Top Diet Tips You Won't Believe! (or maybe you will, I don't know your level of dietary skepticism)

Am I sorry for the click bait title? Maybe, maybe not. I mean, in a way, it's not a lie. I'm about to list a few things I've discovered that have helped me live a more health conscious lifestyle, but whether or not they help you is a whole different matter.

I currently have a constantly changing work schedule, which has been taking a toll on my ability to plan healthy and balanced meals. Not only that, but I'm a stress eater and in the last month or so, I've had a whole bunch of demanding projects added to my plate, so in a way, this is really more of a reminder to myself, but if anyone reading gets anything out of it, all the better.

Here we go...

When you eat won't affect your weight as much as what you eat, but your health is more than a number on a scale.

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

One bit of advice I've always heard is to not eat after a certain time. The idea is that we should avoid packing on calories before we go to bed because our bodies process foods differently while we're sleeping. This may not make sense because technically, if we're consuming 2000 calories a day, it shouldn't matter if we spread them out or load them all up at once. If anything, wouldn't it be more convenient to cram in one balanced meal for breakfast and forego eating for the rest of the day? After all, we fill our gas tank once it's empty. We don't stop to top off every few gallons.

Well, the simple answer is, we're not cars. We store energy in the form of fat. Now, if we were wired to only get hungry once we have depleted those fat stores, we'd probably all be healthy and highly efficient beings, but we're not. We eat, we store fat, we sit on the sofa, and we get hungry again. See where this is going?

Ideally, we should strive to eat six small, yet balanced, meals a day, rather than the three meals that are ingrained into our culture. I was told this back when I was first diagnosed with diabetes and for a while, I was pretty good about it. At least, I thought I was. The truth is, instead of eating small balanced meals, I was making a series of snacks that while healthy, didn't offer the satisfaction that a full meal did. As such, I would do things like binge on a massive restaurant meal on the weekend and feel like someone put a lead weight in my belly for the next several hours.

There's a happy medium, and it involves single dish, nutritionally diverse meals such as stews, soups, salads, and casseroles. These are meals that can be filling and satisfy the need for a full meal, while still being small portions, which means they leave plenty of caloric room for a mid morning, afternoon, and evening snack, provided we're talking about healthy snack options and not, say, a whole cheesecake. Best of all, these are meals that can be prepped in large batches ahead of time, so a healthy, yet small meal is always on hand in the freezer.

Dividing calories throughout the day not only allows us to burn what we need, avoiding storing energy as fat, but it also helps keep a steady flow of energy, meaning less post-lunch crash.  Of course, there's a bit more thought that needs to go into the composition of what we eat so...


Caloric intake is important, but not as much as macro balance.


Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Carbs are the devil! At least, that's what we've been led to believe for about the last 30 or so years. Especially diabetics. Back in the nineties we had Atkins and now the Keto craze has everyone believing that 25g of carbs a day is healthy. Spoiler alert: it's not.

Carbohydrates are energy and as we've already discussed, our bodies need energy. On average, we need between 150 and 300 grams of carbohydrates a day. The problem is, not all carbs are created equal and there's a huge difference between consuming a day's worth of carbs as nutrient dense plants and fiber rich grains versus blowing them all on french fries and white bread.

The same goes for fat. We need fat. Fat is found in all kinds of foods, even healthy foods. I'm sure you've heard the term "healthy fats" being thrown around. There are definitely healthy fats, such as those found in avocados and olive oil. These are still fats, so moderation is still needed, but there's a huge difference between adding olive oil to roasted vegetables and eating a deep fried Twinkie.

Oh and don't think you're getting away with something by choosing a "low fat" version of a fatty food. Most often low fat options are jam packed with extra salt or sugar to make up for the lack of flavor from the missing fats.

Overall, simplification is best. Packaged foods might be quick and inexpensive, but void of anything nutritious. Eating healthy, whole foods is costly and takes time, but baby steps towards cleaner eating is absolutely worth it. Plus, once you figure out some weird little tip, it becomes something of a game to see what new tidbit of healthy information you can discover, such as...


Sweet potatoes are best eaten for breakfast.


Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay

Okay, this seems weird, but is it? Think about breakfast. Here in the US, it's a meal that generally consists of food that we either don't eat for other meals or that are prepared in a specific way that we don't do for other meals. It can be  entirely sweet, entirely savory, or a combination of both. It's called the most important meal of the day, yet it's the one most often skipped, and yet, we have entire restaurants dedicated to this single meal. Breakfast in the US is weird, and the sweet potato, which is both sweet and savory and packed with energy boosting carbs, fits in just nicely.

Everyone has heard that sweet potatoes are better for you than regular white potatoes-despite the higher sugar content-but the reason why tends to go largely ignored. Sweet potatoes are what's considered a low glycemic food. What this means is that they do not spike blood sugar, but rather release slowly, which is what makes them a great morning food. They give you energy throughout the day. Eating a heavy carb-low GI or not-at the evening meal means you'll most likely be processing the sugars while sitting around and winding down for the day, which means a higher chance they'll be stored as fat for future use. Plus loading up on sensible (aka fiber rich) carbs early in the day gives us a full feeling, which means you may not feel as inclined to snack as much.

But best of all, sweet potatoes are inexpensive and keep well in the fridge. Roast a few cups of diced sweet potatoes in olive oil at the beginning of the week and you've got a great breakfast base for the next several days. Sautee them with some kale and onions, make hashbrowns with some onion and mushrooms, fold into an omelette (or tofu scramble), or eat cold with some plain yogurt and walnuts (you're welome).

And finally, here is the most important tip of all:

If you want cake, eat the damned cake.


Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay

Seriously, have cake. When we tell ourselves we're not "allowed" certain foods, our brains turn mutinous, making cravings for the banned foods worse. Plus, you might not be eating that double fudge brownie you really want, but you're probably consuming twice as many calories through mindless snacking that doesn't satisfy this very specific craving.

Obviously, there are limitations to this. Allowing an indulgent treat in a sensible portion every now and again is fine, but cake for dinner every night isn't going to be healthy no matter how you spin it. Also, I'm not talking about food allergies. If you crave cake but have an allergy to milk, eggs, wheat, or anything else, seek out alternative options. No cake is worth swelling, cramps, or worse. But if you're simply watching your intake of certain foods for health reasons, a small indulgence isn't going to hurt.

Obviously, this isn't an exhaustive list of healthy eating tips, and I didn't even mention that food is only a small part of living a healthy lifestyle, but it's a start. What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for maintaining a healthy and balanced diet? Leave a comment and share what works for you.


Comments

  1. Your clickbait worked. Love the article. We just got about 6 inches of snow here in Western NY and I was out with the snowblower twice in the driveway. Planning on celebrating with some lamb curry I made and froze.

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