During uncertain and stressful times, you’d be easily forgiven for over-indulging. Many of us have given ourselves the ok to eat and drink anything we want because it feels good. While it feels good in the moment, we’ll have to reckon with our behavior at some point. Perhaps now is the time bring it all together in our efforts to self-care. Here are a few tips to help you eat well for both health and pleasure. Follow these guidelines day-in and day-out to feel good, enhance your body composition, energize your system, and maintain a strong, fit, healthy body for a lifetime.
1. Eat frequently. Starting with breakfast, make sure to eat every few hours. Plan your meals and snacks, a total of 3 main meals and 1-2 snacks per day. Eating this way will rev your metabolism and keep your system running steadily and evenly all day long.
2. Eat whole foods: Fresh, colorful, seasonal and local foods are the easiest, most healthful way to keep your diet on track and provide you with the variety you need to nourish your body and mind.
3. Eat a balance of foods. Mix things up! Strive for an array of colors, textures and types of food on your plate. Include protein, carbohydrate and a small amount of healthy fat in every meal.
4. Practice portion control. Since you’re eating many times during the day, you should be able to master the art of portion control, no problem. Remember: a palm-sized serving of protein, and a fist-sized serving of carbohydrate, and a fingertip-amount of fat is what you need at every meal.
5. Cut out the fake food. Packaged, processed foods are full of fat, salt, sugar and chemicals. They’ve been stripped of their nutritional value and offer you nothing but calories and a spike in your blood sugar. Steer clear of noodle soups, salad dressings, flavored yogurts, waffles, pancakes, crackers, cereals and cookies. Even “natural” looking products can be loaded with junk. Spend your calories eating fresh, whole foods. You’ll quickly lose your taste for the bad stuff.
6. Become a label reader. Always check the content of the food you purchase. Red flags? “-ose” at the end of an ingredient on a label indicates a type of sugar. Sucrose, dextrose, fructose, galactose, maltose: you’ll often see as many as 4 or 5 of these in a single product. There’s no nutritional value here—only empty calories.
7. Drink lots of water. Don’t let yourself get thirsty. Get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day, especially before and after your workouts. When you’re exercising regularly, you’ll need about 2 liters per day. Lose the sodas and sugary drinks. You’ll make a huge cut in your calorie and sugar intake if you avoid sodas and stick to water or decaffeinated iced tea. Use a water purifier rather than buying your water in plastic bottles.
8. Look for the 100-calorie cut. Find 100 calories to cut from your diet every day. What’s 100 calories? A tablespoon of mayonnaise, 6 ounces of wine, a slice of bread, a chunk of cheese, a dollop of whipped cream. This is a great way to shave calories a little at a time, up to 36,000 calories per year. That’s 10 pounds!
9. Eat slowly. A recent study has shown that people who eat slowly consume 70 fewer calories per meal. In the course of a week, this amounts to 1500 calories! A slow, relaxed meal brings you greater satisfaction, and leaves you feeling satiated while eating less.
10. Give yourself a free meal. Even the most dedicated, determined and organized of us need a break. Allow yourself one meal every week or so, to eat whatever you feel like—no guilt, no recriminations! This will actually help you stay on track over the long haul.
11. Don’t eat for any reason other than hunger. Of course it sounds obvious, but we all eat for reasons that have nothing to do with being hungry. Anxiety, boredom, and stress all send us to our cupboards. Distractions and our busy lives also lead us to eat when we’re not actually hungry: how often do you eat while driving, cooking, working, reading, or watching TV? Too often, we combine eating with relaxing and socializing, and studies show that this can lead to consuming twice as many calories.