The past few months of lockdown have possibly resorted to comfort eating, increased snacking, unusual cravings, less or no exercise, and likely some weight gain. Follow these tips to get you back on track!
1. Watch your snacks. Snacking can so easily increase your calorie intake beyond what your body needs. Certain snacks can also be loaded with refined sugars and unhealthy fat, which negatively impact our bodies beyond weight gain. Where should we start when it comes to snacking? Firstly, have fresh fruit and vegetables readily available. These are filled with fibre and nutrients, which both nourish the body and keep us fuller for longer. Secondly, if you don’t keep it, you can’t eat. Simply not purchasing unhealthy snacks whilst shopping will avoid you from being able to easily grab them when you feel your cravings coming on. Thirdly, check your thirst levels. We often confuse thirst and hunger. By having a glass of water before opting for a snack is a good way to check if you really are hungry. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
2. Eat at regular times. In the same way that we check the time to attend a meeting or pick our children up from school, we should also check the time for meals. This creates more structure in eating patterns, and also prevents us from getting extremely hungry, then resorting to any food, in any quantity. Everyone’s pattern is different, so find one that works for you, your lifestyle, your goals and which you can maintain.
3. Are you drinking your calories? Drinks are also a way that extra calories can sneak in, without even making us full. Take a simple cup of coffee for example. The coffee itself has very minimal calories, but by adding a quarter cup of full cream milk and two teaspoons of sugar, the calories increase to 69. If you have this three times a day, over a period of one month, you will have taken in 1449 calories, merely from coffee. This is equal to about 18 slices of bread. We can avoid this by swopping to low-fat or fat-free milk, and by reducing (and ultimately avoiding) the sugar we add to our drinks. Also, when it comes to cold drinks, rather choose the sugar-free options, or fruit juice which you can dilute to contain half water and half juice.
4. Trim the fat. Fatty pieces of meat or chicken with the skin is another way that extra calories can make their way into our meals. Always look at how much fat various proteins contain. For example, 100 grams of wors has about 19 grams of fat, whereas tuna (in brine) has less than 1 gram of fat. Opt for lean proteins such as fish, chicken without the skin, lean mince, eggs, or legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.
5. Choose whole grains. Whole grains include oats, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, whole-wheat bread and corn. A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. About a quarter of your plate should consist of whole grains.
6. Get moving. Increasing your physical exercise helps your body burn more calories than it would if you were just sitting down. Remember that exercise should be a celebration of what our bodies can do, not punishment for what we ate. Find something that you love, be it dancing, jogging, cycling, swimming, skipping, brisk walking or playing sport. This way you would want to engage in the activity, making it a lifestyle choice, instead of a “quick fix”. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.
If you feel that you require assistance to maintain a healthy weight, see a dietitian. Dietitians can provide you with an individualised eating plan, or give insight about the foods we eat and how they affect certain medical conditions. Remember, weight-loss is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
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