These dietary approaches should form the basis for the majority of your diet in the long run. Try to employ them more and more over the coming weeks and months until they are part of your routine. Don’t be disheartened if you fall off the wagon from time to time, it’ll take work to ensure these measures become habit.
- Split your calorie intake evenly over the day
Aim to eat on a little and often basis every 2-3 hours. Ideally your daily calorie intake should be divided between three moderately sized meals and two smaller meals/ snacks because this promotes stable blood sugar levels. Going long periods without eating may lead to a decline in blood sugar levels, which may cause poor concentration, low physical energy and lowered mood. What’s more; feeling hungry when exercising can be distracting, can reduce motivation and may affect your exercise potential.
- Focus on unrefined plant foods such as wholegrains and wholegrain cereals, dried beans & pulses, fruit & vegetables
These are all high in fibre. Fibre creates a feeling of fullness, so these are harder to overeat, helping you to control portion sizes. These foods also provide slowly digesting carbohydrates which release their energy gradually. Aim for these foods to collectively make up around 65% of your overall food intake. This will also help with blood sugar control.
- Eat lean protein rich foods
Protein rich foods provide useful levels of B vitamins & various minerals to help promote the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. So if you’re working out or exercising regularly, protein is a vital part of healing the muscles and energising the body.
Good examples are: lean meat (white meat without the skin, lean mince, lean cuts of meat with the fat trimmed off), white fish and shellfish, low fat dairy products (e.g. skimmed and semi-skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt), dried beans and pulses, soya products & quorn. Aim for these protein rich foods to make up to make up around 15 – 20% of your overall food intake, up to half of which coming from dairy products.
- Include small amounts of foods high in good fats
The body needs some types of fats to maintain good health, known as ‘essential fats’. These can’t be made by the body so must be sourced from dietary sources or from supplements.
Whilst it is important to ingest some sources of essential fats, all types of fat are high in calories (9kcal per gram compared to only 4kcal per gram for carbohydrates and protein); therefore, aim to limit the intake of foods which provide high levels of saturated fat to 10% of your overall food intake. Ensure that unsaturated fats take up the biggest proportion of your fat intake, around 20% of total food eaten.
Examples of foods high in good fats are: vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, avocados and oily fish.
- Have a high fluid intake
Water is needed for a wide range of physiological processes and to maintain the health of all tissues in the body. What’s more, it’s surprisingly easy to confuse thirst with hunger, and this small error could lead to continuous over-eating.
Fluids you should opt for include; water, milk, herbal teas, small amounts of fruit juice, low to moderate intakes of tea and coffee. You should always aim to consume around 1.5-2L of water a day.
- Increase your levels of physical activity
Some form of physical activity is a necessity if you want to lose weight well. Ideally, you should combine cardiovascular (CV) type activity and resistance type activity. CV activity expends a large level of calories and improves health of the cardiovascular system, while resistance training (combined with an adequate protein intake) helps to maintain muscle mass during a weight loss period, meaning weight that is lost is mostly in the form of stored fat. Doing resistance exercise can increase lean muscle which may lead to an increase of calories burnt!
- Ensure you get enough sleep and rest
A lack of sleep and inadequate rest will leave you feeling exhausted; affecting your mood and brain functioning in the process. This can increase the risk of you making unhealthy food choices in an attempt to pep up energy levels and leave you less inclined to exercise.
Aim to keep these bad practices to a minimum as they’ll hinder your long term success, or throw you off altogether. It’s important to remember the importance of occasional treats to avoid feelings of frustration and boredom though.
- Eat many foods with added/free sugars and refined carbohydrates
These foods are low in fibre and so are easy to overeat. They simply don’t provide sustained energy, leaving you feeling hungry again quickly, and contain very few vitamins and minerals. Examples include cakes, biscuits and pastries.
Consume these in small levels and when you do, try to combine them with more slowly digesting, unrefined plant food or protein rich foods to lessen their impact. You should aim for these foods to make up no more than around 5% of your overall food intake.
Instead, opt for natural sweetening alternatives like stevia, xylitol and agave syrup. Stevia is calorie free while xylitol tastes identical to sugar but has 40% fewer calories.
- Choose foods high in animal fat
These contain fats which have a negative effect on health when consumed in higher intakes. Think full fat dairy and fatty meat. They’re often unavoidable, but make every effort to minimise your consumption of them.
- Drink lots of sugary drinks
No prizes for guessing why these are so bad. Excess sugar is disastrous for weight loss efforts, and sabotages many otherwise nutritious diets. Because they come in the form of a liquid, many people forget to consider the calories that come with them. Steer clear and opt for water where you can.
- Go crazy with caffeine and alcohol
Both of these act as diuretics, resulting in fluid losses from the body. Alcoholic drinks are often also high in calories, with around 7kcals per gram of alcohol!
Handpicked content: Your handy nutrition guide to healthy weight loss