What can I eat and do to support my healthy weight loss?
While you probably know that cutting calories is an important aspect of successful weight loss, you may not be entirely sure of the types of foods you should actively be including in your diet to support your efforts. These are two sides of the same coin, if you like.
When on a “diet”, it’s important to remember that it’s not all about what you shouldn’t be eating or doing; just as important is what you should eat and do with your body (i.e. in terms of physical activity). Start thinking in positive, rather than negative, terms wherever possible – this will also help with morale and endurance.
For example, rather than thinking that you will drastically reduce your food or calorie intake for a short period of time to lose weight fast (which can be dangerous and have an adverse impact on your overall health and well-being), you should ideally be thinking about overhauling your lifestyle as a whole, including your diet as an integral part of that change. Changing ingrained, old bad habits and replacing them with new, good habits will help you to achieve long-term weight loss.
So-called diet food does not have to be boring, bland or leave you feeling unsatisfied. For sustained and healthy weight loss, you do not have to live on lettuce for a month or adopt the extreme eating behaviours often associated with “fad diets” (such as eating nothing but a single food type for a length of time and as a quick fix).
In our view, effective diet foods are any foods that are healthy, well-balanced and (when taken together) help to provide your body with the broad spectrum of nutrients that it needs to meet its daily demands – whether during your weight loss program or afterwards, as part of your healthy lifestyle and ideal weight maintenance.
While slimming, healthy diet foods and calories include those that, for example:
- are high in lean, complete protein
- provide good levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients (such as phytochemicals)
- are a source of quality dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble)
- contain a good amount of unsaturated fats (good fats), such as Omega oils and essential fatty acids (which, you may be surprised to learn, actually support healthy weight loss)
- contain a sufficient amount of complex carbohydrates to support energy levels
- are low in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, sugar, salt and artificial ingredients (such as additives, preservatives, colourings, flavourings etc).
Fruit, vegetables, green leafy plants, oily fish and lean protein sources (preferably organic and seasonal) tend to provide a combination of the above. Eaten in balanced proportions, they can help to re-mineralise your body, alkalise your body, stave off cravings, keep you feeling fuller for longer and therefore help you to slim down.
Fruit as a diet food
Although fruit contains both sugar and carbohydrates, these are natural sugars (mostly in the form of fructose) and complex carbohydrates, both of which are more slowly absorbed by the body and therefore help to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Fruit sugar actually has the lowest Glycaemic Index (GI = 19) of all the common sugars and does not cause the peaks and troughs in blood sugar levels associated with sucrose, glucose and even honey. It therefore helps to avoid the hunger pangs that many people experience after eating or drinking something sweet and does not stimulate an unnatural tendency to snack.
Many slimmers write off fruit because they are focussed on a “no-carb” and “no-sugar” diet, but there is a huge difference between the nutritional value of the natural carbohydrates and sugars found in fruits and other plant foods and what’s found (or, more importantly, what’s not found) in the empty calories of processed sugars and foods.
Vegetables as a diet food
And don’t forget about your veg! Aim for the colours of the rainbow on your plate over the course of every week – this will help you to get variety into your diet and therefore a broad spectrum of balanced nutrients that will support energy levels, efficient digestion and a strong immune system – all essential components of healthy and long-term weight loss.
Fish as a diet food
Fish (particularly oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel) are a good source of Omega oils, the so-called “healthy fats”. People who want to slim down often follow very low-fat diets. Whilst this may seem logical (after all, each gram of fat contains twice the calories of protein or carbohydrate), a diet severely restricted in fat can actually have an effect opposite to that intended, causing you to gain weight!
The key is to realise that, when it comes to types of food fat, not all are equal in slimming terms. Our bodies cannot function well without some fat (here we are talking about good fats and, in particular, essential fatty acids). For example, fat is necessary for the production of hormones and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. What’s more, if you don’t eat some fat along with carbohydrates, you are liable to get hungrier faster, which can cause you to binge or overeat.
Whole grains and fibre as a diet food
If you’re a slimming ‘pro’, you will most probably know that most bread is a “no-no”. This is not just because it is high in carbohydrates; it also tends to be full of processed flour, sugar, salt, additives and preservatives, making it unhealthy and incredibly hard to digest. Dietary fibre (both soluble and insoluble) is an essential part of healthy digestion and effective weight loss, but (just as with fats) it is important to be discerning about your sources.
Whole grains (such as amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur and quinoa) contain a variety of high quality nutrients and offer high levels of quality dietary fibre. Soluble and insoluble fibre absorb sugar and transport it through the digestive system slowly. Slower digestion thereby leads to stable blood sugar levels, which helps to stave off hunger.
Plant protein as a diet food
Although traditional sources of protein and calcium, meat and dairy products should ideally not be eaten in excess – particularly if you are trying to lose weight. This is because, as well as being highly acidic, meat and dairy are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and even hormones, parasites and antibiotics in some instances – all obstacles to healthy weight loss (and general health and well-being). They are also hard to digest.
One of the healthier means of accessing complete, balanced and natural protein, as well as calcium, is through high quality plant sources (such as wheatgrass, hemp plant, quinoa and tempeh). Not only are these foods rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and other essential nutrients (missing in both meat and dairy), they are also easier to digest.
The way that you prepare your diet foods can also affect how beneficial they will be in terms of your health and slimming goals. For instance, eat your fruit and vegetables raw wherever possible (e.g. in delicious salads), as heating during the cooking process can decrease the nutritional value of whole foods quite significantly.
Don’t like fruit, vegetables, greens or grains, or on a restricted diet?
So, as you can see, the type of food you consume is as important (if not more important) to your weight loss regime as the amount of calories you cut! Eating a well-balanced, highly nutritious diet will both improve your overall health and you should naturally lose weight and keep it off as a happy side effect of that lifestyle.
Of course, this can be a challenge if you dislike the taste of fruit and vegetables, or are on a restricted diet (for instance, you have coeliac disease or are vegetarian or vegan). In these circumstances, certain food supplements can offer invaluable support, provide a very handy source of top-up nutrients – as part of your weight loss program, but also on an ongoing basis as part of your balanced diet. Examples might include meal shakes, protein powders, organic fruit and vegetable blends. Quick, easy and convenient to use.