Vegan. Paleo. Keto. Macros.
“Eat these 10 foods if you want to lose belly fat.”
“5 foods you should never eat if you want to lose weight.”
If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably heard all of these buzzwords and headlines. There is SO much information out there and it’s enough to make your head spin. In fact, I think this information overwhelm keeps a lot of people from making a change at all. I’ve been there and I let that feeling keep me feeling crummy and eating junk for way too long, so I’m here to help you sort through the BS and figure out where to get started with a healthy eating plan.
First of all, there is value in every one of these plans out there. If being vegan appeals to you because you love animals and don’t really enjoy eating meat anyway, that may be the right plan for you! If eating keto sounds simple because you’d rather nosh on eggs and bacon and you won’t miss bread, fantastic! The key is tuning into what foods YOU enjoy and figuring out a plan that can be a real lifestyle for you. If giving up any particular food group sounds like a fate worse than death, macro counting is probably the way to go. By setting goals for your macro nutrients (carbs, fat, and protein), you can work in just about any type of food, just in smaller portions. Of course we all have different nutritional needs and certain health conditions can impact how well you will do on a given plan, but assuming you are a moderately healthy person who is just looking to lose a few pounds, you should be able to find some level of success with any plan you choose.
If you’re looking for a common sense way to get started making healthier choices without being tied to any particular way of eating, here are my top 5 tips.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. All the fruits, vegetables, meat (if you choose to eat it), and dairy (plain yogurt, string cheese, etc.) are going to be better choices than the packaged and processed foods in the middle.
- Don’t drink your calories. Give up juice, soda (even diet!), and sugary coffee drinks in favor of water, unsweet tea, or seltzer with a squeeze of citrus. You don’t have to give up coffee, but I wouldn’t recommend a Starbucks habit. If you must have it, order a plain coffee or latte and sweeten it with stevia. Avoid artificially sweetened beverages as they negatively impact gut health and cause cravings for sweets.
- Fill half your plate with green or non starchy veggies. The more high fiber, low calorie vegetables you eat, the less room you’ll have for higher calorie foods. You can end up consuming fewer calories without eating less volume of food, so you won’t have to feel hungry. It’s pretty hard to overeat broccoli and spinach salad no matter how much of it you have.
- Skip snacks. Years of hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that you need to eat multiple small meals to keep your metabolism burning has turned us into snack junkies. The truth is that breakfast isn’t any more important than any other meal, but that slogan sure does sell a lot of breakfast cereal. You are better off eating only when you are actually hungry, not at designated times. If you feel hungry all the time, your appetite needs some correction. Logging your food and emotions about being hungry is a great way to figure out what you’re actually eating and why.
- Get moving. If you have a sedentary job, make sure you stand up for 5 to 10 minutes of every hour and try to get a 30 minutes of walking in your day. If that’s not possible during the workday, make sure it happens after work. If this is a totally new habit, start with 10 minutes at a time and work up to 30 minutes. Ultimately, we should all be walking like we’re late for 45 minutes a day, 4 or 5 days a week.