Eating breakfast every morning is a common trait among people who have achieved weight loss and long-term maintenance. Research now shows that the size of your breakfast may have an impact on reaching your goals. One study found that women who ate a big breakfast (50% of their daily calories) lost more weight and inches around their waist than women eating the same number of total daily calories, but a big dinner. The big breakfast eaters also had a decrease in insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels after their meal. This suggests that the eating pattern may be protective against diabetes, hypertension, and poor cardiovascular health.
Boost your nutrient intake.
Research shows that people who rarely eat breakfast consume fewer nutrients than regular breakfast eaters. Use the early morning to stock up on valuable nutrients that you may miss out on later in the day. For example, if a woman eats a ½ cup of oatmeal topped with a ½ cup of raspberries and 1 ounce of walnuts for breakfast, she will consume almost half of her recommended fiber intake for the day.
Decrease your risk of disease.
Regularly eating breakfast may have the power to protect your health. Research has found that those who skip breakfast were more insulin resistant (a risk factor for diabetes). One study also showed that men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent greater risk for heart attack when compared to men who regularly ate breakfast. Additionally, common whole grain breakfast foods, like oatmeal, contain beneficial fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Feel fuller, longer.
A breakfast that is balanced in complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat helps to reduce hunger throughout the day. This decreases the risk of overeating at later meals, helping you to better identify hunger cues and control your daily calorie intake.
Refuel from the fast.
When you wake up, your body is in a fasting state and it is ready for fuel. Eating healthy foods will help replenish your nutrient stores and boost your energy throughout the day. While it’s important to eat only when you are truly hungry, it is also important to realize that years of depriving yourself through dieting can lessen your sensitivity to hunger cues. If you routinely wake up without an appetite, but find you are starving later in the day, slowly incorporate breakfast. You may find your morning hunger returns and by fulfilling it you can better control your food intake.
It is challenging to navigate the many health recommendations and diet suggestions you encounter every day. If you are having troubles deciding what, how much, and when to eat, here are a few tips for finding your own healthy eating style.
Three Meals vs. Six Meals
Recommendations seem to vary from day to day and from expert to expert, which is sure to leave you frustrated. Some say eating six small meals per day will boost metabolism, control blood sugar and hunger, and promote weight loss. Others argue that consuming only three meals per day and eliminating snacks will help control spikes and drops in blood sugar that cause hunger, and encourage the body to burn fat stores. The truth is, there is no strong scientific research to support either eating style, and many studies return neutral results when it comes to analyzing the magic number of meals to eat per day.
Most nutritionists agree that how much you eat and what you eat are more important. Eat only when you are truly hungry and choose nutrient-rich foods. Everyone is different so experiment with meal size and frequency until you find a combination that best fits your lifestyle, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and provides the energy you need to feel your best.
Value Your Choices
Consistently making beneficial food choices requires that you value nutrition and your health. We all have different values when it comes to eating. It comes down to choosing healthy foods that fit within your core set of values, including financial, spiritual, and cultural factors. When you create a long list of rules for what you can and cannot eat, you create an unhealthy relationship with food, which makes weight management more difficult. Decide what is important to you and make healthy choices that meet your needs. There are many forms of a healthy diet.
Allergies and Intolerances
Food allergies and intolerances play a significant role in dietary intake. Food allergies come on suddenly and they can be life threatening, which requires the elimination of the trigger food. But many food intolerances simply cause discomfort, and they may take more time to understand and identify. Some of the most common food intolerances include lactose (the sugar found in dairy), sulfites (found in alcoholic beverages and an additive in processed foods), and gluten (a protein in wheat, rye and barley).
First, talk with doctor if you suspect you have a food intolerance. After following the advice of a health professional, if you still experience problems, experiment with reducing or eliminating suspected trigger foods from your diet. Just be sure to replace any nutrients you may lose with other foods that contain them. For example, if dairy is a major source of calcium for you, be sure to replace it with other calcium-rich foods.
How you choose to spend your leisure time can make a big difference in your fitness level. These hobbies will keep you moving and get you excited about living a healthy lifestyle.
Hiking and camping are not activities for the couch potato. Carrying supplies, setting up camp, and exploring trails requires at least a moderate level of fitness. The more challenging the hikes and the higher the elevation, the better shape you will need to be in. The calories you burn and the muscles you strengthen while exploring the outdoors will improve your physical health, but the mental break that nature provides will bring you back to your daily activities with a renewed spirit and a positive attitude.
You don’t have to leave recreational sports behind as you get older. Adult leagues for softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, rowing, skating, and more can be found in most communities. Start by checking out your local office of Parks and Recreation. Spending a few hours a week playing a sport you enjoy allows you to get in exercise without a structured session at the gym.
Whether you tend to flowers, herbs, or vegetables, gardening keeps you active mentally and physically. Research from Jill Litt, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado found that people who participate in community gardening cultivate relationships with their neighbors, have a more positive outlook on health, and eat better. Research also estimates that gardeners engage in 30% more exercise than non-gardeners. From planting to harvest, the tasks involved boost the number of daily calories you burn.
An interest in history doesn’t mean you have to keep your nose in a book. Exploring historic monuments, visiting museums, and touring cities on foot are all ways to feed your passion while staying active.
The desire to cook and enjoy delicious food does not have to guarantee weight gain. Healthy cooking classes can be found at local grocery stores, community centers and universities. These classes will teach you how to use fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to create nutritious meals that you enjoy eating. Research shows that improving food and cooking skills may have a positive impact on food choices.
Active volunteering takes many forms. You can help out at a local charity fitness event, assist at clean-up days in your community, or work with youth. Anything that involves physical labor or recreational play will keep you moving and burn the calories needed for weight control.
Traveling gives you a break from your normal routine which improves your attitude and renews motivation. It also provides plenty of opportunities to keep you active. Exploring parks, visiting tourist attractions and browsing the local markets all contribute to active travel. If you are more adventurous, take things to the next level with hiking, rock climbing, or zipline tours.
Don’t become a victim of airport food courts and gas station food. While healthier options are becoming more available, nothing beats having your own stash of snacks to turn to. Take along foods with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein that will keep you satisfied. Try roasted chickpeas, a healthy muffin, and some fruit.
Keep it light
Avoid packing more in your luggage than you can handle. Heavy shoulder bags and backpacks add stress to your back, neck, and shoulders which can leave you with aching muscles. Tugging on a large suitcase to get it out of the car or onto the airline scale puts you at risk for a pulled back muscle. When large, heavy bags are required, use correct lifting form
and a cart to transport them.
Shoes are essential
Your reason for travel will likely dictate your wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come equipped with athletic shoes. Always keep a pair in your carry-on and you won’t have any excuses for not taking a few laps around the airport during your layover.
Traveling well-hydrated is a challenge. No one wants to be running to the bathroom multiple times on a long trip, but the dehydrating effects of travel make it necessary to keep drinking. Determine your daily water requirement and stick with it, even when traveling. Also keep your fluid intake up the day or two before to ensure you are well hydrated before your trip begins.
Long lines, crowded airports and unexpected delays can make travel stressful, which can lead to emotional eating. The rule of “eat only when you are truly hungry” still applies on the road. When you feel stress building, take a second to close your laptop and set down your phone. Read a few pages of your novel or listen to a podcast, or grab a cup of soothing hot tea.
It’s tempting to abandon your workouts, but exercise will make you feel better both mentally and physically. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to your normal program. Exercising when traveling may mean you have to reduce the time or intensity. Go for a two-mile jog around downtown instead of your usual four-miler. Join a walking tour of the city, or ask your hotel if they partner with fitness centers in the area that offer classes to guests.
Research supports that a plant-based diet is beneficial to health, but cutting out animal products won’t suddenly make a poor diet nutritious. Whether you are interested in becoming a healthy vegetarian or simply want to improve your eating habits, follow these nutrition tips.
Take a test run.
There are many versions of a plant-based diet.
Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products, but not meat, fish, or eggs.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs and dairy, but not meat or fish.
Ovo-vegetarians include eggs, but not dairy, meat, or fish.
Vegans consume no animal products of any kind.
Flexitarians eat a plant-based diet, but occasionally include meat and other animal products.
Don’t attempt to make all of your dietary changes overnight. Try a new way of eating for a few weeks, and assess how you feel. You might decide you want to include dairy or eggs, or that you want to eliminate animal products altogether.
Pay attention to nutrient intake.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports that well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy and nutritionally adequate. However, when reducing animal products, it’s important to find new sources for the nutrients that you previously obtained from these foods. Here are a few of the specific nutrients that need special attention.
Protein: It is easy to get the protein you need from vegetarian sources, but not if you switch from meat to all fruits and vegetables. Eat protein-rich plant foods such as beans, quinoa, nuts, or seeds regularly.
Iron: Plant-based iron is not as well-absorbed by the body as iron from animal sources. Like protein, a vegetarian diet can provide plenty of iron, but increasing overall iron intake and consuming adequate vitamin C (which helps with iron absorption) are important. (See Eating to Increase Iron Absorption)
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy. There are no plant sources that contain an adequate amount of the active form of this vitamin. If you still eat eggs, dairy, or fish, a vitamin B12 deficiency may not be a concern. However, if you eliminate all animal products from your diet, talk to your healthcare provider about this vitamin. Despite many circulating myths, vitamin B12 is essential, and because folate can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, you may need a supplement.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as pumpkin seeds, kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts, provide short-chain ALA which must be converted to longer chain EPA and DHA to be used by the body. Unfortunately, this conversion rate is low. Plant foods are still considered a beneficial source of omega-3s, but if you do not eat a variety of vegetables or cold-water, fatty fish (rich in EPA and DHA), an algae supplement (a plant-based source of DHA) will help you boost your intake. (See 5 Things to Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
Choose minimally processed foods.
Foods marketed as vegetarian can be found all over the grocery store. Take a closer look, and you will see that some of these highly processed foods are also full of sodium, fat, and sugar. There is no need to rely on these foods when eating a plant-based diet. Whether you eat meat or eliminate it, your health will benefit from eating more nutritious, minimally processed and fresh foods. Seek out beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to make up the bulk of your food intake.
Learn new cooking techniques.
Despite the delicious plant-based recipes and menu items that are now available, many people still equate vegetarian to unappetizing. Consider signing up for a vegetarian cooking class or purchase a vegetarian cookbook. Once you learn how to prepare grain salads, mushrooms, tofu, beans, and leafy greens you will enjoy vegetarian eating much more. The knowledge you gain will also allow you to add variety to your diet, ensuring that you get the nutrients your body needs.