Have you been misled by corporations marketing their food products? Most of us have. And we now mistakenly rely on food labels for an accurate picture of the nutritional value of the foods that we consume. If you want to achieve an overall healthier lifestyle, say goodbye to the following misleading terms:
Carb Free -- Depriving your body of carbs, will lead you to be craving sugar sooner or later. Stick to complex carbohydrate sources such as brown rice, sweet potatoes and fruit.
Low Calorie -- Consuming too few calories, will leave you feeling weak, tired and ineffective during your workday and your workouts. Not to mention you'll be grumpy because you will be hungry!
Low Fat -- When fat is removed from a diet, usually sugar is added right back in to compensate for the nutrients that your body is craving. This is deceiving because sugar can actually make you fat whereas "good healthy" fats won't make you fat!
No Sugar -- If you think that artificial sweeteners are better options than sugar you are setting yourself up for disaster. Chemical sweeteners like aspartame trick your body into thinking it is getting sugar when it's not and will actually make you crave sugar. Stay natural and choose natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar.
Gluten Free -- Just because something is labelled gluten-free does not mean it is healthy. The gluten-free label is being over used on products that are naturally gluten free (like pickles or apples).
The key to ultimate health will not be achieved by focusing on these claims. Incorporate natural, whole foods in your diet even if they are higher in fat or contain more calories than we have been taught will effect weight loss. Your body will thrive off of healthy fats and complex carbs. They are needed to achieve a healthy, lean weight.
How can you ditch this unhealthy way of thinking?
First and foremost, most of your food selections should be fresh whole foods -- items like vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. These should be the focus of your diet. Ignore the nutrition claims including fat, calories, and carbs listed. Your body will thrive off of these foods.
When you do choose processed foods, take all label claims with a grain of salt. Realize they may or may not be true, and base your primary decision on the ingredients list instead. You want to look for foods that have only a few ingredients listed, and they should be items that you recognize. Avoid foods that contain unfamiliar additives, preservatives, and artificial flavours and colours. Always use common sense. A sugary breakfast cereal is not going to be your healthiest choice, even if it claims to be a "low calorie" one on the label.
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You don't have to rely on fall to get a taste of pumpkin. Pumpkin (even canned pumpkin) is full of fibre that's good for both your skin and body, says Joy Bauer, a health and nutrition expert for the TODAY Show. EAT IT: Add pumpkin slices to your yogurt or oatmeal mix with a drop of sugar or honey. You can even use pumpkins with tomatoes as taco or pasta sauces — you won't taste the difference!
"A lot of people may get nervous about arsenic in rice," Bauer says. Quinoa is an easy (and tasty) way to replace rice or pasta dishes, she says. It's full of protein — almost twice the amount of protein and fibre compared to brown rice, in fact. EAT IT: Try an easy quinoa oatmeal by mixing low fat milk or soy milk with berries, walnuts and bananas.
"Spinach does not have calcium for your body but it does have beta carotene (inactive form of vitamin A) and vitamin C," Bauer says. Spinach is also known as nature's multivitamin — it's full of iron, potassium and fibre. EAT IT: Don't like the taste of spinach? Mix it with your pasta sauce or fruit smoothies to mask the taste.
How many oranges would you have to eat to the get the same vitamin C content as one red bell pepper? Two. "Red peppers are sweet and can also help boost your immunity," Bauer says. EAT IT: Cut a pepper in half and fill it with hummus or bean dip. Yes, you can (and should) eat the bowl.
"The best part about chia seeds? Their impossible to dislike, they taste like nothing," Bauer says. Chia seeds, like flax seeds, are full of omega 3 fats, fibre and helps lower cholesterol. EAT IT: Take two teaspoons of chia seeds and mix it with your oatmeal or bread crumbs for chicken.
Raspberries in particular, have the highest amounts of fibre for berries, Bauer says. Berries boost brain health by helping our brains function better and make them sharper. EAT IT: Add your favourite berries on top of oatmeal or pancakes.
Pistachios in particular have about 30 calories per handful and make a great snack, Bauer says. Most nuts and seeds are low in carbs and good for your heart's health. Their also good for people who have blood sugar issues, just make sure you avoid salted or flavoured nuts and seeds, Bauer adds. EAT IT: Two words: naked popcorn. Just add kernels in a brown bag and pop it in the microwave.
Salmon has to be one of the top superfoods for any health benefit. Salmon is packed with omega 3 and even found in canned form (just make sure you read the ingredients and avoid preservatives, Bauer adds). EAT IT: Mash up salmon and avocado for a great spread.
Turmeric should be added to everyone's medicine cabinet, Bauer says. "Turmeric has the powerful ability to suppress inflammation and boost your body with anti-oxidants," she says. EAT IT: You can't go wrong with a turmeric infused curry. Try turmeric in chickpea and cauliflower curry or even over a chicken salad.
There's a reason why lentils are the king of legumes. Lentils can be your source or protein and starch in one, Bauer says. It's also more environmentally friendly — it takes less gas to produce lentils compared to meat. EAT IT: Lentils taste great cooked in salads, curries or try a soup.
Edamame has about 150 calories in two cups. Soybeans are a high quality carb that are also filled with plant-based omega 3 fats, Bauer says. "Edamame is also good for your brain, energy levels and mood." EAT IT: Steam the beans in the microwave, add lemon juice and you got yourself a tasty snack.
Adding two table spoons of balsamic vinegar to any salad is virtually calorie free, Bauer says. EAT IT: Replace all those salad dressings with balsamic vinegar.
Contrary to popular belief, bananas are not fattening, Bauer says. A medium-sized banana has about 105 calories, she says. Bananas are loaded with potassium and can even help with constipation. EAT IT: Freeze your bananas and serve with a a scoop of low-fat ice cream or blend sliced frozen bananas with a bit of almond milk — it's just like ice cream.
What is the secret to achieving a healthy weight?
Focus on whole, natural foods. Fuel your body with foods that will help build muscle, speed, and recovery. Use these tips below to start seeing the healthy, lean results that you want.
- Boost your veggie intake. Include lots of leafy greens in your salads and smoothies.
- Drink more water. To add some flavour to your water, add a squeeze of lemon or enjoy a delicious herbal tea.
- Fill up on soup loaded with veggies. Get some delicious soup recipe inspiration here.
- Choose complex carbs over refined. A low carbohydrate diet is not the answer either -- your body needs carbs in all its forms (except refined ones of course!) along with good quality essential fats and protein! Complex carbs including grains such as quinoa, wheat berries, and more will leave you feeling great with exuberant amounts of energy allowing you to achieve your health and fitness goals.
- Choose healthy fats over bad fats. Healthy fats include avocados, nuts, and seeds. Bad fats include non-saturated fats contained in chips and highly processed foods.
- Eat enough protein. Protein is an important nutrient required for the building, maintenance and repair of muscle and tissues in the body.
- Cut out sugars. Choose fruit instead which contains natural sugars. To curb your sugar craving check out these wholesome desserts that provide nothing but essential, whole foods that your body craves.
- Focus less on weight and calories and more on eating whole, natural foods. The health benefits of consuming superfoods will out-weight the number of calories in it.
- Eat 4-6 meals a day. This way, your metabolism will always be working and you will avoid devouring your meals if you eat nothing in between each meal.
- Exercise by doing weight bearing exercise and interval cardio. Take a fitness class or start by doing 15 minutes of cardio a day and slowly build up your endurance each week.
What is the secret to a healthy and lean YOU?
Choose foods that are unprocessed and in their freshest form. They are almost always superior to processed varieties. When choosing between processed foods, look for those with the most wholesome ingredients possible.
When it comes to making your own recipes, don't get caught up with calories and fat, just enjoy eating balanced and nourishing meals to keep yourself fueled. I promise this will make a difference!
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