Summer is right around the corner and you know what that means: bikinis, shorts, and bare skin!
Maybe you’ve stuck to your New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and exercise regularly or maybe you’ve totally dropped the ball. Either way, this post is for you.
Today I’ve got 6 Rules to Live By for a Slimmer, Healthier You. These are my mottos, my mantras, my credos! They’ve worked for me and I know they’ll work for you too.
Oh, and a word to the wise, don’t skip #6! I saved the best for last.
1. Don’t drink your calories
I’m going to start with some tough love, but trust me, it’s for your own good. If you’re serious about getting healthy, you have to start with this: cut out the sugary beverages, the so-called healthier drinks sweetened with aspartame, the juices, the Frappuccinos…
Kiss. Them. All. Goodbye.
If you’re drinking something, it should be water. If you want to get fancy, add fresh fruit to it or reach for some unsweetened sparkling water. Work on cutting down on the sugar in your coffee.
And, for your own sake, you’d better make those bi-weekly Fraps bi-annual instead! Speaking as a former Frapp-aholic, if you don’t think you’re ready to sacrifice this delicious treat, just look up how many grams of sugar are in one Starbucks Frappuccino …
Cutting out the sugary beverages will not be easy, but it will be a game changer. Trust me, I know!
I swore off soft drinks as a New Year’s Resolution a littler over 18 years ago and the pounds immediately started falling off. Not surprising given that sodas cause a “sugar rush” and the immediate conversion of sugar to FAT!
The following year, I gave up sweet tea which was quite the sacrifice for a girl in the South.
A few years later, I swore off juice, unless it was the occasional fresh veggie and fruit juice made with my juicer. After all, juice lacks the fiber that you get from actually eating a piece of fruit.
Though giving up sugary drinks was hard at first, it gradually became easier and easier. Within a few months, I wasn’t even tempted to reach for those calorie-packed beverages I once guzzled on the regular.
Whereas it once felt like I was depriving myself by drinking only water, it’s now second nature.
If I were to breakdown my beverage consumption it would look something like this:
-10%: espresso (no sugar, no cream)
-5%: wine or champagne
-4%: unsweetened hot tea or green tea, matcha tea, almond milk, coconut milk, or a sweetened latte if out for coffee with friends
-1%: other alcoholic beverages
- Start your day out with a glass of warm lemon water. Warm lemon water kickstarts the digestion process! For a little added kick, add fresh grated ginger.
- Drink a full glass of water 15 minutes before eating to curb your appetite.
- The same part of your brain that is responsible for interpreting hunger is responsible for interpreting thirst, which means we sometimes get mixed signals. Many times, what we interpret as hunger is nothing other than dehydration. Be aware of this and think twice before reaching for that snack! Instead, reach for a bottle of water first and guzzle it then wait 10-15 minutes and see if the hunger passes. If you’re still hungry afterwards, grab a few almonds or an apple.
2. Never Leave Home Without Almonds
I kid you not when I say that I never leave the house without a ziplock bag full of almonds in my purse. When hunger strikes and I’d be tempted to grab a less-than-healthy snack, I just dig into my purse and pop a few nuts. Rich in protein, fiber, and good fats, almonds are the perfect snack for when those hunger pains hit!
- Almonds are pretty high in calories, even if they are healthy calories. Portion them out to avoid over indulging. For the record, 19 almonds equal about 100 calories.
- Skip the added sodium and go for unsalted almonds. Flavored almonds, while tasty, pack extra calories and less than desireable ingredients (sugar, unhealthy oils, etc…)
3. Sugar is the devil
Okay, so maybe that’s a exaggeration, but only slightly. Sugar is literally devoid of nutritional value. What’s worse, it’s even known to be like a poison, feeding cancer cells. If you want to see some major improvements in your waistline and your over all health, avoid sugar like the plague.
The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 24-32 grams of a sugar per day. With sugar hidden in nearly everything on the grocery store shelves, many people max out on their recommended sugar intake in just one meal!
More Tips :
- Sugar is in almost every packaged food, so avoid processed and packaged foods whenever possible. As a rule of thumb, if it’s packaged, don’t eat it.
- If you must eat packaged food, read the ingredients. Sugar has many names: “high-fructose corn syrup,” “fructose,” “dextrose,” “turbinado sugar,” “sorbitol,” “raw sugar,” or some other variation … they are all sugar!
- Don’t fall for the “fat-free” or “low-fat” claims. When fat is removed from the ingredients, they taste horrible. Food manufactures need their food to taste good, so they add loads of sugar to compensate for the lack of flavor! Many foods that are labeled low-fat or fat-free food have twice as much sugar as the full fat option.
- If you are going to bake sweets using refined sugar, start gradually cutting back the amount you use. You can always almost always get away with just 3/4 of the original amount and you can usually get by with 1/2. (French macarons are the exception. Never play with the ratios of sugar to almond flour!)
- Experiment with sugar-free baking. Sweeten your baked goods with honey, maple syrup, dates, or ripe bananas. I started baking without sugar about 4 years ago and have grown to love it. I rarely ever use refined sugar in my baked goods now.
- Refer back to Rule #1: sugary drinks are a whopping NO.
- Watch the documentary Fed Up with Katie Couric for more info on the dangers of sugar!
3. Eat 5 Meals a Day
Rather than packing your calories into just 3 meals, try spreading them out over 5 smaller meals. By eating smaller, healthier meals 5 times a day, you are less likely to graze mindlessly on whatever food is lying around or to splurge when hunger strikes.
By eating nutritious food every 3 hours or so, you can keep your hunger and the munchies at bay.
If the idea of having to come up with 5 meals a day sounds impossible, don’t worry. I use the term meal very lightly!
To give you an idea of what 5 meals looks like, here’s what my typical day looks like this:
7 am, Meal 1 – spinach smoothie, overnight oats, or avocado toast on multi-grain bread + espresso
10 am, Meal 2 – apple + a few almonds or a teaspoon of almond butter or post-workout protein shake
1pm, Meal 3- two slices of avocado toast on multi-grain bread, a large salad with a hard-boiled egg, plate of steamed/roasted veggies (+ protein), or a quinoa bowl
4:00pm, Meal 4 – espresso + a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds, a homemade muffin/cookie made with oat flour and sweetened with bananas and/or honey, or crudités
7pm, Meal 5 – combination of 2 or more of the following: roasted veggies, crudités, salad, veggie soup (+ protein, + piece of fruit)
9pm, “The kids are in bed” Treat: square of 90% dark chocolate (+ a shot of Martini Rouge or Amarula)
*( ) denotes things I sometimes include, but not always
5. In with the Veggies, Out with the White Starches
This is nothing new, but it is huge when it comes to eating healthy. Breads, pastas, potatoes, and couscous are great at making you feel full, but they’re pretty scarce in nutrients. By simply limiting your intake of white starches and concentrating on upping your veggie intake, you’ll be doing your waistline and your overall health a favor!
- Rather than having a starch with dinner, opt for two veggies!
- Get a spiralizer and swap pasta out for veggie noodles. You still get the sensation of eating “pasta,” but instead of loading up on calories, you’ll be loading up on fiber, vitamins, and nutrients.
- If you’re in the mood for something starchy, reach for sweet potatoes! Not only they are loaded with beta-carotene, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and antioxidants, but they also keep you full for hours. I like to prepare a huge dish of roasted cubed sweet potatoes or a few baked sweet potatoes on Sunday and eat on them throughout the week.
6. It’s an 80 / 20 and 90 / 10 Game
How you look and feel is 80% how you eat, 20% your physical activity. This isn’t meant to give you an excuse not to workout regularly, but it is meant to remind you just how important it is to eat mindfully.
When it comes to your diet, if you eat mindfully 90% of time, it’s okay to treat yourself 10% of the time. So, if it’s a holiday or a special occasion and you just really want to eat a slice of chocolate cake, then eat it! Or, if it’s Saturday morning and you get the urge for pancakes, then go for it!
Because if you eat mindfully 90% of the time you can (and perhaps even should) indulge occasionally. Living by the 90 / 10 rule will keep you from getting frustrated and going off on an I-can’t-eat-what-I-want-so-I’ll-eat-everything-in-sight binge or, worse yet, giving up completely.
- There will be periods when life gets in the way and you just can’t get your workouts in as often as you’d like, despite your best efforts. It’s during these times that it’s easy to get discouraged, throw up your arms in defeat, and make undesirable nutritional choices out of sheer frustration. When you find yourself in a workout rut, concentrate on eating healthy and remember that mindful eating is (more than) half the battle!
- If you get off track, brush it off and get back to it immediately. Start making smart nutritional decisions that very second rather than waiting until tomorrow.
- Don’t let guilt ruin your splurges. If you’re going to splurge, enjoy it. Remember that it is simply part of the 10% and that you will continue eating well 90% of the time. Treating yourself is not a sin and it certainly isn’t the end of the world!
What do you think? Are you willing to try to live by these rules?
What are your nutritional strategies for staying healthy?
Let me know in the comments below!