As a Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach, one of my passions is helping people reach their goals. This time of year, it seems that setting a goal is easy… a new year brings new beginnings and fresh motivation. Hopefully your fitness goals include both getting moving as well as making changes in your diet. But with so much information out there, what changes can you make to your eating plan that will help you to not only lose weight, but increase your overall health? Consider the following:
Cut out all soda and sweetened beverages.
Not only do sugar and high-fructose corn syrup add unwanted calories and spike your blood sugar, but HCFS is a genetically modified substance that has been shown to cause general inflammation in your system. And sorry, but diet soda is no better… its chemical composition is similar to that of formaldehyde, not to mention the fact that it actually increases your appetite. You definitely don’t need all those toxins running around in your body. To aid in weight loss and general health, drink as much pure, filtered water as possible. Feel free to add a little fresh lemon or lime juice or some cucumber slices for flavor if you need it. Herbal teas and black coffee are also okay in moderation.
Ditch the dairy.
Did you know that dairy has been shown to cause inflammation, and actually leeches calcium out of your bones due to its high acid content? We’ve been taught to believe that the more dairy we consume, the more we protect our bones against osteoporosis. But the United States, which has one of the highest levels of dairy consumption in the world, also has one of the highest osteoporosis rates. Consider also that dairy milk is high in fat… 1% milk is actually 23% fat by volume. No surprises there. After all, its meant to bring a 70 pound calf to a 1000 pound adult in the span of a year. Factor in the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides – especially in non-organic dairy – and it just isn’t worth it. If you’re looking for great sources of calcium, try dark leafy greens, soy, broccoli, nuts and seeds, and fortified orange juice. And there are some delicious plant milks, yogurts and cheeses out there. I often recommend almond milk, Amande almond yogurt, Earth Balance Buttery Spread, and Daiya cheeses to my clients who are transitioning away from dairy and looking for substitutions.
Eat as many whole foods as possible.
A whole food is a food that’s in its natural, unprocessed state. So think brown rice instead of whole grain bread, and whole oats instead of cereal made with whole grain. And did you know that the new USDA Portion Plate (which replaced the USDA Food Pyramid) recommends that 50% of your daily food intake be made up of fresh vegetables and fruits? A plant strong diet not only reduces your cancer risk, but is good for your heart and reduces your waistline. Instead of planning your meals around your preferred meat, first decide on your veggies and fruits and build the meal from there. It’s a paradigm shift, I know, but you’ll feel lighter and more energetic when your body isn’t weighed down so heavily with meats and processed foods.
Changing your diet can be very challenging, so take advantage of the momentum of New Year’s Resolution season and get going. Remember, a journey of a thousand miles beings with just one step.
Forks Over Knives, The Plant-Based Way to Health, Campbell, PhD and Esselstyn Jr. MD
The Not-So-Sweet-Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup – The Huffington Post with additional references
Digestive Wellness, 4th Edition, Lipski, PhD, CCN, CHN, USDA Portion Plate
The Dangers of of Diet Soda – Care2 with additional references
Diet Soda and Joint Pain – LiveStrong with additional references