Here are some of my favorite, simple adjustments you can make to the foods you eat that won't require more money out of your wallet and actually provide a foundation for some of the the most important ways you can take control of your hunger, cravings and health.
1. Ditch the Vitamin Water and Sports Drinks.
These products are pure marketing genius.
Drinking vitamins must be the healthy thing to do, right? In the words of the people: Oh Hell No.
Eating a variety of whole foods provides many necessary vitamins and nutrients, along with the fiber and optimum nutrition absorption that bottle of neon yellow sugar water never, ever will.
Worried about hydration? Water works great.
2. Read labels.
Sugar is everywhere. Compare labels and choose the brand that offers the least amount of ingredients and lowest sugar. Spaghetti sauce, condiments, soups, salad dressings and yogurt are a few culprits to keep a close eye on.
3. Stop following the prescription for breakfast.
Convenience breakfast foods like waffles and cereal aren't going to fill you up and will likely leave you feeling ravenous mid-morning. Think outside the box and opt for protein and healthy fats to start your day with fill power and sustained energy to get you to lunch. An apple and nut butter, a scoop of protein powder and some almond milk, a few hard-boiled eggs, last night's protein and veggie leftovers, an omelet, plain Greek yogurt with berries and nuts, are all good choices.
4. Prep veggies so they are just as accessible as the empty-carb snacks you usually grab.
A bag of Doritos costs about $3.00. So did the three bunches of celery I picked up this weekend.
One of these items is real food and one isn't.
One will fill you up and the other won't.
Crank some music, rinse and prep your veggies on Sunday and set yourself up for a week of snacking that will support your goals and healthy lifestyle. Better yet? Pull in your tiny humans and make it a fun family activity.
5. Make veggies a means to an end.
Not ready to ditch your afternoon pretzel fix? I get it. Use the rule that B (pretzels) don't happen until A (cucumbers) does.
One handful of veggies and you are free to return to your habit. But here's a little secret - those cucumbers will help fill you up - meaning you will likely eat less pretzels. That might trigger a change on the scale and perhaps, once that starts, you will think twice about reaching for those pretzels.
6. Stop buying protein or energy bars without looking at the nutrition labels.
Most of the "healthy" bars out there are glorified candy bars. Does 26g of sugar sound healthy to you? And what about the cheap, highly-processed GMO soy protein and countless unnecessary ingredients? You deserve better. Be selective and improve your choices. As in #3, choose the bar with the least amount of ingredients and sugar.
7. Dump your vegetable oils.
Besides the way these are manufactured (with highly toxic chemicals), these oils often contain trans fats* and provide an excessive amount of Omega-6 fats, causing an imbalance of crucial Omega fatty acids in our body. This can lead to inflammation** which is believed to be a trigger for many diseases like cancer, diabetes and arthritis, to name a few. Use avocado, olive and coconut oils and butter instead.
8. Eat less grains.
Refined grain products like bread are easily digestible and cause rapid spikes in our blood sugar. When we eat these high glycemic products our pancreas releases insulin to rapidly decrease our blood sugar. This process stimulates the never-ending cycle of cravings and high/low energy for the rest of the day.
Eat more meatballs, less pasta. Order your burger without the bun and eat it steak-style, with a fork & knife.
9. Skip the low-fat foods and opt for the real stuff.
Low-fat often means high sugar. And with the fat removed, you have to eat A LOT more to feel full. Choose full-fat options to keep your sugar and cravings in check and promote satiety. (And remember: fat doesn't make you fat!)
10. Recognize your weaknesses and elect not to have trigger foods in your house.
It works! When your go-to snacks aren't available, you simply can't and won't eat them. Shop for healthy snacks you will enjoy in place of the ones that no longer exist in your pantry. Ask yourself: is this snack going to get me to full and give me peace of mind in 5 minutes? Let's agree, going to bed proud of your food choices is a pretty sweet way to end the day. My favorite snacks are almonds, veggies with hummus, beef jerky and unprocessed lunch meat with a chunk of aged cheddar.
11. Slow down.
We eat too fast. And it's unfortunate because it means we then overeat, operating much faster than our full indicator. The truth is, we all LOVE food. So why rush through dinner and not savor every bite? Try setting your fork down between bites. The whole experience is much more enjoyable when you actually chew. I promise.
Eat with purpose.
The Hot Plate
*O'keefe, Sean., Gaskins-Wright, Sara., Wiley, Virginia. And Chen, I.-Chen. (1994), Levels Of Trans Geometrical Isomers Of Essential Fatty Acids In Some Unhydrogenated U. S. Vegetable Oils. Journal of Food Lipids, 1: 165–176. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-4522.1994.tb00244.x
**Russo, GL., Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Dietary N-6 And N-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: From Biochemistry To Clinical Implications In Cardiovascular Prevention