Lose the festive pounds '“ try this four-step plan
Eaten too much over the festive period? Well now's the time to take back control, before those Christmas pounds take up permanent residence.
Healthy eating used to be all about counting calories, but the focus has now switched to what we eat, rather than how much. Advice in the 1970s/80s was to eat a low-fat diet, as fat was “bad” and contributed towards heart disease and weight gain. Supermarket shelves were full of “low-fat” products, with very low nutrient content.
What we didn’t know is that many food manufacturers replaced the fat they took out of the foods with sugar, to improve the taste. Around the same time sugary cereals replaced eggs for breakfast, so more and more sugar ended up on our plates. This is what we now believe to have been a major contributing factor in the rise in chronic diseases and obesity over the last 20/30 years, as almost daily we read more and more reports that it’s sugar, not fat, that has played a greater role in damaging our health.
The solution for long-term weight loss is not to cut out all fat from your diet. Low-fat diets fail because they slow the metabolism, leaving us hungry and more likely to reach for the biscuit tin. Some fats are also essential to our health and can only be obtained through our diet.
Follow this four-step plan for long-term weight loss:
1. Eat 3 balanced meals a day – no snacking!
A healthy diet should consist of a good balance of nutrients that come from:
l Fruit – 1 portion, choose berries (low sugar) and local fruits
lVegetables – 7 portions, choose variety of colours to provide range of nutrients
lWholegrain carbohydrates – Oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread
lHealthy fats – Oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds
lProtein – Lean red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds
lFull-fat organic dairy (in moderation) – milk, butter, cheese, yoghurts
lWater/herbal teas – 8 glasses per day
Cut out sugar and processed foods, particularly artificial sweeteners, fizzy/sugary drinks, alcohol, white pasta, white bread, sweets, cakes, biscuits, dried fruit and fruit juices as they have little nutrient value and play havoc with your blood sugar levels.
2. Manage your blood
This is important when trying to lose weight as maintaining steady blood sugar levels helps to keep us fuller for longer. Combining protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats at every meal slows the release of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream, which helps to keep our blood sugar levels balanced.
Exercise will boost your weight loss so aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking a day. Pedometers are great, allowing you to set yourself a goal of a certain number of steps per day and track your progress.
4. Portion Control
Use a smaller plate for your main meal, filling half with leafy green vegetables and salads. Just over a quarter should be good quality protein; include full-fat organic dairy in this group in moderation. Root vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates make up the last section of just under a quarter, but if you want to give your weight loss a boost cut out potatoes, limit your intake of grains and replace with vegetables.