Calculating calories and weighing food isn’t necessary for a healthy diet. Here are five tips designed to help you improve your eating habits easily and without much thought.
Portion Control is in your hands. Measuring portions of macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats) with your hands is the simplest way to get all the nutrients you need without under- or over-eating.
The measurements are simple:
- Palms measure protein.
- Cupped handfuls measure carbohydrates (try to consume this only after a workout).
- Thumbs to measure fats like nuts and butter.
- Non-starchy veggies – eat as much as you want.
By following this simple format, you’ll instantly know your meals are portioned correctly for you, as your own hands are the perfect measure for your own body.
These portions represent a personalised way to consume enough nutrients to eat healthily daily.
So, rather than weighing your food or counting calories, this method of working out how much protein, carbohydrate and fats to eat is much simpler and easier.
Include protein in every meal. There’s always a lot of talk about how managing carbohydrate intake is the key to changing your body. However, regular protein intake can be a much more effective option for getting great results.
When you have protein with each meal, you will be able to:
Manage your cravings. Protein helps to manage blood sugar levels. Protein takes longer to digest, slowing energy release into your bloodstream. This means your blood sugar levels remain consistent as opposed to dramatic spikes in energy caused by meals without protein. Dramatic spikes lead to equally dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which lead to cravings.
Maintain lean muscle mass. Protein is a foundational element necessary to build and maintain muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you maintain, the more effective you’ll be at maintaining a healthy weight.
Have lots of colours on your plate. Different colours of vegetables mean different types of nutrients. The more colours (and therefore varieties) of nutrients you get, the better off you’ll be for two reasons:
1. Increased protection from chronic diseases: Different colours of vegetables and fruits have various health benefits.
2. Improved gut health through developing healthy gut bacteria: The healthier your gut bacteria is, the more likely you’ll fully digest the healthy things you eat.
Also, by improving your healthy gut bacteria, you reduce the risk of inflammation. Inflammation is the foundation for many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease. By fortifying your diet with colourful fruit and veg, you can help mitigate the risk of these illnesses.
And while it is true that it is ‘the more, the merrier’ when it comes to varieties of fruit and vegetables, it’s best to start with two portions on your plate and build up.
Don’t think of fat as the enemy. Low-fat choices are still widely considered to be a healthy option. The problem is that fat is also a source of flavour (to test this theory, take a spoonful of low-fat yoghurt versus a spoonful of full-fat yoghurt, after you’ve finished the full-fat version, you’ll know what I mean). To counteract this lack of flavour, sugar is often added.
In addition to improving flavour, fat (and by this, I mean good fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and butter) is an essential part of a healthy diet. It is not the enemy.
Healthy fats help your body produce hormones, lower the risk of heart disease, control blood cholesterol levels, and help balance blood sugar levels.
But despite these benefits, fats are still high in calorie content and thus should be consumed in smaller quantities. By choosing a smaller quantity of full fat instead of a low-fat option, you’ll be reaping more long-term benefits while at the same time managing your portions.
Cheating is good. Diets focus on deprivation, whether it’s calories or food groups. The assumption is that with just a little willpower, you can hold off on consuming the targeted items and achieve the goals you want.
This theory is flawed due to its unsustainability. Not only is willpower a finite resource that is extremely unreliable, but unless you plan on giving up the targeted food or the additional calories forever, the losses you achieve will eventually return with interest.
The occasional cheat is an easy method to improve nutrition because it will save your sanity. By allowing yourself the occasional indulgence, you’ll appreciate the healthy choices (and possible sacrifices) you’re making.
By keeping things in balance and planning to give yourself something you enjoy occasionally, you’ll appreciate the journey you’re on, and you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
James Staring is the founder and lead fitness coach at Fit to Last Personal Trainers.
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