It can be hard to know what you should do and what you shouldn’t – there are lots of advice in all kinds of directions contradicting each other. One guru says this, another says that and third says it. So who’s right? It comes as no surprise most of us are clueless when it comes to what we should be eating.
Luckily for you, I will be clearing the confusion for you today. I could go into great details and make things complex – but I will keep things simple and explain them in an easy to understand manner so you will get a clear idea what to eat and easy to memorize rules which will eliminate out most of the harmful foods out there. You will have a pretty a good understanding of how to start eating healthy to lose weight by the time you reach the end of this article.
First I will tell which foods are toxic for your health and cause your weight to skyrocket through the roof. Next, I will tell you how to recognize healthy foods and give fun, easy to remember rules which I swear by. I will then proceed to giving you grocery shopping tips and end with what you’ve probably always wanted to know: my secret to feeling full despite losing weight. But do now skip the rest of the article: everything I explain within this article are needed to maintain a sustainable diet plan.
Avoid High-Calorie Foods Like The Plague
The worst foods you can eat are high in calories. Lots of sweets, cakes, cookies, candies, fried and sugary foods belong in this category. They have usually over 400 calories per 100 grams. Only a small amount of them can increase your daily calories significantly and make you fat. The worst part of them is they won’t even make you full – you’ll be hungry soon craving for more. This is a disaster waiting to happen causing us more and more obese every year. Over two-thirds of adult US citizens were either overweight or obese in 2011 – and the numbers are rising.
So what is it exactly that makes us crave more and more food the more we eat. Eating more should make us feel fuller, not hungrier, right?
Yes and no. Eating the right foods makes us feel full. Eating the wrong foods makes us feel hungrier. Let’s take a look at what is causing us feel hungrier the more we eat.
What do almost all of the unhealthy foods that we eat and cause us make hungry have in common? High in calories? You’re right. But what else? Guessed yet? If not, try to think a bit harder.
The answer is: sugar.
Sugar is one hell of a bitch (if you’ll excuse my language). Sugar has been called both as a drug and a poison – and for a good reason. It is causing more and more damage to our society and well-being all the time. Our weights are skyrocketing, diabetes and a range of other diseases becoming more and more common every day.
By now you’re probably dying to know what sugar is doing to your body.Let me explain:
Let me explain:
Your body delivers glucose (a form of sugar your body uses for energy) in your blood as a source of energy. When you eat lots of sugar it causes a huge spike in the amount of glucose in your blood. Your body responds to this by releasing lots of insulin in your blood to bring the glucose levels down.
At first your sugar levels will be sky high but once the insulin kicks in your sugar levels will plummet way lower than they were before eating. This causes your body to send a hunger signal to your brain to eat more. And if you battle this by eating more sugary treats, you’re in for a snowball effect causing yourself to eat more and more while feeling hungrier and hungrier all the time. Your weight is sure to increase.
Stop eating that crap
So what should you do? Stop eating that crap! It’s that simple.
But before you start making radical changes in your diet, read on a bit more. I’ll explain how to make sustainable changes in your diet further down in this article.
Cut out sugar. What? Won’t you get those sweet little sugary cravings all the time?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to eliminate all those little sweets from your diet immediately. Decrease your intake slowly and they will curb down over time.
I have myself changed my diet for the better over several years and I can assure you the change didn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time to get used to it. But let’s get back on track.
So now you know you have to avoid sugar. Is that all? No, not quite.
In addition to sugar, you should also avoid other unhealthy foods. Here’s my simple checklist for you:
- high in calories
- high in sugar
- high in fat
- has trans fats
If the food meets any one of those above criteria, DO NOT EAT it.
This is sure to eliminate a lot of foods: no fast foods, no junk foods, no sweets, no fried foods etc.
Do not drink your calories
Another often overlooked factor is calories contained in drinks. Have you ever wondered how much those sodas, beers, juices and other drinks have calories?
When you eat food, you will first have to chew it into small bites and then burn it in your stomach. This takes energy. Due to this eating food actually gives a smaller surplus of calories than what they contain.
But when you drink your calories neither chewing or burning it in your stomach is required. It goes very easily through your mouth and digestion system without having to use a lot of energy. Due to this they are also digested faster meaning your body can extract the calories out of them into use faster.
In addition to the aforementioned facts, many drinks often contain lots of calories. Soda drinks (I’m looking at you Coca-Cola) contain lots of sugar in them. If you don’t believe me, you can check the calorie table on the etiquette of the bottle the next time you buy Coke or your favorite soda drink.
But soda drinks are not the only ones. You should also avoid alcohol, juices and any other drinks which contain lots of calories.
Do not drink your calories. Eat them.
Do not buy into the ‘diet’ label
Okay, so now you know you shouldn’t eat sausages, drink coke etc. But what diet soda you ask? Isn’t it better so it’s are fine to drink, right? No. The diet versions are just as bad if not even worse for your health. While they do contain less sugar, fats and calories, they are still unhealthy choices to opt for.
What you should eat
Some of you might be wondering what is it that you CAN actually eat, especially if you were one of those folks who eats only the crap I just ruled out.
Let’s take a look at what you should be eating.
It should come as a no surprise that healthy foods are usually the opposite of unhealthy foods. They are:
- low in calories
- low in fat
- little to no sugar
- high in nutrients
- high in dietary fiber
The more you can check out of that checklist, the healthier the food is.
Do you know what I love about these foods the most?
I can eat them as much as I want without getting fat. Yes, I can eat, feel full and not gain weight. Heck, I can even lose weight and still feel full if I want to. More on that in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at what foods you should be eating and why these factors are so important.
Your body meets lots of different micronutrients. The most famous of them are vitamins but there are also plenty of others needed by your body. They are essential for your well-being and they are needed to both build your body and perform vital bodily functions. These micronutrients are often found in low-calorie foods.
The best foods are high in nutrients, low in calories and contain dietary fiber.
So what’s dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is, in essence, a carbohydrate just like sugar. The difference is that sugars are very simple carbohydrates, easy and fast to digest and use by your body.
Dietary fibers, on the other hand, are very complex carbohydrates and it takes lots of energy to break them down. They are so difficult to break down that your body can’t even use the energy in it. Instead it will go through your entire digestion system undigested making you feel fuller without adding extra calories.
There are animals though which can digest dietary fibers. You might already know ruminantia animals, like cows, can digest dietary fibers but let’s not get into that.
Eat your veggies
Can you guess which foods often meet these criteria? Yes, vegetables and plant-based foods.
Eat as many vegetables and plant-based foods as you can. But don’t fill your entire shopping carts full with potatoes and tomatoes just yet.
While eating lots of veggies is good, you should not fill your stomach on potatoes and tomatoes alone. Eat a large diversity of different foods to ensure you get all the nutrients you need in adequate amounts.
Another important rule to remember is to eat vegetables in all colors of the rainbow. Vegetables come in large range or colors.Do you know what those colors often indicate? The nutrients they contain!
Do you know what those colors often indicate? The nutrients they contain!
Veggies with the same color, for example green, often consist of similar nutrients while vegetables with different colors have different nutrients.
Does it grow in nature rule
There are lots of different foods out there. And let’s be honest: sometimes it can just be hard and confusing to know which foods are healthy and which aren’t.
The general rule of thumb is the more refined the food is, the more you should avoid it. Ideally you would eat only unprocessed foods in their natural state.
Unhealthy processed foods like donuts and pizzas often come in boxes. Healthy and natural, unprocessed foods, on the other hand, don’t come in boxes. They are not man made but instead they grow in nature.
To see what I’m talking about, walk to the vegetable aisle in your supermarket. They are just laying there in containers, you’re free to pick as much you want and weigh them. They aren’t boxed like the sweets on your cookie section.
This might be a bit too confusing for some of you guys. But luckily for you I have another rule for you. This rule is so simple and fun even your kids could remember it!
I call it the does it grow in nature rule.
To clarify, I’ll give you some examples:
- Do donuts grow on a tree?
- Do apple pies grow on a farm?
- Do tuna pizzas swim in a sea?
- Do cow’s udders produce chocolate?
If the answer was no, DO NOT EAT IT!
Fun, right? You could make it a game and play it with your children to teach them which foods are healthy and which aren’t.
If you’re really looking to step up your game and go the extra mile, go organic.
No, I’m not just trying to sell you on a pointless eco-hippie wagon to spend some more of your hard-earned cash.
You see, most farms nowadays use a ton of toxic chemicals to keep their farms pesticide free. If these chemicals are toxic enough to kill pesticides, guess whose else’s health they do a ton of harm? Yes, that’s right, yours!
Not so fun to pay to poison yourself, right?
Another concern are animals grown in a tightly constrained space fed with food they don’t naturally eat. You might wonder why you should be concerned about their health instead of yours. But the truth is, their health indirectly affects yours too. At least as long as you are the one eating them.
Constrained animals who are being fed an unnatural diet without the ability to move, play and run like their happy ancestors once did most likely are not in an optimal health. I mean, how could they, given the crappy life they are forced to live in the name of growing as much produce as possible in the shortest amount of time?
Add to this hormones injected to the animals and genetic modifications (god knows what effects that might have) and the picture gets even darker.
So long story short: ideally you would want to eat organic, freely grown food. You could opt for an organic option of the foods in your local grocery store or even better yet: go to buy your food at a farmers market.
Farmers markets often have the freshest foods since they haven’t had to be transported to grocery stores and wait for weeks if not even months until they are bought. It cuts the middlemen out of the chain, decreases the speed they get to the consumer’s (your) hands and are eaten.
But on the downside farmers market are often harder to find and far away.
While this is what you would ideally do, I do understand we do not live in an ideal word. You might not have the money to spend a lot of money on your groceries and I understand it. I do not want you to break your budget and spend more money than you can afford to.
Take your time to compare prices and think what you can afford / are willing to pay and act according to it. Do not spend more money on your food than you can afford.
Do you want to buy natural, healthy foods but don’t have the time to drive long distances to farmers markets? Many farmers have realized the opportunity to grow natural, organic foods and ship directly to customers via their internet websites. This not only gives you healthier foods but also cuts out the middle man (grocery stores) meaning the food no longer rots in grocery store shelves waiting to be picked up. It is also a great way to support farmers and can lead to smaller prices.
Let’s look at what your food plate should consist of.
According to the latest recommendations a quarter of your plate should be filled with grains and another quarter with protein. The rest half of your plate should consist of vegetables (including fruits).
Go for wholegrains
Do not buy refined grains which have fewer nutrients and higher calories. Instead opt for wholegrains which are high in nutrients.
White rice and white bread are a couple of examples of these refined grains you should avoid.
Wholegrains are usually labeled as wholegrains on the package so they are easy to recognize.
Proteins – there is more than meats the eye (pun intended)
Most of you probably thought of filling your plate with meat when I mentioned protein earlier.
While this is right, there is more to it. But let’s take a look at different kinds of meats first.
Meats are divided into two different categories: white meats and red meats. Most of the animals living above sea level have red meat. Examples of these are pigs, cows, deer, bears etc.
White meat is found in fishes and poultry. Examples are birds, duck, chicken, salmon, trout etc.
You have most likely already heard you should eat more fish, limit your red meat consumption and go for white meat in general.
This is due to many studies showing that people who consume higher amounts of red meats are more likely to have diabetes, heart problems, cancer etc. These studies did not, however, confirm a cause and effect correlation and many who eat high amounts of red meats have unhealthy life habits in general: they are more likely to smoke, drink plenty of alcohol, lead an inactive lifestyle, don’t eat much vegetables etc.
Add to this the fact much of the meats you are likely to see in grocery markets have been grown in locked cages, held in cages and fed with plenty of antibiotics. As a result the quality of meat has changed rapidly since the modern industrialization of farming. Back in the old days our ancestors (or even grandpas) used to eat beef which roamed around freely as much as they liked. They ate a natural grass based diet free of antibiotics or genetic modifications.
You have likely heard there are certain races, like the Eskimos, whom eat a diet rich in meats yet are healthy without widely suffering from epidemic diseases like diabetes and heart problems we are seeing in the modern Western countries. In fact, Eskimos only started suffering more and more of the health issues encountered in Western countries after getting introduced to the kind of diet we are eating.
So far there are no studies indicating a clear cause and effect correlation between unprocessed, organic and grass-fed red meats and increased risk of diseases.
Proteins aren’t found only in animals but in plant-based foods too. The vegetables most famous for their proteins are called legumes. Legumes include foods such as peas, beans, lentils, peanuts etc.
Legumes aren’t as widely used as meat in foods and for a simple reason. Meat tastes good. Plain delicious. Cook it whatever way you like, it’s so tasty you can’t help but drool over it. Legumes? Not so much.
Legumes are a challenge to cook to say the least. At least if you want them to be tasty. You might already be familiar with their awful taste (and possibly even worse smell). But they do not have to be so bad though. They can make great ingredients if cooked in the hands of a cook who knows what he’s doing. But most of us don’t – which is why most of us aren’t eating them.
While I do recommend eating them, I also recommend searching for good cooking recipes to prepare delicious foods out of them before eating them to avoid unpleasant taste experiences.
I covered veggies earlier so I’m not going to go into too many details in them.
Fruits naturally contain sugar called fructose. Like covered earlier, sugar is bad for you. But this does not mean you should avoid fruits altogether. Fruits contain a great deal of good nutrients and they taste great too.
My advice on fruits is to eat them in moderation and limit your sugar intake outside fruits. Ideally you would get most of your sugar from fruits.
Eating healthy most of the time
I myself like eating healthy and according to all the strict rules I have set for myself. I do realize that it is by no means easy or fun and you might not be able to follow them 100 % of the time.
I mean, what to do if you visit your family and all they have is pizzas and coke? Starve until you get back to home? Or if you just want to enjoy a good delicious snack every now and then, plain simple.
In an ideal world you would play by the rules every single day and hour. But unfortunately the world we live in is by far not perfect, not even close.
So do not worry, it is completely okay if you can’t eat healthy all of the time or just want to enjoy your favorite food every once in a while. What good is life anyway if you can’t enjoy it?
So what do I recommend?
Eat healthy most of the time. You do not have to stick to every single rule all of the time. If you want to have a cheat meal or eat your favorite sweet, it’s okay to have a cheat meal once in a week. You can set a day, say Saturday, and eat your favorite snack every Saturday. It could be pizza, donut, coke, ice cream, you name it.
The key here is to eat everything in moderation. You do not have to eliminate all of the unhealthy choices entirely out of your life if it drives you crazy – just limit them to a small amount where they don’t affect your health a great deal. If you’re stuck to your brother-in-law for a weekend, eating one slice of pizza won’t ruin your entire health.
Shopping for food – My 4 rules
This might sound like a no-brainer but there are a few things you might want to take into consideration.
#1 Don’t shop when hungry
Don’t do your grocery stores when you are hungry. You are likely to go for unhealthy choices when you are hungry. Shopping well before you start feeling hungry makes it easier to go for the healthier choices.
#2 Always check labels
Always check labels when doing groceries. Compare the labels of different foods to make the best decision.
You will want to check both the ingredient list and calorie table. We covered already earlier what to look for calorie-wise:
- low calories
- low sugar
- low fat
- no trans fats
- high in dietary fiber (not applicable to all foods)
When you check the labels, you might notice one recurring theme: a lot of the foods contain lots of added sugar!
What’s worse, they are usually hidden by labeling them under several different names in the ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in order from the highest amount to the least amount. But often times sugar is included in the list more than once under different names making it harder to not to both notice and tell how high it actually is on the list.
Potential names to look out for:
- anything ending with “ose”
Do note that those words might be only a part of the name. The names of sugar are not only limited to those and it might be labeled under different names as well.
#3 One ingredient foods
Do you know what healthy, natural and unprocessed foods have in common? They have only one ingredient!
The longer the ingredient list is, the more refined the food is.
If you don’t believe me, just try to think what ingredients are the following foods made out of:
- red beets
#4 Look for new foods you haven’t tried yet
There are more foods in the world than is known to human. While the options in grocery stores are limited, they still have more foods than you could even imagine, many of which you most likely haven’t even heard of. I know I hadn’t when I started looking for them on purpose.
I personally like looking especially for foods I haven’t tried yet when I shop for groceries. I have found lots of foods I have never even seen or heard of and I’m sure there are still many more. There are a lot of things that are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them – and even if you are.
The rarer foods might have so limited stock you wouldn’t notice them even if you specifically looked for them. I have myself gone around the entire grocery store a few times looking for a specific item and not finding it until I asked where it was. It ended up being exactly where I thought it would – there just were so few of them I didn’t notice them.
Diet is a lifestyle, not a short-term fix
There are lots of short-term diets and fixes that implement extreme changes into your diet with strict restrictions. They make your life a pain in the ass and drive you crazy. The diet is so strict you go nuts on it, give up after a while and return back to your old habits. Even if you did see results, you will gain back that fat you lost very soon due to your return to your old eating habits.
But let me tell you something. Diet is not a short-term fix to your health (or your excessive fat). Diet is a long-term eating habit.
The reason those diets make so radical changes is because people want results. They want it fast. They want it now. And they don’t like seeing effort or sticking to it.
So what do marketers do? They promise incredible results quickly. And to do this, quick changes are needed. Those quick and extreme changes are made for one another reason too: they are sure to stir a conversation and spread it fast.
I’m sure you can name a diet fad or two on the top of your head. They came. Everybody talked about them. It was a huge thing and everyone was doing it. After a while it passed and then came another.
Do you want this? To hop from one difficult, unsustainable diet to another, only to not to get the body or health you desire?
So instead make small and slow changes to your diet. Change max one or two things in your diet. Do it for 30 days and see how it goes. After the 30 days has passed, it has already become a habit and comes easy. You’re now ready to make another change. And let me tell you something: this is easy.
It might look like you’re getting nowhere since you are making babysteps. But that’s exactly why it works. You’re taking so small steps and taking it so slowly you have time to get used to it and it won’t overwhelm you or make it tough. And since it’s easy, you’re more likely to keep doing it for good. And long-term habits are what really make the difference. You don’t just live unhealthy for decades, get diabetes and then hope to reverse it by changing your diet, do you? I hope not.
I can promise you you won’t be missing all that crap after you have gotten used to eating better. I know I don’t. I used to crave for candies and whatnot but after years of not eating them it wouldn’t even cross my mind.
The funny thing is I couldn’t drink soda drinks like Coke or Fanta even if I wanted to. The last time I had no other choice to drink I struggled to get it down my throat. I’m not used to the carbonic acid in soda drinks so they make drinking very uncomfortable for me.
How to lose fat AND not feel hungry
You’re probably dying to hear how to do this, am I right?
Bear on a moment longer with me and I’ll reveal my secret how I have lost weight without feeling hungry.
The secret to it is to:
- eat low-calorie foods,
- eliminate sugars in your diet
- eat lots of vegetables
- eat plenty of dietary fiber
Dietary fiber is the real secret here. I have already explained the reasons they work so I won’t get into it. But let me tell you about my experiences.
I always try to eat a diet high in dietary fiber. It’s really the secret ingredient that makes you feel full. There was once an occasion where I was already eating a diet high in dietary fiber. Then I found these new beans in a grocery store I hadn’t seen before. I thought I could give them a try and I ate lots of them without paying much attention to the calorie table.
Skip ahead a few days later and I started losing my appetite. I was wondering why I didn’t want to eat but continued anyway since I thought my food needs couldn’t have dropped significantly. Then my friends invited me over and I decided to join them. Hours went by and I didn’t really realize at all how long it had been since I had eaten last time, until I started getting a headache.
I couldn’t really come up with a reason why I could have a headache other than not eating for a long time. But to my surprise I didn’t feel hungry even in the slightest. When I returned back at home, I decided to take a look at the bean package only to realize it had 30 g of dietary fiber per 100 g!
To give you some reference, most foods ”high in fiber” contain approx 10 g of dietary fiber, only a third of the beans. The daily recommendation for dietary fiber is 25 g for women and 38 g for men. And I had been eating lots of them in addition to my already high in fiber diet!
For this reason I recommend to always introduce dietary fibers slowly into your diet. From my experience it takes approx half a week until you start seeing the effects of eating more dietary fibers, which is a long time if you suddenly increase your intake by a significant amount.
In short you should be eating lots of healthy, unprocessed, natural foods low in calories, sugars, fats, trans fats, high in nutrients and dietary fibers. Natural foods are often unpackaged while highly processed foods have long lists of ingredients and don’t grow in nature. Eat a diverse diet with lots of veggies, always look for new things you haven’t tried yet and make changes to your diet slowly but steadily. Diet is a lifelong journey, not a quick fix. Slow wins the race!
Do you have questions? Have your own experiences? Did I forget a thing or two? Leave a comment below!