1. Eat a Big Breakfast! You do not need to eat first thing in the morning, but you do need to eat breakfast. Don’t worry about fat or calories, instead, worry about satiety and balance. Try to eat a breakfast that includes healthy grains, protein and possibly dairy and fruit. Something like an egg and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with a 1/2 grapefruit.
You can make it at home with either egg whites or egg beaters if you are trying to watch your cholesterol intake or for some different flavors try a tad of cheddar cheese instead of the usual American cheese. Be bold and try it with Feta! Or scramble eggs and place in a whole wheat wrap with some shredded cheese (measure and control portions, of course!) and add a splash or two of hot sauce.
Whatever you prefer, get in a good, filling breakfast full of variety. If you are in a hurry and have no time to cook, try Dunkin Donuts Egg White Flatbreads or a breakfast sandwich (no meat) on a whole grain bagel at Panera or better yet, support your local breakfast shop/deli. Personally, I am not a fan of cereal for breakfast unless you eat it with an egg and some fruit. Cereal as part of a balanced breakfast is great for adding fiber and vitamins to your morning. I just don’t think cereal alone is a good enough meal. Its not going to give you the energy you need for the day.
2. Drink a lot of water. Being properly hydrated will help your cells function properly and optimally. Simple enough, but remember, if you are drinking juice, soda or other beverages they most likely have calories. Water doesn’t. For every glass of water (8 oz.) you drink in lieu of a glass of soda, juice or other flavored beverage, you will be saving yourself around 120 calories. Do this 3 or 4 times a day and you will lose one pound per week without even trying.
3. Snack on fruits and vegetables. Most people do not get in nearly enough fruits and vegetables each day. 59% of Americans do not get enough vegetables each day and 76% don’t eat enough fruit. And as for the vegetables, 33% of the vegetable servings most people get are in the form of white potatoes (they don’t really count, either). Only 3% of vegetable servings come from leafy greens and 6% from legumes (beans and peas). And 48% of people do not eat any fruits at all! So boost up your vitamin and fiber intake by snacking on fruits and vegetables any time of the day.
4. Snack on trail mix and nuts instead of pretzels and crackers. Funny how so many people think fat is bad and avoid foods that contain it. Believe it or not, eating peanuts or walnuts is much healthier for you than pretzels. Nuts contain fiber, protein and healthy fats (including essential fatty acids) and help us feel full. Pretzels are a refined carbohydrate containing bleached flour and salt.
5. Eat plenty during the day, so you don’t night binge. Many dieters make the big mistake of waking in the morning and committing to a “diet” for the day only to be followed by an evening of binging on everything they can find in the pantry. Eat a big breakfast, healthy lunch and dinner and be full after dinner. You won’t be hungry at 8 or 9pm if you ate plenty all day. And if you are, ask yourself if you are really hungry or just bored. Which brings me to…
6. Don’t eat for something to do. Before you eat, ask yourself if you are really hungry or just bored. If bored, find something else to do. Many do not listen to their internal hunger cues.
7. Exercise everyday! Exercise will not only give you all of the physical benefits of a faster metabolism, but there is something psychological that happens when you exercise regularly. You feel better about yourself and are excited to invest in yourself. This will motivate you to want to eat healthier. You will see how exercise, diet and mental health are all a part of the overall package and you will want to focus on all three.
8. Ask yourself, “how can I make this healthier?” Eat what you want, but ask yourself if you can make it healthier. Can you make macaroni and cheese with whole grain pasta and reduced fat cheese? Eat a broth-based soup over a cream-based soup? Eat less bread with dinner and more salad instead?
9. Cut back on caffeine. Research shows that 2 cups a day or less is OK, but a “cup” is 6 oz. Many drink much more than this. Caffeine is addictive and will disrupt your sleep. It also will cause an afternoon “crash” and depletes calcium from bones which is a big concern for women.
10. Get plenty of sleep. I know in our over-scheduled society, we don’t always make time to get the rest we need, but it is critical that you do. When you do not get enough sleep, your body doesn’t get the rest it needs and winds up needing more energy to function. This stimulates hormones in your body to make you hungry and you will eat more than usual. Not getting enough sleep can actually cause you to gain weight. 7-8 hours a night is recommended. Plus, when you get enough rest, you will have more energy to exercise.
11. Allow yourself dessert. If you tell yourself that you can eat a piece of chocolate whenever you like, you will eat much less of it. It is only when you deprive yourself that you begin to crave and binge. Don’t place desserts, or any other “guilty pleasure” on a pedestal. Eat them when you feel like it, placing no judgment on the food or yourself, and you will find, over time, that you can eat just a little bit and feel satisfied. Try it!