Raise your hand if you wish a nutritionist would tell you exactly what to eat and when to eat it? Yeah, we thought so. That’s why we tapped three experts who know the right strategies for feeling awesome and going after your weight-loss goals. (Join Prevention’s 21-Day Challenge to lose weight and feel amazing by summer!)
Before we jump into the play-by-play of how to eat all day to drop pounds, let’s break down the core principles our experts say make up a healthy eating game plan.
1) Have a meal or small snack every three to four hours to fuel metabolism, prevent binges, and stop blood sugar crashes.
2) Combine protein, like meat, fish, beans, nuts, eggs, dairy, and fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, at every meal. When eaten together, these foods take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates (read: pasta and cereal), so you stay fuller, longer.
3) Get up, move around, and drink water often.
Finally, remember that even the “perfect day” isn’t perfect if you eat the same thing over and over again. Use the principles outlined here to mix and match your own delicious, healthy meals.
6:30 to 7 a.m. Wake Up With Water
“Before you put coffee, tea, or food into your body, it’s best to first break your fast with a glass of water with lemon,” says Ashley Koff, R.D., a nutritionist and Prevention advisor. When you sleep, Koff says, your body isn’t just abstaining from food but from water, too. “Because many vitamins are water-soluble, having a glass before you eat will help your body better absorb nutrients from food.” Plus, the acidity of the lemon helps rebalance your digestive tract by making it alkaline, allowing “good” bacteria in your intestines to thrive and facilitate optimal nutrient absorption. (Bored with plain H2o? Try these 25 slimming Sassy Water recipes.)
7 a.m. Take a Short Walk
This is your ideal fat-burning window, says Koff. A light bout of cardio soon after you wake up and before you eat—a 20-minute walk with the dog, jumping jacks, or running up and down stairs in your home, etc.—taps into your body’s energy reserves. “I don’t mean a two-hour hike or an intense 45-minute spin class on an empty stomach,” she says. The idea is to fit in some easy activity and try to eat within an hour or so of waking up. (For more exercise ideas, check out these 25 ways to fit in 10 minutes of exercise.)
7:30 a.m. Eat Breakfast
All of our experts loved oatmeal for breakfast. Have one-half cup of uncooked oats or a packet of instant. “Your body digests the fiber slowly, so you stay full for a couple of hours,” says Brooke Alpert, R.D., founder of B Nutritious, a private nutrition counseling practice in New York City. For protein, add a glass of fat-free milk, yogurt, or a hard-boiled egg. Or stir some nuts (almonds or walnuts) into your oats. For fruit, Alpert recommends one-half cup of mixed berries for vitamins and antioxidants and more fiber.
Tip: Whatever you do, don’t just sip coffee all morning and wait to eat until lunch, says Alpert. “You’ll be so hungry, you won’t make healthy choices.”
Calorie count: 300 to 400 calories
9 a.m. Drink Water
You know you’re supposed to have multiple glasses a day. But it’s better to sip a little water all day long instead of chugging a giant glass when you suddenly feel parched. “If your tongue feels dry to the touch or your pee is bright yellow, you’re dehydrated,” says Alpert.
10 a.m. Stretch and Walk
Get up, stretch, and stroll every hour or 90 minutes, says Heidi Skolnik, a nutritionist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Walk to a coworker’s cube instead of shooting off an email or head outside and walk around the block.
10:30 to 11 a.m. Eat a Small Snack
Eat every three to four hours to keep energy up and avoid big mealtime binges. For fiber and protein, try an apple with a string cheese or a handful of nuts (especially if you didn’t have them at breakfast). “Everyone should have an apple in their desk drawer,” says Alpert. “They’re the perfect take-along snack—they don’t bruise in your purse and they’re easy to eat anywhere.” Or try yogurt (Koff likes the non-fat Greek kind) with some berries (check out these 6 yogurt add-ins for more ideas).
Tip: Sit whenever you eat, says Koff. Take small bites and try to drag out your snack for as long as possible (ideally 10 to 15 minutes). Research shows the more chewing you do, the more nutrients your body absorbs.
Calorie count: 150 to 300 calories
11:30 a.m. to Noon Take a Drink, Pop a Vitamin, and Walk
Finish your glass, refill it, and swallow your multivitamin. “I recommend clients take their multi shortly before lunch because the B vitamins and certain minerals help your body utilize carbs so you have more post-meal energy,” says Koff. Then get up and stretch at your desk. These moves also help keep energy up, so you’re not tempted to snack out of boredom or fatigue. Plus, some movement before lunch jump-starts your digestive system, Koff says.
1 to 1:30 p.m. Eat Lunch
Build yourself a rainbow salad, says Alpert. Start with dark, leafy greens and pile them high with a mix of colorful veggies, protein, and good-for-you fats. Try tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms for a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Add a quarter-cup of avocado for healthy, monounsaturated fat, and a half-cup of protein, like tuna, grilled chicken, turkey, beans, or lentils. “Get adventurous with different veggies every day,” Alpert says. “The more color and variety, the better.”
All of the nutritionists gave the okay on dressing, but don’t drown your salad in it, and choose a light version or an olive oil-based one. “You want some fat in your salad because it helps your body digest fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K,” says Skolnick. Wash your meal down with water.
Tip: If you want, have a slice of whole-grain bread on the side. “People love bread,” says Alpert. “If you’ll feel deprived without it, I’d rather you have the 100 or so calories here than risk going overboard later.”
Calorie count: 400 to 500 calories
2 p.m. Sip Water and Walk
Doing this now will help you make a sensible choice when those 4 p.m. cravings strike. “Get outside if you can, especially if you didn’t go out for lunch,” says Koff. “The fresh air and sunshine will boost your spirits and stop you from overeating because of a bad mood.”
3:30 to 4 p.m. Have an Afternoon Snack
Welcome to the witching hour: Almost everyone needs to snack between lunch and dinner, says Alpert. For a fiber-protein mix, try a six-ounce yogurt (the natural milk sugars help with sweet cravings) and a handful of high-fiber cereal. You can also have a banana with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter. “Or pick something fun,” says Koff, like an ounce of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao). It’s packed with polyphenols, a type of antioxidant shown to help lower blood pressure, keep your brain sharp, and more.
Tip: Let your appetite be your guide here—you may not need the same type of snack every day. If you had a big lunch, you may only need a small nibble. If you plan to hit the gym after work, you may want to eat more or save some of your snack until closer to your workout (an hour or so beforehand).
Calorie count: 150 to 250 calories
6 to 7 p.m. Walk or Work Out
If you didn’t walk in the morning, now is a good time to squeeze in some exercise. “When you’re at home before dinner, that’s when the munchies happen,” says Alpert. She recommends some kind of regular pre-dinner activity to all her clients, whether it’s just circling your block a couple of times or going to the gym. “When you have something scheduled, you’re less likely to float in and out of the kitchen.” It’s also smart to incorporate walking into your commute. If you drive to work, pick a far parking spot, says Alpert. If you take a train or bus, hop off a stop earlier than your usual and hoof it the rest of the way.
7:30 p.m. Eat Dinner
Studies show that people who start their meal with soup end up eating less overall. Have a cup of a low-fat broth-based kind, like minestrone, miso, or gazpacho. For the main meal, “I’d like to see a nice portion, three or four ounces, of grilled wild salmon because it has lean protein and provides healthy omega-3 fats,” says Alpert. Add cooked vegetables like sautéed broccoli or spinach and a half-cup of brown rice.
For a nonfish option, try turkey meatballs (roll in some whole oats for extra fiber) over a bed of spaghetti squash, which has the texture of pasta but counts as a veggie serving. Use a half-cup of tomato sauce, and sprinkle a handful of pine nuts on top for extra crunchy texture. Have water with dinner, ideally, but a small four-ounce glass of wine is fine from time to time, our nutritionists agreed.
Tip: Stick to proper portions, especially when it comes to your proteins and carbs.
Calorie count: 400 to 500 calories
9:30 p.m. Eat Dessert
Wait an hour or so after dinner for a before-bed snack. You don’t have to strictly follow the fiber-protein rule, but it should be more than just empty calories. A couple options: A tablespoon of chocolate drizzled over a half-cup of berries ot apple slices with honey.
Calorie count: 100 to 150 calories
10:30 to 11 p.m. Head to Bed
Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night; less than that, and you up your risk for a host of health problems, including weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more, not to mention the odds that you’ll feel more tired, frazzled, and likely to overeat the next day. Drink another glass of water shortly before bed, and give yourself plenty of time to wind down with a calming routine, such as a bath or reading in bed. If you have trouble sleeping, try one of these simple tips.
Checkout some yummy ideas below.
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Source Womens Health Mag