How to Make Resolutions a Reality
By Julie Upton, S, RD, CSSD
If you’ve decided to commit to losing weight and improving your health this year, to get you on the right track, I compiled the top five ways to help you slim down and tone up.
These tips will instantly upgrade your diet and help your diet resolutions become a reality. They’re 100% gimmick- and fad-free and designed to help you transform your bad habits into healthier ones.
Lick Added Sugars Once and for All
I’m convinced that the worst diet wreckers in the typical US diet are sweeteners used in all kinds of foods and beverages. Added sugars provide no nutritional value (other than energy) and cause a rapid risk in blood sugar levels and trigger hunger and cravings for more food shortly after eating. They can create a vicious cycle that can derail even a dietitian’s diet. (I know first-hand!) Use my 5-step approach to lick sugar (see box) once and for all to get you off the sweet stuff–starting now!
Incorporate HIIT into Your Exercise Routine
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and is the best way to torch calories in a short amount of time. It also helps to boost your metabolism so you burn additional calories all day, something walking or other low-intensity exercise doesn’t provide. Check this out for several HIIT workouts you can do anywhere.
Sleep More to Lose More
If it means you need to learn to say “no” to extra projects and learn how to relax a bit more, making a goal of trying to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night is one of the healthiest and easiest ways to peel off pounds. Reams of research now show how losing zzzs make you gain inches.
Think Quality and Quantity
Everyone knows that eating well means lots of fruits and veggies; lean proteins and whole grains and limiting low-quality choices like sweets, desserts, chips and fried foods. But eating healthy foods won’t always equal pounds lost if your portion sizes are ginormous. Use the information below to get a handle on what’s a perfect portion.
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To lick your cravings for sweets once and for all, you need to do all the steps below on consecutive days. By the end of the week, you’ll be meeting the health and nutrition guidelines set forth to minimize added sugars in the diet.
- Nix all sources of liquid sugars in your diet. Since sodas and other sweetened beverages provide about half of all the added sugar in the typical American diet, they’re the first to jettison. They don’t contribute to fullness so you won’t miss them.
- Avoid using sugar substitutes. This was really hard for me for the first two days, but then I didn’t miss it whatsoever. Because sugar substitutes are more intensely sweet than cane sugar, once you get accustomed to their level of sweetness, it takes more natural sweeteners to be sweet-satisfied. They may also affect the natural hunger hormones as well, making it harder to control your appetite.
- Become a Sugar Sleuth. For one week, read the Nutrition Facts and ingredient list for everything you eat and drink. If “sugars” on the label are more than 8-10 grams, go directly to the ingredient list and skip it if you see a form of added sugars in the ingredient list. If there is no sugar in the ingredient list, it means that the food or beverage contains natural sugars; we don’t we don’t worry about them because they’re not “metabolically equivalent” to added sugars.
(Common cues that equal added sugar in ingredient lists include sucrose, dextrose, sorbitol, mannitol, honey, agave, dextrin, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup and any other syrup. For the most part, if there is an “-ose,” or “-ols” it means it’s a sugar. Although sucralose is a sugar substitute.)
- Start Each Day Sugar-Free. Starting your day off right is one of the best ways to stay on track with any diet. For me, a sugar-free breakfast would be eggs & veggies or egg white omelets. Research shows that eating eggs for breakfast, compared to toast or bagels, eat fewer calories over a 24-hour period, most likely because eating eggs doesn’t cause the same blood sugar and insulin response as a carbohydrate-rich breakfast. I also opt for plain oatmeal with Greek yogurt or peanut butter; fresh fruit; dried fruit and nuts; baked potatoes with low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat cottage cheese with cherry tomatoes. I even find leftovers from dinners are a great way to keep any cravings for sweets tempered during the day.
- Learn to Love Natural Sugars. Don’t think about what you can’t have; focus on what you can eat and drink. For sweets, try dried fruit, (dates are sugar like candy to me now), fresh fruit, roasted veggies, and caramelized onions. There are many foods that provide natural sweetness—they’ve just been pushed aside by the more intensely sweet crystal whites.
After a Sugar-Free Week
After seven days sugar-free, your desire for sweets should be vastly reduced. If you want to reintroduce small amounts of added sweeteners, start by incorporating them into meals, as sugars eaten with other foods are less harmful than when they’re eaten alone. Try to keep your sugar intake to the American Heart Association’s limits for added sugars: 100 calories (6 tsp) for women and 150 calories (9 tsp) for men.
Some general ways to avoid portion distortion:
- A teaspoon of butter or margarine is roughly the same size as the tip of your thumb (to the first joint)
- Three ounces of meat is equal to a deck of cards
- One cup of pasta is about the size of a tennis ball
- A bagel should be the size of a hockey puck
- 1 1/2 ounces of cheese is the size of three dominoes
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter is roughly equivalent to Ping-Pong or golf ball
- A half cup of vegetables is the size of a light bulb
- 1 bowl of dry cereal or 1 piece of fruit should equal the size of a baseball
- 1 ounce of lunchmeat should equal the size of a compact disk
- A bagel serving should equal the size of a hockey puck
- One baked potato should equal the size of a computer mouse
She is co-author of The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health’s 101 Fat Habits and Slim Solutions (Penguin 2013) and Energy to Burn: The Ultimate Food and Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active LIfe (Wiley 2009). Upton co-founded Appetite for Health (www.AppforHealth.com), where she blogs daily about nutrition, fitness and health.
She is a frequent guest on national and local television and radio stations. She has been interviewed on the NBC Today Show, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight. She co-produces Appetite for Health, a weekly nutrition news segment that airs nationally and writes for the companion website, AppforHealth.com.
Ms. Upton attended the University of Michigan and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from Michigan State University. She completed her dietetic internship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. She holds a Master of Science Degree in Nutrition Communications from Boston University.