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Spring Clean Your Diet

Spring is Coming…I think!

There are technically 16 days until Spring is officially here on our calendars. However, March is a fickle month and depending on where you are, it may not look like spring will ever arrive. That said, the idea of warmer weather, open windows and fresh air brings with it the urge to do some spring cleaning for many people. Add to it the recent popularity of Marie Kondo and her approach to decluttering and reorganizing your life by only keeping what brings you joy, and everyone is on the cleaning up caravan. For me, spring cleaning also means cleaning up your diet. Coming out of a comfort-food coma in the winter months, it is the PERFECT time for a Spring checkup of your diet. Plus, March is National Nutrition Month so there are plenty of resources out there on healthy eating!

What we eat (and how much of it) is the biggest hurdle in losing weight and feeling healthy. Cleaning up our plate, pantry and fridge is the first step in leveling out the yo-yo effect of dieting and providing sustained results.

Getting Started with Clean Eating

Clean eating sounds good, right? But what is it and how does someone get started? To put it simply – clean eating is having an apple vs. apple sauce, eating steamed broccoli vs. frozen broccoli with cheese sauce added. Whole grains vs. white/refined grains. Organic, grass fed beef vs. pre-packaged, seasoned ground beef for tacos. It’s sometimes a little bit more work over convenience. Most importantly, it’s about reading labels, being informed and making better choices. Clean eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It just takes planning.

Some critics will say that “clean eating” implies that some foods are dirty and that we shouldn’t be categorizing food that way. My response is…well, there are dirty foods – meaning foods that don’t provide a lot of nutritional value. And, that’s ok. They can still be a part of a balanced diet, but they can’t take center stage.  I’m suggesting that 80-90% of your diet be clean and leave a little wiggle room for occasional indulgences. Where the challenge lies, is in helping people understand that some of what they think is clean or healthy isn’t.

In looking at months and months of food diaries for my clients, I can confidently say the biggest problem when it comes to eating isn’t the quantity of calories but rather the quality of those calories. A calorie isn’t just a calorie despite what you’ve been told in the past. Some calories are better than others and will help you lose weight, have more energy and build lean muscle. And some calories will spike your blood sugar, make you sluggish and inhibit your fitness goals.

The human body is a sophisticated machine and requires fuel that is high quality.

Spring Cleaning Your Diet – 4 Tips for Success

So, this week, I’m challenging you to take a good look at what you’re eating and clean it up where needed. Try these few tips to clean up your plate, pantry and fridge:

  • Track your Food. You cannot improve upon what you are unaware of. Everyone has access to MyFitnessPal. Track everything for three days and look for patterns of non-clean eating like getting take out, eating pre-packaged convenience foods, etc. Identify where you can swap for healthier choices.  
  • Read Labels. My favorite app for food shopping is Fooducate. Scan a barcode; get a grade for that food. And, an explanation of that grade, definition of ingredients and healthy alternatives. If you cannot pronounce or you don’t recognize the first 2-3 ingredients (which are listed in order of their quantity) then you might want to toss it out.  Look for sneaky sugars (dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup). Note: not all preservatives are bad – some are needed to keep your food safe. Things like steric acid, sorbic acid and ascorbic acid are preservatives that can occur naturally in some foods and help prevent mold, and spoilage. Scan the label and Fooducate will tell you why those ingredients are in your food.
  • Don’t Believe (all) The Hype. Natural, organic and Heart Healthy are some of the most common “healthy marketing” terms used. Understand what these designations truly mean and the requirements for obtaining those labels. Research what it takes to get that claim put on a package and who’s behind it. Sometimes it is a food company donating to a non-profit in exchange for the label.
  • Stop Obsessing Over Organic. You don’t have to buy EVERYTHING organic. Some things are worth the investment while others are not. Check out “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” food lists for the top foods to buy organic. For me, it’s more important to buy local and fresh when possible (and they are usually organic as well). The closer the food is to you, the fresher it is and less processed it’s likely to be.

My last piece of advice is to make small changes. A complete overhaul can be overwhelming. All packaged food isn’t the enemy. We have lives to lead and families to raise – sometimes ordering take out is what we need to get it all done! Remember the 80/20 rule and indulge occasionally. Everything can be incorporated into your diet in the right way to allow you to enjoy eating while doing what’s best for your body. Besides – life is too short to give up Oreos.

Working with a health coach to provide recommendations and keep you accountable gives you the support you need to make positive changes. Message me to chat, and if you haven’t picked up my free Meal Planning & Prep Guide, get it here! It will get you started on the clean eating path and help you plan your meals each week.

Happy Nutrition Month and let’s get to cleaning up our plates, pantries and fridges!

food, nutrition, Personal wellness, Uncategorized

Last Minute Holiday Health Tips

The Holidays are Here…

Cue the Sleigh Bells and Stress Eating!

Three days until Christmas; 10 to the New Year! If you’re not feeling the pressure and stress, you might be superhuman. Even the most prepared and organized person will be experiencing some level of stress and overwhelm as they try to get it all done.

As you make those last-minute shopping trips, bake those final batches of cookies and wrap the gifts, I want to remind you not to forget about YOU.  A stressed, distracted, worrisome YOU is going to miss out on the fun and joy of the holidays. So, read on for my best tips for beating stress, finding time for fitness and focusing on good nutrition over the next week.

Stress and Overwhelm!

Let’s start here because if you get stress and overwhelm under control, you can focus on eating well and finding time for exercise.

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

A recent study found that 88 percent of people feel stressed when celebrating the holidays and the average couple will have seven arguments throughout the season. Um…only 88 percent? Only seven arguments? Maybe it’s just me but I could see those numbers climbing a bit higher as the holidays get closer.

While I’m not a mental health expert or life coach, I am trained in the science of behavior modification and how to break unhealthy habits. And, stress can be the result of negative, unhealthy habits like procrastination, over commitment and lack of delegation.

Here are my tips for rewiring  habits to be more productive and healthy and avoid the mental and physical exhaustion:

  1. Get it all out of your head and onto paper. Real paper. Not your phone notepad. The very act of writing helps you focus on what needs to be done. Write down EVERY LAST THING that you need to do from now until New Year’s Day. Every task, meeting, event, etc.
  2. Highlight the THREE things that only you can do and must be done by you. That’s your to-do list.
  3. Review the rest of the list and either ELIMINATE OR DELEGATE. Stop being superwoman. Once you’ve eliminated or delegated, cross off the items and focus on your top three.

Fitting in Fitness

If you don’t have a plan for exercise for the next few days, listen up! I’m going to make this super easy.

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  1. Take out your calendar…on your phone, in your planner, etc. Open it up and see where you have 30 minutes each day over the next 4 days. You have it – you may just have to look hard for it. This may mean getting up 30 minutes earlier or bowing out of something you didn’t really want to attend (remember my eliminate tip above?).
  2. Now that you’ve found that space, use time blocking to make it happen. Time blocking is simply scheduling your to-do list on your calendar. You block off the time you’ll be working on a specific task ahead of time, and then during that time, that’s all you focus on. A digital calendar works best because you will get reminders when it’s time to start and when you have a new task coming up.
  3. Finally think through what will stop you from exercising and create a plan. Undoubtedly, something will come up over the next few days. What are the barriers you might face? Think them through and create a plan. Enlist your significant other or kids to help if it’s something they can do.
  4. Once you’ve thought through all the pitfalls, you should have a pretty ironclad plan. Now, tell someone. A spouse, friend, colleague. Accountability is key to accomplishing any goal.

Food for Thought

This is the big one! Food contributes to 80% of our overall health. You really are what you eat.

So, first things first. You need to think through your food events. Where are you going to be? What might the menu consist of? You know these things…your family and friends are pretty predictable. If grandma has always made her famous jello pretzel dessert (it’s a thing, Google it!) then you can assume you’ll be faced with jello pretzel dessert. Here’s how to navigate the day:

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  1. Determine what you can control by bringing food or offering to help in some other way. Bring a healthy side or appetizer. Offer a healthy recipe if your mom is stumped on how to make sweet potatoes for the 900th time.
  2. Go prepared for the worst. Assume it will be a delicious storm of sugary carbs and heavy sauces. If it’s not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If it is, you will be prepared.
  3. Eat ahead of time. Do not SAVE YOUR CALORIES for one big meal. You will be starving and self-control will be tough. Eat a good protein packed breakfast or lunch with healthy fats. Both protein and fat keep you fuller longer than carbs.
  4. Drink a ton of water before, during, after…water keeps your digestive tract moving and keeps you full.
  5. Tips for eating healthy-ish
    • Steer clear of the crackers and chips on the appetizer table. Go for veggies and dip/guac, shrimp, cheese and smoked meats, deviled eggs, nuts.
    • For dinner, start with half your plate filled with veggies and fruit (but not the sugary and processed kind). Think: Salads, veggie trays, roasted veggies, fresh fruit salad, etc.
    • Make the rest of it protein and healthy fats. Ham, turkey, prime rib, seafood. Make sure it’s not covered in breading and fried.
    • Save your carbs for the good stuff…wine, desserts. Not bland dinner rolls and crackers!
  6. When it comes to cocktails, beer and wine…go slow. For every alcoholic drink, have a glass of water in between. Clear liquors with club soda are the lowest in calories and carbs. Light beer is best. Wine is fine but watch the pour (4-6 oz. is a standard pour) but most glasses are much larger.

You’ve Got This!

So there you have it. My tips and strategies for a healthy and stress free holiday. And, I know you can do this!

One last tip: if you find yourself caught up in stress or other drama, just step away, refocus, breathe and remember what’s important. Family. Friends. Laughter. Being together. If you eat too much, forget to buy Aunt Susie a gift or use the treadmill for just hanging up clothing this next week, it’s ok. The world will keep on spinning and you will be fine.

Finally…it wouldn’t be the holidays without a few gifts from me!

First…my Healthy Holiday Cocktail Guide is online and ready for you to download. Grab it here!

Next, if you need that extra wellness support in the new year, jump into my free Facebook group  for professional women.

Finally – If you are ready to really kick all the unhealthy habits to the curb in 2019, I invite you to check out my Little Black Dress Project that kicks off January 7! It is a 6-week online program that includes: nutrition, fitness, and confidence building work! Read more on my Little Black Dress page. And, save $100 with coupon code LBD100 at check out.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season and looking forward to all good stuff the new year has in store for my friends, family and followers!

xoxo

Niki