Eating healthy and losing weight is such a frustrating process. Frustrating because it's easy for some, and SO difficult for others. Frustrating because you might be eating exactly the same as your bestie, and the weight is just falling off her, but not you. Frustrating because you really hate the taste of vegetables, but damn it we need to eat them and I'd rather eat burgers! Frustrating because there's so much conflicting information out there that you just don't know what you should and shouldn't be eating. High carb, no carb, high fat, no fat, no sugar, high protein, no dairy, paleo, vegan, raw... the list goes on.
In my opinion, you need to experiment and find what works for you. You might have intolerances, or slight sensitivities to foods, or personal preferences. But at the end of the day, there are particular foods and things that are known to lead to weight gain and health issues which we should all try to limit. So an easy place to start is avoiding those foods.
The obvious bad guys are:
- Refined sugars: Things like soft drinks, sweets, chocolate and cakes.
- Trans fats: Things like high processed, take away and fast foods.
- High levels of Saturated fats: Found in all of the above. Processed foods, sweets - all the yummy stuff (sadly).
Now we all know that deep fried food and chocolate biscuits everyday is going to make us gain weight, you've been told that a thousand times I'm sure. But the tricky part is that these days the bad stuff is disguised so easily into everyday foods and 'healthy' products that you just don't know what is good for you anymore. The products on the shelves that scream 'FAT FREE' are most of the time loaded with sugar, and the stuff that screams 'SUGAR FREE' is most of the time loaded with fats! COMEEE ONNN! The marketing giants don't make it easy for us do they!? It's also your everyday regular products that could be letting you down. Things like sauces, packet mixes and so on, contain a lot of unnecessary sugar and additives. So if possible, make your sauces yourself.
It really comes down to us being smart, and reading labels before we buy. The easiest way to watch what you eat is to stick to the outside of the supermarket, buy the bulk of your groceries away from the aisles. The outside is usually the fresh stuff, the whole stuff. Fruits, vegetables and meats. Products as close to their natural state as possible, are the ones that are going to be the best thing for your body. In saying that - I know it's unrealistic to completely avoid the supermarket aisles...
When you do go down the aisles, don't be afraid or embarrassed to read nutrition labels before you put something in your basket. You should know EXACTLY what you're in for. After all, what you put in, is only a reflection of what you will get out. When you pick something up, my number one tip is to look for SUGAR and FATS under the 'per 100 grams' section of the nutrition label.
For sugar, a higher quality product should have no more than 4-5 grams of sugar per 100 grams. This is about 1 tablespoon. It's important to remember though that the sugar content also includes natural sugars, which are fine. (confusing... i know!) It's mainly the refined and added sugars that we need to watch out for. Unfortunately because the labels don't distinguish between refined and natural sugar's, it's hard to tell whats been added. But as a general rule, I stick to products that contain 4-5 grams of sugar or less per 100 grams. NOTE: Foods that contain any fruit, or things like dates and honey, will always be higher in natural sugar, so you can be a little bit more lenient with these.
For fats, it's much the same as sugar. I try to keep the grams of fat per 100 grams below 5 on products that I buy. Now unlike sugars, fats are broken down into categories. The one you want to really avoid is trans fats - in most quality products these days this will be pretty close to 0 grams. You want your trans fats as low as possible! The next one is saturated fats, which is the one you want to try and keep below 5 grams. Now remember our body DOES NEED FATS! But the right fats. Things like avocado, nuts and coconut oil are all high fat foods but are very beneficial.
On top of watching these things, you need to make sure you're eating enough fruits and vegetables. One of the area's where people fall down is that they only eat vegetables with dinner. Don't worry, I'm guilty of this as well. Vegetables contain so many essential vitamins and nutrients that our body needs to function effectively. Without them, we can't perform at our best physically or mentally, and our internal systems can't operate smoothly. Ensure you incorporate veggies into your other meals throughout the day, especially lunch. Enjoy a wide range of colours on your plate, with plenty of greens! Greens are the good stuff. I know not everyone enjoy's veggies, me included, there's actually very few I can stomach without them being smothered in some type of sauce. But at the end of the day, we all have to do things we don't like and sorry to break it to you, eating vegetables is one of them.
And lastly, water. Just make sure you're drinking enough. We should aim to consume atleast 1 litre per 25 kilograms of body weight. So if you weigh 50kg's, try to consume atleast 2 litres per day. Without sufficient hydration you just can't function, and dehydration is often one of the biggest things stopping people from losing weight and reaching their goals.
I hope this gives you an insight into how to make healthier choices and hopefully I haven't simply confused you even more...
If you have any questions please leave them below and I will do my best to answer them! :)
Stay tuned for part 2 - snacks to avoid when trying to lose weight!