“Don’t,” “limit,” and “avoid” are perhaps the three most common initial words of dietary advice given to people who are starting a nutrition plan. Nutrition professionals and others in the health community often hand out well-meaning but overwhelmingly negative dietary guidance. Rather than helping, such negative admonitions can add yet another layer of anxiety to starting a new food plan.
Often, when we think of changing our nutrition, we tend to concentrate solely on what we can’t eat, instead of what we can eat. This is why most of us fail at following a new nutrition plan, because we focus on giving up all our favorite dishes and treats instead of focusing on eating the right foods to fuel our bodies, providing the greatest amount of nutrients for the calories, and providing essential and filling fiber to aid in digestion and keep us feeling full. When we are eating right, many of our cravings will disappear, because our bodies have been starved for real nutrition.
In the recent past, fats have been a huge no-no in our diets. Unfortunately, the eighties and nineties saw the rise of “fat-free” wave in food fads. Many processed foods hit the market that indeed contained little to no fat; however, the missing fat was often replaced with sugar. People didn’t stop to realize that these fat-free items contained nearly as many or even more calories than their regular counterparts did. People quit eating natural, healthy foods such as eggs because of paranoia over cholesterol levels. Consuming even a little oil was thought to be very damaging to one’s health. Thank goodness we now know better. Monounsaturated oils such as olive and canola actually promote heart-health. Fatty fish such as salmon contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote lower levels of “bad” HDL cholesterol and help stabilize triglyercide levels. Avocados are another great source of healthy plant-based fats, as are coconut and nuts. A little healthy fat promotes fullness, and helps curb the appetite. The main thing to be aware of is that these sources of healthy fats are calorie-dense; a little bit goes a long way.
Look for foods high in fiber. Check labels for how many grams of fiber is contained in products. If you see enriched flour listed as one of the first ingredients on a package, put it back and look for one that lists whole grain flour as one of its first ingredients. Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of fiber. Whole grain baked goods are now widely available, as is whole grain pasta. These choices give you more fiber per serving and keep you feeling full longer.
Get the most nutrients and fiber for the least number of calories. A medium-sized apple or orange contains more nutrients and fiber than a large glass of juice from the same fruits does. Pick spinach for salads over iceberg lettuce as it contains far more nutrients. Stop using nutrient-void products that contain high-fructose corn syrup and cane sugar, by substituting small amounts of natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and agave nectar. These provide even more sweetness than sugar does, but don’t produce the same roller-coaster effects on your blood-sugar levels.
Like your steak? Then have one! But instead of eating a fatty cut such as a rib-eye, choose a steak lower in saturated fat such as a sirloin. Same with ground beef–choose the lower-fat varieties. One thing to be aware of about ground chicken and turkey -it’s not always lower in fat than ground beef is. Look for all white meat versions of these ground meats, as the other versions may contain the bird’s skin, which is always fatty.
When you feed your body right, cravings will diminish greatly. It’s not that difficult to get the nutrients your body needs if you are aware of what you’re putting into your mouth. The most natural, least processed versions of foods are usually the healthiest and are often the cheapest. So focus on all the great things you can eat while dieting, and you’ll soon see those junk food cravings fade away.
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