If you’ve sailed through this past year in great shape consider yourself lucky. The rest of us will reluctantly shed our winter clothes and assess the damage. The lack of daylight hours in winter lowers our feel good hormones serotonin and melatonin. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is usually characterized by winter depression. Some scientists blame it on falling Vitamin D levels, some on our pre-programmed survival genes. If you’ve gained a few kilos, you are not alone. Over winter, cravings for carbohydrates and rich desserts replace salads and fresh fruit, probably to offset our reduced levels of serotonin. The extra fat may protect us from the cold, but with summer on the doorstep some of us will have a few kilos of ugly fat to deal with.
The right way to lose weight.
Even though we know that diets don’t work, we can be easily tempted to try the latest diet or supplement. Try not to be fooled by the words easy, effortless or fast. Steer clear of diet pills, creams or patches that offer quick weight loss with out exercise or dietary changes. Some of the products will claim to reduce your appetite so that you will consume less food. In my experience most people gain weight eating when they are not hungry. Quite probably the only thing that will lose weight when you buy fad weight-loss products will be your wallet.
Fat is stored on our body like a reserve tank for energy. Every gram of fat stored contains 9 calories. Energy in food has been traditionally measured in calories. More recently the units of energy have been referred to as kilojoules. There are 4.18 kilojoules in 1 calorie, so if you are reading a label and want to know how many calories per serve the product has, divide the kilojoules per serve by 4. To burn fat you need to release these calories from your storage tank and use them as fuel. The best way to do this is to burn a few more calories per day through exercise or activity and consume less calories each day.
Unless you are an athlete, your body requires between 1600 – 2300 calories per day to maintain your current weight. A simple reduction of 300-500 calories of food per day as well as 20-60 minutes of extra activity will give you a weekly fat loss of between 500g – 1 kilo per week. The recommended daily calorie intake per day varies from person to person. How much energy you require depends on your age, your height, your body composition, your level of daily activity and your lifestyle. The word ‘energy’ in relation to calories or kilojoules is not meant to describe zest and vitality, merely the measure of fuel provided to the body. Although we need energy to function, a diet too high in energy will promote weight gain. Don’t take your calories too low. It’s important not to eat too little when you are losing weight. Your body will perceive a famine when faced with a shortage of calories or nutrients, leading to a decrease in fat burning and an increase in appetite.
Start a Food Diary
A good way to re-learn healthy eating is to keep a food diary for a week or two. Most of us are surprised when we look at what we really eat and drink, as opposed to what we think we eat. It is easy to forget about the extra helping we had for dinner, the large latte we had for morning tea or the wine we drank at dinner.
Drink More Water
Researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Science conducted a 12-week study to demonstrate water’s ability to promote weight loss. Professor Brenda Davey found that dieters who drank two glasses of water before meals consumed up to 90 fewer calories during each meal and lost more weight that dieters who did not increase their water intake. Water will also keep your body systems, including metabolism and digestion working properly and give you the energy necessary for exercise.
Keep tabs on your alcohol
When your goal is to lose weight, calories count and two big glasses of wine could add up to 400 extra calories. If your body doesn’t use these calories in the evening they will be converted to fat. Use smaller wine glasses and drink less often. Try to half your normal intake. Sometimes just being aware of how much or how often you are drinking is enough to bring about a positive change.
A well balanced diet, high in plant food and low in refined sugars will have you well on the way to long lasting health. Behaviour modification including stress management and physical activity will result in improved health and energy. Now is a great time to take action, start now and start slow. It has to be enjoyable to be sustainable.
Good nutrition is emerging as a key strategy for stress management and according to a worldwide survey the highest degree of stress is felt by women who are working full time and have children under the age of 13.
Using Reduce protein as a meal replacement or a breakfast smoothie is a great way to start.
Investing a short amount of time at the beginning of the week to organise lunch will give you massive returns in energy and vitality. If you rush or skip lunch on a regular basis you will be robbing yourself of important health benefits. Studies show that the traditional lunch hour at work has diminished and many of us have rushed lunch breaks at our desk, in front of a computer or in the car. While this may seem great for productivity, in you could be sabotaging your weight loss plans and triggering mid-afternoon sugar cravings.
Taking time to eat a healthy lunch is an important part of weight control and is critical in maintaining energy levels throughout the rest of the day. Here are ten easy lunch ideas that won’t leave you feeling weighed down in the afternoon.Easy Gourmet Salad.
To a base of mixed salad add cubed pumpkin, a tablespoon of pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese. Dress with low fat mayonnaise.Healthy Japanese
Buy a sushi pack and a piece of fruitMake a Wrap
Use thin Turkish wrap and fill with cottage cheese, chicken or lean pastrami and salad. Roll up with chutney or hummus spread.Super Sandwich
Wholegrain grainy breads are lower GI so will keep you satisfied longer and contain more nutrients. Make your sandwich as big as possible with salad or coleslaw. Add protein to complete the meal like chicken, ham, egg or even peanut butter or cheese. Use low fat spreads like hummus, chutney or pesto.Toasted Sandwich
Take the bread, ham and slice of cheese to work, add tomato onion and mushrooms and make a toasted sandwich. Finish with fruit, a green salad or a mug of soup.Supermarket Selection
Got a hunger pang and no food? Luckily vegetables and fruit are the first thing in sight when you walk into the supermarket. Grab a salad and select some cold cuts or seafood, add a piece of fruit or a roll from the bakery. You’ll be through the check out before you know it and pleased you made such a healthy choice.Get Fresh
Subway makes delicious salads and low fat sandwiches. Opt for grainy bread or a large salad, add extra meat for satiety and choose low fat dressings. Say no to the extra cookie.Sweet Indulgence
Tired of salads and sandwiches? How about a fresh fruit salad, low fat yoghurt, sprinkled with slivered almonds and sliced banana.Vegetarian
Ratatouille is easy to make on the weekends and heated through it tastes divine for lunch. Serve with toasted grainy bread or crackers, olives and feta cheese.Cheesy Dip
Did you know a 250g pot of low fat cottage cheese is only 180 calories and gives you almost 30 grams of protein and lots of calcium? Drizzle sweet chilli sauce over the top and serve with plenty of sliced vegetables for dipping.
So, what are you having for lunch today?
It’s just too easy to drop the ball when it comes to health at this time of the year. Christmas functions, New Year celebrations and back yard barbecues all provide us with an over abundance of eating opportunities. So how can we indulge in the festive food, enjoy the social aspect of Christmas and still come out the other end feeling fit and healthy? We can treat ourselves to healthy super nutrient rich food this Christmas, here are some of my favourite tips.
Plan to succeed
One strategy is to enlist a Nutrition Coach or Dietician to help you come up with a really easy base-plan, one that allows plenty of room for the BBQ party, the Christmas drinks and all the little extras in between. Being accountable to someone over the 'high-risk' months could help you kick off the New Year feeling great about your body. That's a small price to pay compared with piling on another few kilos over the holiday period.
Boost your metabolism
Get your body burning as many calories as possible each day to offset the extras. You may think exercise is all it takes, but you're wrong. The biggest changes will come from your nutrition, your water intake, your fibre intake, your meal frequency and your protein intake. Add some magic with a few supplements too. I recommend a good multivitamin, omega 3 fats and the famous low calorie diet mimicker ‘Resveratrol’. The worst things we can do are under eat, skip meals and forget to take a multi.
Stoke the fire
Nutritionists agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Without a high quality source of protein to start your day, your body has a difficult time maintaining adequate energy levels, keeping hormonal balance, producing strong nails and healthy skin or hanging on to muscle or muscle tone. In the absence of nutrients, your body perceives starvation. A low fat, low lactose protein smoothie can be used as a meal replacement for weight loss or weight maintenance.
Balance your blood sugars
Blood sugar highs and lows can create bad moods, cravings and headaches. If you leave it too long in between meals it will be hard to resist the chocolate in the afternoon. Plan a nutritious snack for morning and afternoon tea, natural yoghurt with fresh fruit, low fat cheese on wholegrain crackers or a protein shake with berries and ice. Even if you are on the go, a small handful of nuts and a piece of fruit is a portable easy snack.
Be smart about your drinking
Any reduction in alcohol consumption is a positive step to weight loss, try to have up to five ‘alcohol free’ days a week to give your body a chance to recover and get rid of the alcohol. If your goal is to lose weight, then calories count and two big glasses of wine could add up to 400 extra calories. If your body doesn’t use these calories in the evening they will be converted to fat. Try mixing wine with soda water or sparkling wine with diet lemonade.
If you are watching your weight strawberries are the perfect snack. At only 50 calories per cup, strawberries are a healthy treat you can eat anytime. Buy fresh strawberries in bulk and freeze them to use in smoothies all year round. Eight strawberries offer more vitamin C than an orange, more than 200mg of potassium and are a good source of folic acid and fibre. If you enjoy a regular chocolate fix try dipping strawberries in dark chocolate.
Use a pedometer
Apparently they increase your physical activity by more than 26%, decrease your systolic blood pressure and lower your weight. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association pointed out that on average, pedometer users increased their physical activity by 2183 steps per day, regardless of whether they achieved the 10,000 steps a day goal. Daily exercise not only helps control energy balance (calories in – calories out) but it also helps your brain produce feel good hormones, which help alleviate depression and balance hormones.
Take a vitamin
Research from several studies, one published in The British Journal of Nutrition suggests that vitamins may be associated with a lower body weight and reduced appetite. Multivitamins are especially effective at reducing hunger symptoms for females on energy-restricted diets. Men, who reported the use of vitamin and mineral supplements had a lower weight, carried less fat and had higher resting energy expenditure compared to men in the placebo group. The results were similar in women. Vitamins and minerals work together as a team in the body, if one team member is off sick (or missing) the other team members can’t do their job properly. The first thing to add if you want to use supplements is a good multivitamin.
If conflicting nutrition advice for health confuses you, you are not alone. The internet has left us spoilt for choice, nutritional health claims are everywhere. Should you follow the low sugar diet, eat organically or go vegetarian? Perhaps finding your ideal weight or body composition and staying there might be more important.
Eating healthy, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight all go hand in hand. It is very difficult for many people to eat poorly and maintain a body mass index below 25. BMI or Body mass index is a measure of weight based on height. To calculate your BMI you will need to divide your weight by your height squared. A BMI of over 30 indicates that you are overweight and puts you at a higher risk of having cardiovascular disease, indigestion, reflux, type 2 diabetes or some cancers.
A large study published in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention Journal, looked at the relationship between energy intake and cancer risk. During the study, researchers screened 38,660 women for a period of 8 years. Their findings suggest that increased energy or calorie intake was positively and significantly associated with risk of breast cancer, even after controlling for the effects of body mass index and exercise. A high calorie intake may modulate cancer risk by enhancing increasing insulin levels. The effect of elevated energy intake on cell changes may be a continuous and cumulative process through out the entire life. Further research is needed, however it is clear that nutritional education directed at calorie control or towards achieving energy balance may substantially reduce some cancers.
We’ve all heard the saying “we are what we eat”, perhaps it would be better worded “we are how much we eat. Remember marketers want us to consume more so food will always be promoted as healthy. Foods which are promoted with the biggest advertising budgets are often those which contain less nutrients and fibre and more fat and sugar. Read labels and stay away from hydrogenised or partially hydrogenised vegetable oils, these are Tran’s fats. Anything that has vegetable shortening on the label contains Tran’s fats and omitting these nasty fats from our diet help with weight management. Check labels for added sugar, sugar adds empty calories to our diet. An easy guide is to check the amount of sugar in grams on the food label. 1 tsp of sugar is around 5 grams, so if the label says 15 grams of sugar, you know that’s 3 teaspoons. Honey and golden syrup contain just as many calories. Other words for sugar are glucose, lactose, corn syrup, malt, malt extract or modified carbohydrate.
Energy in food is measured in calories or kilojoules. All food provides energy, fats provide 9 calories per gram, alcohol provides 7 calories per gram, and carbohydrates and protein both provide 4 calories per gram. While calorie counting has been given a bad rap lately, we cannot ignore the fact that as a nation we over eat.
It is tempting to use the latest super food or diet in the pursuit of health and wellness, but a quick tally up of your current food and drink intake will do more for your health. As a nation we are consuming more calories than we need. Never before have we had so much food available in such large portions. Experts agree we need to become more active, partly because we need to find a way to burn off the extra energy we’re consuming.
Making dietary changes for health reasons shouldn’t be complicated. It doesn’t matter whether you adopt the Mediterranean diet, go vegetarian or eat only organic. What ever you do watch what you eat and moderate your calories. In this day and age, calorie awareness is vital.
Did you know there are over 25 different names for sugar?
That’s why we end up consuming a high sugar diet without even planning to. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. You may also hear sugar referred to as a simple or fast-acting carbohydrate. There are two main types of sugar, naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk or fruit, or added sugars such as those added during food processing. Pay attention to food labels, particularly ingredient lists. Here are some commonly used names for sugar you will find hidden in many foods. Corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, galactose, honey, maltose, maltodextrin, rice syrup, sucrose, fruit concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup and invert sugar.
Some foods contain more than five added sugars, learning the secret language of sugar can help you consume a healthier diet. Want to receive more cool tips about nutrition? Join our FREE newsletter.
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