8 Simple Steps To A Healthier Lifestyle

#1. Add Superfoods

Main thing is to start making small changes.  Adding super foods into your daily eating and slowly changing to just those foods over the course of time.  Avoid packaged and processed foods as much as possible, preferably not eating them at all (I know there will times this happens, just keep it to a minimum)!  Just remember that every time you eat, be it a snack, a quick bite on the run, or a sit down dinner, it is an opportunity to include Superfoods into your diet. The more you choose to eat from the list of Superfoods, the more you are ultimately choosing to support your goals of health, strength and performance, fat loss and a leaner appearance. The list below is by no means the only foods that fall into this category of Superfoods, but the list is a great starting point and reference for you when you are at the grocery store.

Sticking with this requires a bit of focus and awareness. Every time you eat you need to be asking yourself “where are the Superfoods in this meal?” Think about ways that you can include them in your meals and snacks. Including them means that they should be present – ideally a few in each meal, but it does not mean that you can only eat the foods listed below. Do the best you can to squeeze as many Superfoods into each meal as possible.

Protein – lean red meat, salmon, omega 3 eggs, low fat – plain yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, chicken breasts, turkey breasts, protein supplements (whey protein isolates or vegan protein isolates)

Veggies and Fruits – spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, oranges, mixed berries, lettuce, grapefruits, apples, cucumbers, kale, collards, green beans, celery, Brussel sprouts

Other Carbs – mixed beans, quinoa, whole or steel cut oats, sweet potato, brown and wild rice, red potato

Good Fats – mixed nuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds (ground), coconut oil, almond or cashew butter, butter (not margarine) – keep in mind fats should be eaten but in reasonable amounts!

Drinks – green tea, lots of water!!!

#2. Eat 4 – 5 Times A Day

It is important to understand that most Superfoods have a low calorie density which means that you are going to have to eat them 4-5 times per day to meet your calorie needs, especially if you are following a regular exercise routine! So your challenge is to break out of the old habit of eating 3 times per day and move to eating Superfoods 4-5 times per day.

If your goal is weight loss you should be looking at eating Superfood based meals 4-5 times per day. Most people out there eat 3 times per day which experts believe is an inadequate way to feed the body. Eating Superfoods 4 or more times per day is one of the most important strategies for improving health and body composition. Regular eating intervals stimulates the metabolism, balances blood sugar and helps to maintain lean mass while giving the body a reason to burn off extra fat mass. If your goal is to gain weight in the form of lean muscle, then you will need to eat extra super foods per meal in order to obtain this goal!

There are many opposing opinions on eating 5- 6 meals a day.  Some think 3 is enough but in order to get in the calories you need, you end up having to eat foods higher in sugars and bad fat.  Will you get the same results? Yes, if your only goal is to look good.  I would hope most of us want to feel good first and looking good comes with the territory!

#3. Add Complete Lean Protein

Start adding complete lean proteins and making sure that you have these proteins on your plate along with the other superfoods. Our bodies rely on proteins and amino acids to produce important molecules – without enough protein in our diet our bodies can’t function well at all. Making sure you are getting lean protein with each of your 4 to 5 meals per day can also help to control body fat.

Lean protein does not just have to mean meat – there are plant base sources including but not limited to: tofu, black beans, kidney beans and vegan protein supplements (rice and pea protein) For those who are lacto or lacto-ovo , you can also get it from low fat cottage cheese, low fat plain yogurt, omega 3 eggs, and protein supplements.  Meat based complete lean protein includes, but is not limited to: lean red meat, salmon, turkey breasts, chicken breasts.

#4. Portion Sizes

I think that portion size awareness has become increasingly difficult for people in light of the massive quantities of foods now being served to people by the restaurant and hospitality industries.

If you are a woman, the size of your complete lean protein portion should be the size and thickness of your palm. For guys, it should be two palms. Remember the palm does not include your fingers  Do the best you can to approximate your servings of lean protein using your palms as measuring tools. It is a simple approach that in my opinion is far easier on many levels than counting calories. If you are eating a mix of the superfoods each day you know you are eating healthy. For me simple wins every time. Your portion size of veggies should be approximately 2 cupped hands together for both guys and girls and for starchy carbs (whole wheat bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, oats etc.) 1 handful. For your choice of carbs, I think we all know that bread and pastas aren’t the best choices, but if you are choosing them, keep portions under control!

Fresh Fruits Vegetables

#5. Eat Fruits And Veggies

Veggies are packed with important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber that are essential for optimal physiological functioning.

Other benefits to including veggies and fruit to your meals include: Consuming proteins and grains is good for us, but it presents acid loads to our blood stream, so to balance that we should be eating alkaline-rich vegetables and fruit as often as possible. Too much acid and lack of alkalinity would result in loss of bone strength and lean muscles. Fruit and Veggies contain lots of water which helps you to stay hydrated. Very important! Because fruits and vegetables have a high water and fiber content, they’re low in calories relative to their overall volume. Eating a high consumption of low calorie density foods like veggies and fruit, can help to control overall food intake and manage body weight while making you feel more full and satisfied.

Studies suggest that consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components (such as those found in fruits and vegetables) may lower age-related cognitive declines and the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease. A variety of scientific studies have shown that a diet rich in plants (including plenty of fruits and vegetables) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as other diseases. It is believed that by simply increasing the overall amount of fruits and veggies we eat we could prevent 20% or more of all cancer cases and avoid approximately 200,000 cancer-related deaths annually. Most vegetables and some fruits are low on the glycemic index and won’t significantly alter blood glucose and insulin levels. This can help with satiety and body composition.

Diets with a foundation of vegetables tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. If you think that you can short cut your way to the vitamins contained in fruits and veggies by taking a multi-vitamin supplement instead – the unfortunate news is that you won’t be getting the same benefits. With all of the tremendous benefits to including more fruits and veggies to your meals we should all be motivated now to include them at least 3 times each day (and more often if you can). Be prepared and it will be easier to be successful and reap all of the benefits from this challenge!

Better Grains

#6. Better Grains

For fat loss try and switch from eating things like bread, pasta, white rice, sugary foods, and those like this, to ONLY 1-2 hours after your workout. Even though you will be following this rule and ”earning” your carbs with your training, you should still focus more on eating whole-grain, unprocessed carbohydrates such as plain quinoa, plain full flake or steal cut oats, plain amaranth, plain millet, plain barley, plain wild rice, etc. This is just a short list of whole-grain unprocessed carbs and you are welcome to add more to this list in the comments below. Whole grain unprocessed carbohydrates are important to include in our diet because they offer the following benefits:

  1. They’re high in fiber, helping us maintain a healthy GI tract.
  2. They’re slow to digest, helping us control blood sugar.
  3. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, improving our nutrient density.
  4. They’re satisfying, helping us to control our appetite.

However, just because whole grains bring so many benefits doesn’t mean that you should be overeating them. They are dense in carbs and calories and therefore you should control their intake and timing. This is not a low-carb diet, but rather a way to control your carbohydrate intake for your benefit. If you have been following all of our previous diet challenges, then you should already be getting a sufficient amount of carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits. This strategy works like magic for everyone with stubborn and hard to get rid of body fat.

Drink Plenty Of Water

#7. Drink Lots Of Water!

Water makes up just about 60% of our total bodyweight. All of those great looking lean muscles that make us so strong actually contain 75% water. That blood surging through your body while you do your workouts contains close to 83% water. Getting enough water in your system is vital for your health and the overall performance of your body.

Don’t wait until you are thirsty. If you are waiting for this signal from your body, chances are that you are already heading towards dehydration. Typically thirst is not detected until 1-2% of your bodyweight has been lost. By this point you will have reduced aerobic endurance, and you are heading into reduced muscular endurance. At 4% you are facing reduced muscle strength, reduced motor skills and heat cramps. Not pretty. It’s important to get an idea how much water we need so that we can aim to drink enough to keep us healthy and hydrated. Here is a really simple method:

For every kilogram of bodyweight drink 30-40 mL of water. A more general approach is to drink about 3 L of water a day. Absolutely don’t try and drink your daily water intake all at once – this can be very dangerous. You want to spread it out across your whole day. Obviously if you are larger or exercise more you may need more water. If you want to know specifically how much you should be drinking each day we suggest you take the time to figure out your water intake needs based on your bodyweight.

A few points on water and exercise: It’s actually recommended that athletes should drink about half a litre of water 30 minutes before they train as a “pre-hydration” strategy. During exercise it’s recommended that they drink 250 mL every 15 minutes. After you finish exercising fluid intake is important to help with recovery.

#8. Identify Your Weakness:

This can be a real challenge, identifying a weakness in your diet – something that you persist on eating that does not support your training or your body composition goals. Maybe something that is extremely processed that is just plain bad for you. This will require each of us to take a good hard look at what we are eating, because we obviously each have our own soft spots when it comes to treats and junk foods. Please understand that this is not about eliminating everything bad completely.  Treating ourselves periodically is different than eating something bad every day.

You maybe following the other 7 tips to a tee, but you still drink cans of diet soda each day. Diet Soda could be what you look at eliminating and only having as a treat. Or maybe your thing is Peanut Butter Cookies – whatever it is, try and eliminate it from your daily eating habits. The real kicker and challenge is that when you feel the craving for junk food, make a healthier choice. Instead of that can of Diet Coke you reach for a Perrier, or instead of the cookie you smack your lips down on a crunchy apple.

Bottom line is that making small changes, like once a week or every two weeks, will eventually get you on track to a healthier lifestyle.  Remember, your nutrition makes up a large percentage of your results. When you start seeing the results,  you will be so happy you did it!!!