Losing Weight The Easy Way: Go Whole, Go Cheap!

woman in grocery store

If you are looking to lose weight, but just can't mentally handle the idea of "a diet", just start by making better food choices.  For one thing, forget about fat and calories and just start choosing whole foods, meat, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.  Staying away from prepackaged foods is not only a good idea for losing weight, but is also cheaper.  Here are some ideas to get you on track to losing weight the easy way:

* Eat more baked or grilled sweet potatoes (and, yes, you can add a dab of butter).  Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber and vitamins, are cheap, and easy to cook.  To reduce cooking time, I typically microwave them for about 5-6 minutes (3-4 potatoes at a time) and then just throw them on the grill.  In about 20 minutes I have soft, yummy sweet potatoes.  I peel the skins off, mash the potatoes and add a little Earth Balance Buttery Spread and a dash of salt.  

* Snack on carrot chips/sticks, celery, zucchini, cucumbers.  I typically slice up veggies when I buy them so they are in the fridge ready-to-eat when I get hungry.  Add some low-fat ranch dressing and enjoy!  Great way to save calories, but not deprive yourself of food.  Sliced fresh zucchini and yellow squash are tasty and filling.

* Buy whatever fruit is on sale and will not go bad quickly.  This time of year, I love buying whole watermelons (don't by them precut).  They are typically on sale and fresh.  Take a few minutes to chop them up and place them in Tupperware ready-to-eat.  I like to chop them up, fruit salad-style, as opposed to the triangle shapes because they are easier to store (take up less room).  The rind takes up a lot of room in the fridge, so I get rid of it.  A whole watermelon will last a while, unrefrigerated.  Once you cut a watermelon, refrigerate it and it will last up to 7 days.  Grapes, bananas, apples and oranges are usually a good choice, too. Buy berries when in season.  It's the only time they are reasonably priced.

* Stick with lean meats like chicken and turkey, avoid red meats and processed meats.  I've often joked that I eat so much chicken I should be clucking by now.  But chicken is a great meat choice as it can be bought for around $4.99 pound (cheaper in some stores), is versatile and easy to prepare.  It is also low in fat and calories, but packed with protein.  Grill it, bake it, stir-fry it in a non-stick pan with little oil or just use cooking spray.  

* Have a BIG breakfast full of whole grains, protein, and fruit.   Don't skimp on breakfast!  Have a half bagel or some whole grain cereal, 1 egg, and some fruit.  You'll have more energy and eat less throughout the day. 

* Eat less refined carbohydrates.  A common mistake I see is that people eat too many starchy carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are very important and should make up most of your diet, but keep in mind fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates, not just bread.  Try to limit pretzels, crackers, chips, breads, and refined pasta.  Instead, load up on more fruits and vegetables and whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal.  

And as always, if you are serious about losing weight and need sound advice and a program that will work for you, contact Kimberly Fitness and find out how you can lose weight and feel great, today!!

The Simplest Way to Lose Weight

If you're like most people, you probably think that to lose weight you need to drastically reduce calories or purchase foods that taste like cardboard. Or maybe you think it means giving up your favorite foods.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Healthy foods are real foods. Foods meant for human consumption.  Foods that come from the ground, from a tree, or from a farm.  Yet most people today with our fast-paced, convenience-based lifestyles, overlook what's natural and move on to processed foods.  Usually this is because we think that cooking takes too much time.

But eating healthy can be quick and simple if we think in simpler terms.  A healthy dinner can consist of a meat, vegetable, starch, and maybe a fruit.  Vegetables can cook in 5 minutes or less, whether over the stove or in the microwave.  Pasta takes about 10 minutes, potatoes can cook in a microwave in less than that.  Meats can be breaded or with added sauce on top and put in the oven for 30 minutes or less.  It doesn't take long for preparation or for cooking.

With that in mind, if you want to lose a few pounds without the fuss of a diet, try eating simpler foods with fewer ingredients.  You will naturally choose healthier foods, without the hassle.

So for a challenge, try to eat foods that don't contain artificial ingredients (artificial flavors, sugars, colors, etc…), avoid trans fats (anything that includes "partially hydrogenated oils"), and limit your sodium intake (foods that contain less than 20% of your Daily Value which is listed on the nutrition label.)

Lose Two Pounds a Week with 5 Simple Lifestyle Changes

Any ONE of the following changes will garner one pound per week of fat tissue loss.  Combine two of these and you can lose TWO pounds a week.  (Remember, other than when you first start a weight loss program, safe weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week)

1.  Exercise at a moderate intensity for 1 hour per day

2.  Replace three soft drinks or juice beverages with either water, brewed iced tea, or seltzer

3.  Combine any TWO to THREE of the following:

    a.  Replace a cream-based soup with a broth-based soup

    b.  Replace fried meat with grilled meat

    c.  Remove skin from chicken

    d.  Replace a starchy side-dish with either fruits or vegetables

    e.  Replace bagel/cream cheese and juice with a bowl of cereal and fruit

    f.  Replace a hamburger with a deli sandwich for lunch

    g.  Replace ground beef with ground turkey

4.  Switch from casserole-style meals to  balanced plates consisting of meat/starch/fruit/vegetable in a 1/1/1/2 ratio

5.  Limit eating out to no more than once per week (yes, really) and choose a healthy salad with grilled meat and dressing on the side.

Organic vs. Conventionally Grown Foods

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I have started a research project to determine if there is enough scientific evidence supporting the idea that eating organic foods has more nutritional value than conventionally grown foods.  There are many claims that this is the case, and while I do not believe there is enough evidence to support this idea, I owe it to my readers to investigate.  Aside from health, there are other reasons one may have for buying organically grown foods including political, social, moral, and environmental reasons.  (Though all of these are debatable, as well.  For instance many argue that locally-grown, conventional foods are healthier than organic foods that are shipped from across the country.  And, conventional farming uses less land than organic. I'll save those debates for another day). 

Personally, I try to buy organic foods for the purpose of avoiding additional chemicals.  I like to buy meats, eggs and produce knowing that they have the least amount of pesticides, growth hormones, or any other added chemical that is not naturally-occurring in the food.  On the other-hand, I will agree that it is better to buy locally because many local farmers do, in fact, follow organic farming methods but they are too small to afford the high price of getting certified organic. (Again, another blog topic for another day).

Aside from chemicals, there are many people who believe that organic foods have a higher nutrient content than conventionally grown foods.  I have spent hours today searching through the library databases trying to find out how many studies have confirmed nutritional differences between the two farming methods and I am coming up empty.  I will continue to research this topic and will keep looking for new studies that may show differences.  But for now, I am not seeing enough scientific data backing up the idea that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional. 

Here is one abstract I found in PubMed:

Bourn D, Prescott J. A
comparison of the nutritional value, sensory qualities, and food safety
of organically and conventionally produced foods.
Crit Rev Food Sci
Nutr 2002;42(1):1-34

Given the significant increase in consumer interest in organic food
products, there is a need to determine to what extent there is a
scientific basis for claims made for organic produce. Studies comparing
foods derived from organic and conventional growing systems were
assessed for three key areas: nutritional value, sensory quality, and
food safety. It is evident from this assessment that there are few
well-controlled studies that are capable of making a valid comparison.
With the possible exception of nitrate content, there is no strong
evidence that organic and conventional foods differ in concentrations
of various nutrients. Considerations of the impact of organic growing
systems on nutrient bioavailability and nonnutrient components have
received little attention and are important directions for future
research. While there are reports indicating that organic and
conventional fruits and vegetables may differ on a variety of sensory
qualities, the findings are inconsistent. In future studies, the
possibility that typical organic distribution or harvesting systems may
deliver products differing in freshness or maturity should be
evaluated. There is no evidence that organic foods may be more
susceptible to microbiological contamination than conventional foods.
While it is likely that organically grown foods are lower in pesticide
residues, there has been very little documentation of residue levels.

You can find this abstract and more information by searching http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

My plan is to blog about my findings as I continue to research this topic.  If you haven't already, subscribe to my RSS feed and you will receive updates on my research project.

Lose Weight Without Dieting

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With grading final exams and research papers, I haven't had much time to write this week.  But as I was out jogging this morning I thought it would be useful to my readers to have a quick reference guide of simple, lifestyle changes you could make to either lose weight or just stay healthy.  Here is my bullet list of must-dos for healthy living.

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!