By: Gabrielle Lambie- Nutritionist
Whether it’s because of a New Year Resolution to lose weight and be healthier or because it is less than a month to go before Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the word ‘diet’ is on many people’s minds right now. For those of us wanting to look our best while in costume or dressed to kill at a fete, and for those just wanting to jump start our weight loss plan, the goals are similar – reduce caloric intake while still meeting out nutrient requirements and providing enough energy to enjoy all the fun activities we have planned. Starving yourself into an unhealthy, lethargic state is NOT an option! These are however:
Calorie counting is time consuming and often inaccurate when done by the average person. Here are two simple yet effective ways to reduce overall calorie intake.
- Reduce your portions sizes at each meal, especially your carbohydrates. Have one spoonful less of rice or one slice of bread instead of two. How drastically you reduce your portion sizes or carbohydrate intake is up to you. Remember of course that your carbs should always be whole grain carbs. Brown rice and pasta, whole wheat or whole grain bread, quinoa, couscous… you get the picture.
- Cut out added sugars completely. Fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars as well as other nutrients and dietary fibre. Added sugar is just empty calories waiting to wreak havoc on your weight loss attempts. Drink water instead of fruit juices or sodas with your meals. The additional water intake will also help digestion and help keep your skin hydrated. Try unsweetened tea for your caffeine fix, it takes some getting used to but there are so many tea flavours available now you are sure to find one that appeals to you. Other places you find added sugars are snacks, flavoured yogurt, and most cereal and granola. When unsure, check the labels. If sugar (or corn syrup etc) is listed as an ingredient then that’s added sugar.
Get your nutrients
The key here is to eat fruits and vegetables. Reducing calories doesn’t have to mean barely eating. Vegetables especially are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that keep you healthy and maintain or improve your immune system. You can easily enjoy a wide variety of vegetables in hearty portions without adding a lot of calories to your diet. Just pay attention to how vegetables are prepared. Choose raw vegetables or those cooked using healthy methods such as roasting, sautéing (in healthy oils) and blanching. Beware of overcooked and fried vegetables as this reduces their nutrient content and adds oil and unwanted calories to your meals.
Provide your muscles with energy
You are trying to lose weight or at the very least not gain weight but still have energy to enjoy your activities. Complex carbohydrates like those found in oats, whole grains, pulses and nuts, gradually release glucose into your blood thus providing a steady supply of energy. This is a key reason why I seldom advise anyone to cut out all carbohydrates. Other reasons are the supply fibre and essential nutrients they provide. So as mentioned above, reduce your carbohydrate intake and ensure that the carbs you do choose are complex, not refined. Another tip is to eat small portions more often. This way you avoid feeling sluggish while your body tries to digest large amounts of food and also keeps your blood glucose level steady. Also, don’t forget your B-vitamins. B vitamins play a role with converting the food you eat into energy your body can use. Fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, meat and fish all contain B-vitamins.
In addition to these steps, remember to eat lean protein like chicken, fish and peas to boost cell and muscle growth and maintenance and improve your immune system. Healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil will help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
Of course, ‘diet’ alone is not everything. Continue to exercise regularly and get as much rest as possible during this hectic season. It may be too late for miracles but it’s never too late to make a start and aim for improvement regardless of what stage you are at!