5 Nutrition Hacks for a Healthier Lifestyle
Diet. It’s everyone’s least favorite four-letter word. When you picture a diet, you may picture a sad plate of cottage cheese and celery or a low-carb energy bar that tastes like chalk. Americans hate dieting so much that we’re becoming obsessed with finding the newest, fastest way to drop ten pounds by eating this low-cal product or drinking that fat-burning tea.
With a cultural obsession with ‘diet’ and mass confusion about nutrition, it’s no wonder that so many people turn to quick-fix products, get discouraged and find themselves gaining back every ounce they may have lost (and then some). It’s the classic yo-yo dieting dilemma: how can you drop the weight and keep it off without constantly switching from one extreme plan to the next?
The answer is actually pretty simple: stop dieting. Diets are short-term “solutions” for lasting health problems. It’s like putting a bandaid on a broken leg. It doesn’t make any sense!
You want to lose weight, get into great shape, give your body all the essential nutrients it needs and actually enjoy your food? You need a lifestyle change that you can enjoy and stick to, not a diet that you’ll struggle through.
Try incorporating these five easy nutrition hacks into your everyday eating, and watch what happens when you invest the time, energy and effort into feeding your body the way it deserves to be fed!
- Drink Water All Day, Every Day
It’s the first piece of health and fitness advice on every list, and yet most people are missing the mark when it comes to hydration.If you’re not already drinking water all day, every day, your body is missing out on some major health benefits. You are 60% water, and every major organ in your body depends on water to perform. Do yourself a favor and drink up!
Drinking water is a proven weight loss technique that improves the effectiveness of your nutrition and fitness. Critical during exercise, water improves muscle performance and rehydrates your body after a workout. Staying hydrated can help you avoid cravings and quiet your sweet tooth, and replacing sugary drinks with water will quickly eliminate hundreds of calories from your diet. In an article published by Webmd.com it was stated that drinking lots of water also improves the appearance of your skin and aids in digestion.
Improve your water intake by drinking one glass immediately upon waking up, with every meal and before bed. Push yourself to spend at least two days a week drinking only water. Cut out the sugary drinks and carbonated sodas, and limit your intake of coffee and alcohol. When you do go out for social drinking, make sure you’re balancing out the beers: your kidneys can’t process the toxins in alcohol when you’re dehydrated, and drinking more alcohol isn’t going to help.
- Steamed or Baked > Fried or Smothered
Think you’re eating healthy foods but seeing no difference in your body? Your dieting downfalls may have less to do with what you’re eating and more to do with how you’re cooking. If you’re frying your chicken and smothering your broccoli in cream sauce, you’re losing what would be healthy ingredients in a sea of fat, salt and sugar.
An article published by Livestrong.com states “every tablespoon of oil that you add during prep adds120 calories and 14 grams of fat to your meal”. What’s more, deep frying foods means getting those oils up temperatures high enough that the oil becomes oxidized. Oils with low burning points, like healthy olive oil and palm oil, become dangerous to the lungs, kidneys and heart when heated to the point of oxidation.
Use cooking methods that require less oil, butter and cream and use spices and marinades to amp up the flavor of your favorite ingredients. Grilling, steaming, baking or roasting are great options to impart delicious flavor into your food without loading up on the extra fats. Opt for fresh herbs and lay on the spicy condiments, but try and limit sugar-laden BBQ sauce, ketchup and pre-made marinades.
- Get Your Raw Greens
Specifically raw, leafy greens, but adding more raw fruits and vegetables of any variety to your diet is a great way to start improving your overall health and nutrition. To get the most out of the fruits and vegetables in your diet, you’ll want to have a healthy mix of raw and cooked options on the table every week.
“Raw fruits and vegetables, particularly those rich in vitamins A and C, lose essential nutrients when heated to high temperatures or boiled in water”, as reported in an article by Livestrong.com. Even though your roast broccoli is a great healthy side dish, raw broccoli packs in three times more of the cancer-fighting enzyme myrosinase. Raw fruits and vegetables also have a higher water content and fewer calories per gram than their cooked counterparts, making them a perfect option when you’re looking to cut calories and lose weight.
Make it a goal to have a salad for lunch or with dinner at least three days a week. Start with a bed of dark, nutrient-dense leafy greens like kale, spinach or arugula. Skip the creamy ranch dressing (heart-healthy olive oil with balsamic vinegar is an easy, healthy option) and load up with a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and proteins to keep it fresh and filling.
- Grocery Shop With a List
As with any diet and exercise regime: planning is the key to success. Decide on your menu before you hit the store, make a grocery list for all of your ingredients and stick to the list. Not only does this cut down on time and energy at the grocery store- having a planned grocery list helps shoppers stop themselves from impulse buying fatty snacks and sugary drinks.
Having a preset weekly menu helps you stick to your dietary plan by eliminating day-to-day choices. Sounds like restricting, but really it’s about de-stressing. Imagine that after a long day at work you come home and decide to start dinner. If you have planned your meals, you can open the fridge, pull out what you know you’ve chosen for that night and get cooking. If you’re flying by the seat of your pants at dinner time, you’re more likely to throw together a less nutritious option (or just order a pizza.)
Stock your kitchen with raw fruits and veggies for snacking, whole grains and lean protein. You may even want to try prepping your meals in advance by chopping veggies, cooking sauces or portioning out and marinating your protein the night before or on the weekend. Make food buying and meal preparation a part of your routine, and you’ll be amazed by how much healthier your habits can become.
- Start Your Day with Breakfast!
You’ve heard it about a thousand times from your mom, and you’re about to hear it once more from us: do not skip breakfast. And no, a cup of coffee and a stale muffin you grabbed from the conference room does not count as a healthy breakfast.
Your body needs breakfast to jump start in the morning the same way a car needs fuel to start up and go. If you’re running on fumes from the night before and not recharging when you wake up, your body can only coast along. Your first meal of the day kickstarts your metabolism by giving your body a dose of healthy, nutrient-dense calories to burn over the first few waking hours. Without that kickstart, your metabolism will stay in starvation mode and you suffer the consequences. With fewer hours left to burn, the calories that you snack on later are more likely to stick to you in the form of excess body fat.
Beyond getting you up and going, a yahoo lifestyle article states that the long-term health benefits of establishing a healthy breakfast routine are undeniable. Eating a healthy breakfast within two hours of waking up improves mood, attention span, mental performance, and helps you maintain healthy muscles and keeps you on track to lose those last few pounds. Research presented in an article by live science.com has shown that people who start their day with a healthy breakfast eat fewer calories throughout the day and are less likely to fall victim to nighttime snacking.
Eating a healthy breakfast doesn’t mean that you have to wake up an hour early. Raw fruit, smoothies, whole grain toast, hard boiled eggs are just a few of the quick, grab-and-go options that can help you start your day the right way.
Your body deserves so much better than crash-diets, pre-packaged foods and half-assed nutrition, and getting the right nutrients and the right calories doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. Incorporating these five simple rules into your eating habits will go a long way towards getting you on the right path to achieve your health and fitness goals.
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Demetrius Fincher, LMSW, NASM-CPT
Invest in Your Body