The journey toward a clean(er), healthier, lower-calorie diet has been a challenge because science is constantly changing (or at least the marketers of it are). What’s healthy this week? Is chocolate back on the good-for-you list? What about carbs?
Here are some of the diet hacks I’ve collected from the wide reaches of the Interwebs, books, videos, etc. that seem to help me:
- Keep fruit juice to a minimum. I used to drink a full glass of this with dinner. Reality check: it’s a high-fructose corn syrup bomb, which is empty calories and a shock to your blood sugar levels. Now I drink a very small amount of OJ diluted with water with dinner (by small, I mean filling a quarter of a coffee cup w/juice and equal parts water.
- Very, very minimal pasta, and that includes pasta salads. Carbs turn to sugar. Also, easy on the white rice. I have maybe a half cup a couple times a month to go with sashimi.
- Aim to replace all simple carbs with complex carbs. It takes longer for your body to break these down. These include beans, nuts, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Minimal bread, and definitely none of the whole wheat variety. Carbs=sugar. Many brands of wheat bread often contain enriched flour, which makes it just as unhealthy as white bread.
- Minimal red meat. It’s higher in fat and calories than white meat. I may eventually cut out meat altogether, but until I can learn to be a better cook, it’s not much of an option.
- Research calorie counts before going out to restaurants. There are numerous sites, but you can search menus and individual items here and here. This goes back to my thing with MyFitnessPal. If you wait until a waiter is hovering over you, your chances are higher for making the wrong choice. Know ahead of time how many calories you can consume without going overboard. Make it a habit and it won’t seem like a huge pain in the neck – and your waistline will thank you later.
- Oil and balsamic vinegar on the side for dinner salads. Don’t let waiters drown your perfectly good veggies with ranch dressing. Or if you really have to have ranch, order it on the side so you can control how much is used.
- Water or iced tea at restaurants. Why so boring? Well, a 16 oz. glass of lemonade, soda or beer can contain close to, if not more than a couple hundred calories (lemonade also has high-fructose corn syrup). And some cocktails will also weigh you down. I try to avoid wasting much, if any, of my daily caloric intake on beverages.
- Almond milk instead of dairy with cereal. Personal decision, but after reading about casein protein, antibiotics and other nastiness in milk, I switched. It contains as much or more calcium anyway and fewer calories.
- Nutribullet green drinks. You may be familiar with Nutribullet because of the infomercials. Company spokesman David Wolfe refers to the U.S. the most overfed, yet undernourished nation in the world. I tend to agree. If you’re not a veggie person, here’s a solution that’s totally doable. These are great for overall nutrition and digestion. I’ll share my recipe and my husband’s recipe in another post.
- Lean Cuisine small portions instead of large. These are all under 300 calories and tend to contain a good portion of veggies. I can’t remember how much the large portions had, but it was significant. Yes, it’s processed. I don’t have time to cook stuff. Bah!
- If I plan a “cheat meal,” I work out harder that day. And by cheat meal, I don’t mean a whole pizza with a banana split for dessert. I mean maybe a half sandwich with some fries. Or soup, salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden.
- Limited diet sodas. This one’s hard for me because I love Diet Dr. Pepper. While I’m off work, it’s difficult to keep this under control. But just know that diet sodas contain aspartame, which taxes the liver. If the liver spends too much time breaking down your soda, it’s not effectively breaking down other things in your body. You know, like that 40 oz. of malt liquor you used to wash down your Baconator.
- Plain non-fat Greek yogurt. Yeah, I know I dissed dairy earlier. If my store carried a non-dairy alternative, I’d be all over it, but I’m not making a special trip to Trader Joe’s just for one item. Screw that. Anyway, I’ve fallen into the whole Greek yogurt craze just like so many others. I thought the flavored varieties were safe because they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup. The reality is that they have plenty of other sweeteners that are nearly as bad. I switched to plain after I saw the calorie totals. I mix in some frozen blueberries for flavor.
- 70 oz. of water per day or more. Very important and totally doable if you stay on top of it. It supposedly promotes satiety (the feeling of fullness), cleans out toxins and helps your body function correctly in many other ways. I drink 16 oz. of cold water right after I wake up, because it takes more energy (calories) for the body to heat cold water than room temperature H20.
Some of you might be saying, “Wow! That’s a lot of rules, and there’s no way I’d avoid cheating on that plan. What if I want a beer?”
I have news for you. I indulge plenty. I eat dark chocolate every day and I have ice cream once in a while too. Again, it comes down to how much work you’re willing to do to offset the calories you’re going to consume. Do you want that piece of pie bad enough to run five miles beforehand? I guarantee you’ll appreciate it 100 percent more if you do.