In the previous post I talked about the first three diet principles. Eating 5 meals instead of 3 meals, why you should not skip meals, if you are trying to lose weight and the benefits to your health of adding good sources of fiber to your daily diet. In this post, I will elaborate on the next four principles.
4. Eat plenty of protein, but get it from lean sources.
Protein is of course healthy and necessary, but just because a food is high in protein doesn’t mean that the food itself is healthy—especially when the protein comes in a food high in saturated fat. Lean sources of protein are egg whites, soy, products made from wheat gluten, vegetables (yes, vegetables contain protein; romaine lettuce contains more protein per calorie than meat), lean cuts of chicken, turkey or fish.
Bake, broil, or grill your chicken, turkey, or fish, so as to prepare them without added fat. Nuts and seeds are also valuable protein sources, and while they also contain fat, it’s healthy fat. But don’t overindulge on the nuts.
There is a common myth that animal protein is superior to plant protein; it is not, and a good case has been made (by T. Colin Campbell in The China Study) that the reverse is true. If you don’t have an allergy to soy, then tofu and tempeh are excellent soy-derived sources of protein. All types of beans provide abundant protein, and unlike meat, they are low in fat without the unhealthy saturated fat that causes heart problems.
Be careful to choose some sources of protein that are also high in calcium, a mineral important particularly to women. The most common dietary recommendation given by the medical community regarding calcium is to eat dairy products.
If you choose to get your calcium from dairy, opt for skim milk, yogurt, and low-fat cheese. But dairy isn’t the only ample source of calcium to be found. Here are some other good sources: sardines, clams, oysters, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, beans, tofu, chick peas. Still other good sources of calcium, although not high in protein, are dried figs and calcium-fortified orange juice. Keep in mind that the plant sources of calcium contain healthy fiber, whereas dairy and fish do not.
5. Within reason, eat as many servings of fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Shoot for ten or more.
You’ve probably heard of the USDA food pyramid guidelines that suggest “five to seven servings per day of fruits and vegetables.” That strangely misleading guideline sounds like it means that seven is the upper limit recommended, but that is not the case. Frankly, that’s just a lame government bureaucracy trying to confuse you, and trying to keep the meat and dairy lobbies satisfied by not overemphasizing the healthiest of foods—fruits and vegetables. There is nothing unhealthy about having eight or ten or even twelve or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
As long as your overall caloric intake is not excessive, you will help yourself lose weight and stay healthy if you shoot for ten or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day—a goal that even the USDA will endorse, if you press them.
Begin adding fruits and vegetables gradually to your daily diet. Try a fruit salad for breakfast or a vegetable sandwich for lunch. Avocado, tomato and lettuce in a pita pocket is an excellent example.
Make sure you eat some of the most densely nutritious vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, eggplant, garlic, onion, asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, and greens.
6. Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates.
Go light on pasta and breads made from refined flour. Go light on fruit juices. Minimize or avoid entirely sweetened drinks like soda, cereals high in sugar, and treats—candy, cookies, cakes, donuts, pies—loaded with refined sugar. Make a special effort to minimize your carbohydrates in your last meal of the day.
Sugar robs the body of vitamin B, as it takes a considerable amount of this vitamin to metabolize sugar. In order for your body to work with the sugar it has to take vitamin B from your liver, kidneys and heart.
Eating foods high in carbohydrates puts a tremendous amount of stress on the arterial wall of the heart by extending the brachial arteries and affecting their elasticity. A sudden expansion in the arterial wall can lead to heart failure.
An imbalance of sugar resulting from too many refined carbohydrates; can cause sugar highs and lows. This can cause mental and nervous disorders and individuals may find it hard to concentrate and become easily confused. Irritability or restlessness has also been associated with too much sugar consumption.
Foods with a high level of refined and processed carbohydrates raise sugar levels very quickly, and this includes most breads. White bread and white rice are both culprits. Limit the amount of these foods for the best results with your weight loss program.
7. Reduce dietary fat generally, and particularly reduce unhealthy saturated fat.
Use minimal amounts of oil and oily foods. Minimize or avoid entirely fried foods, red meat, creams, fatty salad dressings, cheese, and high fat desserts like ice cream.
Indulging in fat-rich foods will cause unwanted weight gain. Saturated fats initiate LDL, or “bad cholesterol” which in turn increases the risk of heart disease.
There are many ways that you can reduce the amount of fat in your diet. Making simple amendments in the way that you eat is easy to do.
Squeeze a lemon over a salad, instead of drenching it in a fatty ranch dressing. Add more wet foods to your salad like tomatoes and avocado slices; they help to moisten your greens so you won’t need as much dressing.
If you must indulge yourself with an ice cream, choose a low-fat variety or even a soy-based ice cream, which is low in fat and often devoid of saturated fat.
Eat cheese sparingly, and choose low-fat varieties. Try a cheeseless pizza—you just might like it.
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~ Karen Ficarelli
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