Last week I talked about how mindset affects your chances of achieving an enviable physique. Today I’m covering the second essential ingredient for fat loss: Nutrition.
Nutrition is confusing area cluttered with conflicting opinions and trendy tactics. It doesn’t help when well-known coaches draw minscule distinctions between this popular method or that.
Let’s not make it complicated. All you need to know to lose fat is what to eat and how much to eat.
What to Eat for Fat Loss
Keep it simple. Follow these guidelines and check out my clean eating articles for more ideas.
Foods close to their natural state
Next time you’re at the grocery store, check out the ingredients label for packaged products like crackers, frozen burritos, energy or protein bars, garden burgers, boxed dinners, frozen pizza, salad dressing, lunch meat, cereals, and cookies. These commercially prepared and packaged foods may contain added fat and sugar, artificial color and flavor, MSG, partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrate, sky-high sodium, fat.
I’m not saying you can’t eat these foods. But if the list is long and most ingredients can’t be pronounced, then question whether you should eat it. Minimal processing and fewer additives means more nutrients retained. Did I mention that restaurant food is often the worst culprit? Minimize eating out if you’re on a quest to lose fat or find ways to eat healthier at restaurants.
Bottom line? Know what you’re eating.
High in fiber, nutrients, and bulk but low in calories
Foods that are high in water and fiber (“bulk”) keep you full longer and help you avoid overeating. We’re talkin’ vegetables here! If you don’t like veggies then it’s time to set a micro-goal – a small, attainable goal to help you ease into vegetables. Use veggies with your snacks and every meal and you will be freaking amazed at how much healthier and satiated you are.
Refined foods with a high glycemic index such as pancakes, chips, baked goods, and bagels have you hungry again quickly and have a lot of calories. Not good for fat loss!
Eat 5+ servings of vegetables a day, such as dark leafy greens (like kale and spinach), broccoli, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. Other complex carbs that are full of satiating fiber include steel-cut oatmeal, whole grains, quinoa, and beans/legumes.
Satiating lean protein at every meal/snack
Eating enough protein is a gamechanger for fat loss. Foods high in protein have a higher thermic quality and require more energy to digest. High-protein foods also keep you full longer and help you maintain muscle while losing fat.
Lean protein is meat, fish, and dairy with a low saturated fat content and fewer calories (it can also include soy products such as tempeh). Think white chicken and turkey meat; tuna, salmon, and white fish; lean ground meats; eggs and egg whites; and low-fat or nonfat dairy such as plain Greek yogurt.
See a theme here? Eating foods with a lot of nutritional bang helps you stay full longer and eat fewer calories. When you eat these types of foods, you automatically eat less.
How Much to Eat for Fat Loss
You must know how much you’re eating. You must also know how much you’re drinking, by the way, because alcohol, sodas, juices, and other drinks can impact your weight in a big way. When you block out the noise of all the trendy eating methods out there, there’s just two basic ways to know how much you eat.
Track your food
It’s damn eye-opening to log what you’re eating. Apps and software make it incredibly easy to see the composition of your diet. You’ll see things like vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inadequate protein, over-the-top fat, and way-off-the-charts sodium. Track for a week and see what I mean.
Now, I’m not going to get into whether you should track calories or macronutrients because that’s another one of those miniscule distinctions that popular coaches try to push. I teach my clients to use whatever method works best for them.
- If you’re new to tracking food, focus on total calories (read my Art of Food Tracking series to learn how).
- If you’re already familiar with calorie tracking and haven’t made any progress, you can track your macros if you like (protein, carbs, and fat). Whatever! The point is to first watch your diet and then modify it. Also see the next option.
Watch your portions
The other way to know how much you’re eating is to know what a proper portion looks like. My clients who follow a go-to list of foods in proper portions always lose inches and fat. In fact, I have found this method much more effective for fat loss than tracking calories, as many times clients inadvertently underreport.
How to learn proper portions? Use the SuperTracker at choosemyplate.gov, which gives you proper portions for your calorie intake. In fact, you can find out proper portions for any food on that comprehensive website.
As you can see, these are simply clean eating principles that take some commitment. We begin new habits for a lifetime in my online training groups for women, but you can also do this on your own. Take small steps and realize that it could take years to fully implement a clean-eating lifestyle. But you can do this.
This article first appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.