsweet items such as crackers, ketchup, BBQ sauces, dressings, pasta sauces, plain cereals and breads, etc.
• Carbohydrates – should comprise of 50-65% of your total calories each day (the higher end of this range is for the more active lifestyles).
• Protein – should comprise of 10-25% of your total calories each day (the higher end of this range is for the weight-trainers/lifters).
• Fat – should comprise of no more than 20-30% of your total calories each day, meaning a 1500 calorie diet should be around 33-58 grams; and an 1800 calorie diet should be around 40-60 grams.
Be realistic. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. True health and weight loss takes time, mindfulness, dedication, and effort, and anything worth having is worth working for. Any product or diet plan promoting weight loss of more than 2-3 pounds per week is not one that is healthy, nor will it produce lasting results, especially when it credits the results solely to the consumption of that one product (claiming you can still eat whatever you want or burn fat without working out). A healthy body is one that results from a combination of healthy eating habits and working out regularly. However, just because someone appears thin on the outside doesn’t mean he/she is fit or healthy (think about those you know who can eat whatever they want and not gain weight). There is an acronym for this, known as TOFI: Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside. This is a deceptive and silent danger because the excess fat deposits surround vital organs, and are streaked through underused muscles and wrapped around the heart. This build-up can eventually lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, and various heart conditions. So don’t look at anyone else and expect to have the same results; only compare your own progress to yourself.