The 48-Hour Healthy Eating Jump Start
Build Better Eating Habits
Let's face it: We're busy, distracted, overwhelmed by bigger challenges. Eating healthfully tends to get pushed down the priority list when you've got a crazy work schedule, a brood of kids, or a gaggle of friends insisting on happy hour. And somehow our minds are always capable of justifying those spur-of-the-moment doughnut and potato chip indulgences -- it's PMS! I deserve it! My body needs it!
But eating right is what your body is truly craving; good nutrition is the best way to help the mind tackle those bigger priorities. And it doesn't have to be about punishing or depriving yourself either. "Overall good eating is not about dieting, but about making small lifestyle changes," says San Francisco-based nutritionist Kaley Todd, MS, RD. "I've found that people who focus in on small changes tend to have larger success and lifelong success."
Begin now by making small changes with our simple 2-day plan.
Break down the walls. Begin by taking an honest look at your current habits and readiness to change them, says Deborah Kesten, a certified wellness coach and author of The Enlightened Diet. "Are you really ready to change or forcing it? If you're staying with bad habits, ask yourself what you're getting out of them."
Breaking down your psychological state will help you overcome any mental barriers that are keeping you from embracing an exercise routine. Says Kesten, "Once you decide you're ready to make a change, you can start to envision it and act on it."
Rethinking your plate. Many nutritionists today are urging people to rethink the core of their diets. Instead of a fatty cut of meat taking the spotlight on your plate, "shift the focus to vegetables, fruits, and whole grains -- with the fat and protein being the side dish," says Todd.
"One of the biggest keys to healthier eating is to add more fruits and vegetables," says Jackie Newgent, RD, CDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The Big Green Cookbook. "You don't need to be a vegetarian; small amounts of meats are fine. But I try and incorporate a fruit and vegetable in every recipe. I like to tell people to think of it as adding [excitement] to your diet, not subtracting from what you're eating. And that way you'll enjoy it that much more."
Veggies also help you bulk up with minimal calories. "They're very filling," says Todd, so you feel like you're getting a lot more food, and this will keep you from overeating later."
Todd suggests switching to smaller-size plates for meals to help keep portion sizes reasonable. "It's a psychological trick, but with a small plate, you look like you're getting more food."
How much you should eat. The USDA new food pyramid often serves as a general guideline to healthy eating. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines the following:
Fruit group: 2 cups (4 servings)
Vegetable group: 2.5 cups (5 servings)
Dark green vegetables: 3 cups/week
Orange vegetables: 2 cups/week
Legumes (dry beans): 3 cups/week
Starchy vegetables: 3 cups/week
Other vegetables: 6.5 cups/week
Grain group: 6 ounce-equivalents
Whole grains: 3 ounce-equivalents
Other grains: 3 ounce-equivalents
Meat and beans group: 5.5 ounce-equivalents
Milk group: 3 cups
Oils: 24 grams (6 teaspoons)
"Other" calorie allowance: 267 calories
As far as serving sizes go:
Fruit: about the size of your fist
1 piece of fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of chopped fruit, 3/4 cup of fruit juice, 1/4 cup dried fruit
Vegetables: about the size of your fist
Sample: 1/2 cup of cooked or cut-up raw veggies, 1 cup raw leafy veggies
Sample: 1 slice of whole-grain bread, 1 ounce of prepared cereal, 1/2 cup of pasta or rice, 1 computer-mouse-size baked potato, one CD-size pancake or waffle
Meat: about the size of a deck of cards
Sample: 2 to 3 ounces of meat, such as one chicken breast, 1/4-pound hamburger patty, medium pork chop
Other proteins: 1 tablespoon of nut butter, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of dry beans
1 cup of milk, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese (the size of 6 dice)
In general, a serving of snacks (like pretzels) can be measured as a rounded handful, says Todd.
What about fat? Many nutritionists also point to the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid as a reference, which places a stronger emphasis on exercise, whole grains, and healthy plant oils, such as those from nuts and avocados.
"The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats -- and to avoid trans fats," adds Todd. This means replacing saturated and trans fats -- the hamburgers, French fries, and buttery foods that increase the risk of certain diseases -- with the healthy fats such as those found in avocados, fatty fish, olive and canola oil, soybeans, and nuts.
The USDA suggests total fat intake be limited to between 20 and 35 percent of daily calories, with less than 10 percent of calories coming from saturated fat. Other studies, like those focused on the Mediterranean diet, are finding that higher quantities of "good fats" (the unsaturated kind) may be healthier for our hearts, says Todd.
Pacing, Calories, and Vitamins. As a general rule, aim for three meals with two snacks in between, so that you're eating something every three to four hours. "This will help maintain blood glucose levels," says Todd, "so you won't get famished and make poor choices."
Daily calorie intake should be tied to your current weight and your goal. If you are aiming to lose weight, a general rule of thumb is to multiply your pounds by 10, suggests Newgent. So if you weigh 150 pounds, 1,500 is your cap for the day. If you're trying to maintain your weight, multiply your weight by 10 and add 300, bringing you up to 1,800 calories for the day.
If you're moderately active, however, add in another 300 calories -- but note that moderately active means "heading to the gym for approximately an hour most days of the week," Newgent says, not, say, walking the dog around the block every morning (nice try, though).
And don't forget to take daily multivitamin. "With our modern lifestyles, it's an important assurance of good nutrition," says Newgent, who also recommends calcium with vitamin D supplements for good bone health.
Don't forget your fluids. Be sure to get at least six 8-ounce glasses of water -- or fluids -- per day. Newgent strongly recommends tap water, filtered with a spigot filter or a Brita-type pitcher, rather than bottled water, which contributes to the plastic overload on the environment. She adds sliced fruit to hers, like oranges or mango. "Water doesn't have to be a chore," says Newgent. You can also opt for green tea instead.
Rid thy enemies! Before your two days officially begin, you'll need to do a little prep work by buying health food and removing all temptation. "Go through the house, the car, and the desk and get rid of all your enemies," says Doris Dodge-Thews, master instructor for 24 Hour Fitness in Laguna, California. That includes any junk food, high-calorie desserts, and candy.
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