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Nutrition Boot Camp: Top Tips For Shaping Up Your Diet

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Nutrition Boot Camp

nutrition boot campAs I promised last week, here are all of the top tips we took away from St. Mary’s Nutrition Boot Camp. Like I said before, I really loved the emphasis on balance and healthy living and that in itself is a lesson worth learning. Here are a few more:

You should never deprive yourself and you shouldn’t be hungry.

Super low-calorie diets that leave you hungry put your body into starvation mode and cause you to store fat. It’s all about balance and a balanced body is a happy body. Each meal should leave you feeling satisfied for three to four hours. No more, no less.

Eat and drink at the same time.

If you’re like me, you love food. And if food is good, I am less likely to stop eating it, even if I am full. That being said, try pausing after every third bite to take a drink of water. You’ll fill up faster and maybe buy yourself time to think about stopping eating.

Prep is key.

I already knew this but I’ve taken it to a new level to help overcome one of the challenges I chronically face. I am terrible at eating breakfast, especially in a timely manner, which throws my metabolism into survival mode, causing me to store fat. So…I started making breakfast casseroles on Sunday night so that I can eat a well-balanced meal first thing in the morning. I can change it up slightly each day too by throwing some different condiments, avocado, etc. on top to change the flavor.

Breakfast casserole with egg whites, kale, peppers and turkey sausage.
Breakfast casserole with egg whites, kale, peppers and turkey sausage.

Top 10 Meals.

Write down the top 10 meals you make most frequently and assign them to a night of the week to make preparing for the week a little easier. Plus, since these are recipes you’re intimately familiar with, it’s easy to sub in or modify ingredients if you don’t have everything you need.

Carbs are good for you.

You need them for energy; you need them to help create a well-balanced diet. Plus, the central nervous system requires no less than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day to function optimally. Just don’t eat the whole loaf and try to stick to whole grains. Watch out for added sugar in wheat breads as well. This is my favorite from Alpine Valley.

Alpine Valley Bread - My Absolute Fav!
Alpine Valley Bread – My Absolute Fav!

Some complex carbs that are great for you include brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole fruit, milk and yogurt (watch the added sugar here too!) and starchy vegetables.

All vegetables are good for you.

Don’t cut out the supposedly “high-sugar” vegetables like carrots and beets (this goes for diabetics as well) because unless you are eating pounds and pounds of them, it isn’t going to cause a rise in blood sugar. Try to consume more non-starchy vegetables, which include pretty much everything except corn, peas, beans, potatoes and winter squash.

Throw out the “rules.”

These supposed “rules” lead to unhealthy eating habits and attitudes toward food. Remember, we are responsible to setting an example for our kids and if we have a bad attitude about food, so will they. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. Every time you start to say something about “being bad,” being “fat” or “cheating,” picture those words coming out of your child’s mouth.  The only rule you should have should focus on healthy, balanced nutrition.

Don’t obsess over the numbers.

Whether it’s a goal weight, calorie count or anything else, obsessing over the numbers can lead to unintentional starvation, unrealistic goals and disappointment when you don’t hit those numbers. Focus on how you feel, not how much you weigh. For example, when I’m in my regular gym routine working out approximately five days per week, I should be consuming around 1,800 calories per day. I was blown away when I learned this, especially when I’d been told for years to restrict myself to around1,200 calories. For the first week that I increased my calorie count I was terrified that I was going to gain weight. By week two, I was dropping weight on the reg and was eating more than I’d eaten in years. And I felt great.

Speaking of numbers…remember, 100% is just that.

The body can only absorb so much, and that would be 100%. That goes for everything from vitamins and minerals to protein. For example, a high-protein diet consists of 15 – 20 grams of protein per meal for men and 12 – 15 grams for women.  All the rest is eliminated from the body via urine so you can stop stuffing your face with boiled chicken breasts. The body is physically incapable of absorbing more. Same thing goes for fruit. Even though it’s “natural sugar” any more than 3 – 4 servings per day is just stored as fat and the vitamins are eliminated from the body. After you’ve had your fill, sugar is just sugar. And those supplements you take with 2000% percent of this or that is creating the most expensive pee of all time.

Other tips regarding getting your fill…

You should shoot for no more than approximately 22 teaspoons of sugar per day (17 grams) and 1,500 – 2,400 mg of sodium. And keep in mind that sodium is EVERYWHERE….especially sauces, frozen foods and “diet” foods, so always check the per-serving quantities before you buy. Also, try to avoid spice mixes with salt in them so that you don’t unintentionally consume more salt than you’re aware of.

My latte isn’t going to kill me and neither is the sugar free syrup that’s in it.

Unless you’re drinking the stuff by the bottle, the sugar free syrup is pretty harmless. Be careful with creamers though, as they tend to contain trans fats. Keep an eye out for partially hydrogenated oils.

Juicing is overrated.

It takes away a lot of the nutrition you could get by simply consuming the raw fruits and vegetables and even a whole juicing method takes away from the nutrition you could be getting by eating the food instead of drinking it. This also goes for regular juice, like orange or cranberry. It’s really just empty calories and because it’s pasteurized most of the nutrition is gone by the time it hits your cup. Plus, it’s super high in sugar and like I said before, after you’ve hit that limit, sugar is just sugar…and also cellulite. That’s not to say that a well-balanced smoothie is out of the question though, but again, balance is key. There should always be more veggies involved that fruit and I typically use water as my liquid rather than juice or milk to keep the calories down. Typically I’ll start with kale and spinach (1.5 cups total), add blueberries and pineapple (1 cup total), throw in some organic protein powder with a veggie blend in it, add water and blend (note that my protein powder has less than 20 grams of protein per serving so my body can actually absorb the full amount). Sometimes I’ll throw in a little ginger or turmeric for the anti-inflammatory properties and a little spice.

Other fun facts…

  • One teaspoon of powdered herbs is equal to three teaspoons of the fresh stuff.
  • Dried herbs are good for about three months and dried spices are good for approximately one year.
  • You can swap out cream, whole milk, and half & half in many recipes with low fat evaporated milk to save on fat and calories.
  • Use oats instead of breadcrumbs for breading. Throw some in a food processor with your favorite herbs and spices and you’re set.
  • Use unsweetened applesauce to replace butter when baking. If a recipe calls for one cup of butter, use half applesauce and half butter.
  • Flaxs eeds can be used as a substitute for eggs in recipes that call for numerous eggs. Replace one egg with one tablespoon of flaxseed and three tablespoons of water. Let sit for 10 minutes until creamy and then mix in.
  • Instead of frosting, which can contain tons of trans fat and calories, use marshmallow cream. It saves 90 calories and five grams of fat per two tablespoons.

Saint Mary’s Fitness Center is offering a Summer Edition of Nutrition Boot Camp.  Click here for more details.

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About Betsy McDonald

Betsy McDonald
Betsy McDonald is a soon-to-be wife and stepmother to two teenagers, ages 16 and 14, both of whom are taller than she. She spends her days doing PR, marketing and event planning, and her nights boxing, dancing and attempting a variety of unorthodox work outs that require a little more balance than she actually possesses. In the meantime, she spends plenty of time at Lake Tahoe and is working on perfecting the lacrosse mom persona, golfing, attempting SUP yoga, remodeling a home with her fiancé, planning her wedding, and maintaining the overall health, wealth and happiness of her newly found family. As a child growing up in Nebraska, Betsy’s dad would travel to Lake Tahoe to ski, bringing home pennant flags, T-shirts and a variety of other Reno-Tahoe-related paraphernalia. This prompted her to desire to find out just what “the Biggest Little City in the World” actually meant. By chance, she would end up here thanks to a job transfer to Gardnerville for her mom and the Millennium Scholarship. As a 14-year resident of the Biggest Little City, she’s proud to live and love in Reno. Betsy is an athlete, a writer and a cancer survivor – and hopefully an amazing stepmom. Stay tuned….

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