Nutrition 101 for a Lean, Fit Body

nutrition 101Diet fads and food labels are now more confusing than ever. The food industry has made it difficult to have a clear focus of what is truly good for one’s health.

Instead of looking at the latest weight loss trend, we need to focus on eating well as a part of one’s lifestyle. Food in its whole, natural form should still be attainable and enjoyable! Although exercise and other lifestyle choices are very important, they should be paired with proper nutrition.

Tip #1: Eat 5-6 small meals a day. These smaller portions should all be around the same size and 2-3 hours apart in order to keep your metabolism going as well as build lean muscle. When our bodies do not take in proper nutrition every few hours, a metabolic survival mechanism kicks into action. When one skips several meals due to a hectic schedule or in attempt to cut calories, the body tends to “hold on” to the calories of the last consumed meal. Eating throughout the day lets the body know that it is alright to burn the energy from the last meal since it will obtain more energy from food soon.

Tip #2: Pay attention to macronutrients. Although most of these small meals are between 200-300 calories, the main focus is even more on getting the right ratio of macronutrients: protein combined with a healthy carbohydrate and fat. Educate yourself on what qualifies as a whole source of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Too often, dieters simply cut calories and then fail to recognize that they are mainly eating refined carbohydrates, which will spike blood sugar and ultimately lead to fat storage.

Tip #3: Learn to love vegetables. Vegetables are high in fiber, low in calories, and full of nutrients. Instead of reaching for a starchy carbohydrate, grow to like vegetables and all that they have to offer. Favorite recipes may include spaghetti squash pasta, kale chips, jicama fries, broccoli slaw salad, and so many more.

Tip #4: Limit sugar! An easy way to cut calories and start trimming midsection is to eliminate all of the added, processed sugar to one’s diet. Organic stevia can be a painless substitute. This South American herb has zero calories, is about 30 times sweeter than sugar, and has been used for centuries. Add stevia to coffee and tea, unsweetened yogurt, oatmeal, and even to baked goods.

Tip #5: Read labels. Foods with a whole laundry list of ingredients that the average person cannot even pronounce should be avoided. Be very careful to not consume anything with trans fats or hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, refined flours, artificial colors, and of course, lots of added sugar. Instead, eat whole, unpackaged foods.

Tip #6: Drink enough water. This does not include soda, coffee, tea, or any other flavored beverage. It seems counterintuitive, but the body needs enough water in order to lose water weight! Just like eating every few hours, the body holds onto water if there is not enough in its system. Aim to drink a minimum of half of your body weight in fluid ounces a day.

Tip #7: Supplement when necessary. Even if one’s diet is squeaky clean, they would still be falling short of essential vitamins and minerals due to agricultural growing practices today. A good multivitamin and quality omega-3 fish oil supplement should be recommended to everyone.

Tip #8. Stick to it! No change happens overnight. “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” –Mike Murdock. Start with one small change at a time until it becomes a habit and then until that habit becomes a lifestyle. Health is worth the effort!

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes

chicken saladHealthy Chicken Salad
  • 2 cooked and chopped skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 1/4 red onion or 2 green onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup red seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
smoothieMelon Smoothie
  • 1 cup watermelon
  • Approx. 5 strawberries
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup ice
  • Dash stevia

(To make honeydew version, swap out watermelon and strawberries for honeydew and lime. Of course, free to add veggies like spinach, kale, or cucumber! Chia seeds and flax seeds are also a great addition for Omega-3’s and fiber.)

Sarah Schuring is a Personal Trainer at XSport Fitness St. Charles, IL

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