When you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, it can be so tempting to look at all the trendy new weight loss hacks out there; low carb, keto diet, vegan, fasting, “raw” diet, are just some examples we see all the time. These diets may work for you but in the long term, may not be optimal for your health. Plus, no type of diet obviates the need for portion control and smart shopping.
Sometimes, we get so caught up with what’s new and the “quick fixes” that are marketed to us, that we forget that small steps can go a long way. So in this blog, we’re going to review three simple steps you can take to maintain a healthy weight that DON’T require you buying expensive smoothie powders or trying the latest ‘fad’. We’ll cover portion control, using the plate method, and hacks for shopping for healthy food at the grocery store.
1. Portion Control & the Plate Method
One of the most difficult parts of eating a balanced, healthy diet is figuring out how much to eat. In a typical American diet, it’s easy to get an overabundance of carbs, while lacking in healthy fats or lean proteins (and fiber!) To be clear: carbs are NOT bad. They are required for optimal functioning of your brain and body! In excess, however, carbs (just like any other nutrient) have harmful effects on the body, particularly weight. When the body is oversaturated with energy from carbohydrates, it turns the excess carbs into fat to store the energy for later. This is why portion control and adequately supplying your body with the right amount of carbs, fats, and proteins is so important. To get adequate portions in each meal, try the Plate Method!
To follow the Plate Method:
- First, fill half your plate with non starchy vegetables. These include veggies like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, spinach—any kind of delicious salad or roasted veggie! If you have stubborn weight to lose or need to keep blood sugar levels at bay like me, aim for more than half of your plate to be veggies.
- Next, a quarter of your plate is for carbs! And for weight loss, stick to COMPLEX carbs like sweet potatoes, squash, beets and whole grains.
- The final portion of your plate is for proteins—beef, fish, chicken, turkey, beans, and eggs are all great options. And you don’t need a lot—the size of a deck of cards is sufficient.
The order you eat can also impact blood sugar levels so it’s important to eat your greens first. Make sure the greens also have some healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil) added. Then combine the protein and carbs to finish off the meal.
Additionally, avoid snacking when possible! Humans were not designed to eat all day as it does not give the body enough time to process what’s going in our mouths. If you do snack, aim for a protein, fiber, or fat snack to hold you over, rather than a carb-heavy snack. Carbs alone—when not paired with protein or fat—spike your blood sugar and can lead to weight gain over time.
2. Shopping for Healthy Food
Sometimes, the biggest barrier to eating healthy is, well, knowing what to eat! So many things are marketed as health foods, but in actuality, are chocked full of sugar and processed fats that aren’t good for your body. To make the most of your grocery trips, try the following:
- Don’t go to the grocery store hungry! This is when you’re most susceptible to buying carb-heavy and unhealthy foods that will set back your weight loss efforts.
- Learn to really understand a nutrition label. You can check out the blog here which details how to read one, but here are the main highlights:
- Avoid foods with more than 6-10 grams of “Added Sugars”
- Foods lower in saturated fats are generally better choices
- Avoid any foods with trans fats (like margarine and Crisco)
- Aim for foods high in fiber!
- Avoid foods in bags or boxes. These are generally going to be more processed and higher in sugar. Additionally, these are easier to eat beyond one serving size. Think of every time you stuck your hand in a bag of chips, only to find yourself eating the whole bag without realizing it!
3. BONUS: Drink… Vinegar?
We kicked off this post hating on recent health trends, but one is worth its weight: apple cider vinegar. Well, really any type of vinegar, though apple cider vinegar is the talk of the town.
Recent studies have shown that vinegar helps regulate blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar spikes intensely and frequently, this leads to crashes and cravings which spur weight gain, low energy, and poor health overall.
Consuming 1 TBSP of vinegar daily has been shown to moderate blood sugar levels and reduce the spikes in blood sugar that lead to lethargy and can contribute to overconsumption of sugars and carbs. Though taking a shot of vinegar isn’t the most enjoyable thing, you can make it more tasty by:
- Adding red wine vinegar to a salad
- Boiling water and adding some cinnamon (or lemon) and apple cider vinegar
- Mixing 1 TBSP of your favorite vinegar to a tall glass of water to dilute the taste
Eating for weight loss can feel difficult, but starting with simple tools to improve your health and weight can go a long way! Try adding in one of these tools per week and seeing how you feel after a month or so. Slow and steady wins the race—moderation and simple steps will take you far in your journey to a healthier you!