Ten Healthy Tips to Smart Eating

As people who love good food, don’t we all struggle to keep our weight down? Diets work, but only to a point- you might lose weight, but the moment you reach your target weight, temptation to binge takes over, and before you know it, you slide back to your original weight.

What we really need is lifestyle changes that help us eat smart, so we can keep our weight under control…. permanently. Here are ten tips that help you eat smart, so you can keep your weight down in a healthy and sustainable way.

Tip # 1 – Keep a Daily Logimages

This one’s really easy. Write down everything that you eat or drink during the day. A study found that people who kept a daily food log during a diet ended up losing twice as much weight as those who didn’t. Most of us lowball how much we eat—seeing it written down in black-and-white (or blue and white) serves as a reality check.

All those things that we pop into our mouth without thinking about it really add up. That biscuit that your colleague offered you when you went to ask him a question, that big bite that to took while doing a taste test on your cooking- once you start writing all those things down, you realize how much you put into your system without even realizing it.

You don’t have to do this forever. After a few weeks, you become mindful of the extra stuff you are eating, and learn to be careful even without having to fill up a food log.

Pen and paper works fine for me, but if you are gadget savvy, there is a great app on www.myfitnesspal.com that even converts all the food into calories!

Tip # 2 – Eat Smaller Meals, More Often

smaller mealInstead of having three large/ main meals like most of us do, eat smaller meals every few hours.

We are all familiar with the theory. When there is a gap of 6 to 8 hours between meals, the body is forced to hoard calories, so the fuel tank never reaches empty. Once the body knows that it can expect food every few hours, it will start burning calories instead of holding onto it.

Since the rest of the world continues to function on a “three-meals a day” system, the best way to do this is by introducing two (or three) healthy snacks between the traditional “meals” (and reducing the quantity consumed at meals). So instead of having three (oil-free) gobi parathas for breakfast, have one paratha and follow it up with a bowl of sprouts chaat a couple of hours later. Salads, smoothies, thick soups, and high fiber biscuits work for me.

The only problem with internalising this is that while others swear they are going to skip dinner after a buffet lunch, you find you are hungry three hours after it.

Tip # 3- Beat Bloat

excess saltSome foods force the body to store more water than is necessary. Avoid excess salt, because it can cause water retention. Lemon is a natural diuretic, so occasionally add a dash of lemon to your water (not salt or sugar, though).

This does not, however, mean that you cut down on your fluid intake- just be smart with what you drink, and when it doubt, stick to plain water.

Tip # 4 – Slow Down

eat slowlyThis is a very easy one- eat slowly. Savour every bite. Chew every mouthful. If you are using cutlery, put it down after a few bites. Go easy.

There is a time-lag between the time when your stomach starts to feel full, and before it sends the message to the brain that it is actually full. By slowing down, you are ensuring that the message is received before to continue eating.

This is not helpful for mothers of young children, or other people who literally have only a couple of minutes to grab a bite, but whenever you can, spread out the meal.

Tip # 5 – Scale Back

small platesRelated to the previous one. Use smaller plates and bowls, to trick the brain into getting the impression that it is eating more than it actually is. So swap those huge dinner plates for smaller one (and/ or use large side plates instead), pour cereals into a mug rather than a bowl. You will end up thinking you are full earlier than you actually are.

This only works if you normally take only a single helping- if you are used to taking multiple helpings, the mind may not recognize cues like this.

Tip # 6 – Find Balance

balanceThis relates more to “what” you eat, than to “how” you eat.

Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals- they are all there for a reason, and you need all of them in your diet. When you are trying to control/ manage intake of food, you often end up getting the balance totally wrong.

The simple way to ensure you have a balanced diet is by following the rule of thirds- 1/3 protein, 1/3 vegetables, and 1/3 whole grains. Yes, when you mother asked you to finish your roti, dal and subji, she definitely knew what she was talking about!

Tip # 7 – Pick Protein

proteinEnsure your diet has lots of proteins. Proteins take longer to digest than other nutrients, so keeps you feeling full longer, and burns calories even as it digests. If you are also on an exercise program, you need the proteins to help build up the muscles (and muscles burn calories faster than fat). Have a serving of protein at every meal, if you can.

Vegans and vegetarians can get their proteins from pulses and milk products. The “wonder grain” from South America, “quinoa”, and our own desi “rajgira” are both high on proteins too.

Tip # 8- Slurp Your Starters

soupWhen you are dining out, opt for a broth-based soup as your appetizer. It can curb cravings and also help prevent overeating during the meal. Even at home, having a hot or cold soup before a meal helps control the cravings.

Tip # 9 – Read the labels

labelMost of us are conditioned into thinking certain foods are “healthy”, and often end up gorging on their packaged equivalents, which may be far from “healthy. Fresh juices, for instance, are “healthy”, but not only do packaged juices contain far more sugar than we suspect, many are made from fruit concentrates and lack the nutritional punch of freshly squeezed juices. Learning to “read” the labels helps us avoid such pitfalls.

Tip # 10 – Swap Smart

swapsAn easy one to end with. If you keep denying yourself what you want to eat, it only increases your cravings, and leads you to fall off the wagon and go on binges.

Are you really craving for that double chocolate chip cookie? Have it, but swap it for your afternoon mango milkshake or packet of peanuts. Sure, the calorie counts are not exactly equal, but as long as you restrict yourself to a small potion of what you are craving for, in the long term, you are doing fine.

Natasha Ramarathnam

Note: Pictures are from the net.

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