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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Plan for a Healthy Diet for Weight Loss

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How to Plan for a Healthy Diet for Weight Loss

Amid a million diets, it leaves many people wondering: what does a balanced and healthy diet for weight loss look like? Is it better to eat high fat? Keto? Paleo?

While there are many different diets out there and it is true that some work better than others, there are a few staples to weight loss that rings true across the board!

If you have been wanting to lose weight for quite some time but are done with short-term and fad approaches, then this article is definitely for you.

Be prepared to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way while claiming back your energy like never before!

1. Know the Basics

I know you’ve heard the term before: calories in vs calories out.

While I don’t believe that is all there is to weight loss, it does play a part! If you are eating 3000 calories and burning only 2000 throughout the day, you will lose weight. But how exactly do calories work and how do they play into weight loss?

The first thing you need to know is this:

3,500 Calories = one pound of fat!

That means if you were to eat 500 calories less than you burn, you would lose roughly 1 pound a week. If you were to eat 1,000 calories less, you would burn 2 pounds of body fat a week.

Obviously, this isn’t all there is to it. If so, it would mean you could eat 1,500 calories of sugar and still lose weight, which is entirely untrue. However, it is important to understand!

A lot of people will eat healthily and think calories don’t matter. But that’s not the truth. If you are eating handfuls of nuts every day, you probably won’t lose weight very easily.

If you meet most people who say they eat healthily and don’t worry about calories, I can almost guarantee you that there are some secrets that they might not even know they are following that help them lose weight effortlessly. I’m about to show you some of those secrets in this article, but make sure you always remember this key.

Calories do matter, but the trick is to feed your body in a way that you feel satisfied off of fewer calories so that your body won’t trick you into craving more.

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2. Understanding Macros

The number one thing I tell people when they want to lose weight is to understand what macros are and how they affect your body.

First, what are macros? “Macros” is short for the phrase macro-nutrients. Unlike micro-nutrients (which are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function), macros are the building blocks your body needs. Each one has a different function.

Protein

Protein is probably one of the most essential for weight loss, for several reasons. First, it boosts your metabolism by 15-30%[1]In addition to that, the more muscle you have, the higher your BMR (how many calories you burn at rest). Since protein is the direct “building block” for muscle, it can help you lose weight more long term.

In addition to those benefits, protein is digested slowly, which helps balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings throughout the day.[2]

So yes, protein is extremely important! However, if you are vegan or vegetarian, don’t lose heart. There are still plenty of high-protein foods you can enjoy while on a meat-free diet.

Carbs

Woah woah woah! Don’t go carb bashing just yet! As it turns out, carbs are an essential part of daily living![3] The problem, however, is that most people don’t know how to eat carbs while maintaining stable blood sugar.

More on that later. But for now, let me just state: carbs are not the bad guy.

Carbs are the body’s main source of energy, meaning they can actually improve your workouts and help you burn more calories overall.

In addition to that, carbohydrates contain fiber, which is essential for good digestion. And yes, fiber can help you lose weight as well by keeping you feel full throughout the day. Vegetables, which are comprised mostly of carbs, can contain many essential micronutrients that are necessary to lose weight long-term.

That being said, carbs are notoriously bashed for causing weight gain and that is true IF you are getting them from the wrong sources. However, carbs from the right sources can be extremely beneficial to weight loss.

Fats

Fats, much like carbs, can sometimes have a bit of a bad rap, although diets like keto and Atkins have slowly been changing that.

Fats are much higher in calorie density than any other macro, which means that a little bit can go a long way. Just four tablespoons of oil contain 480 calories, which is the same as 10 cups of watermelon! You can see how fats can easily get out of control on a weight loss diet. However, they also contain a lot of benefits, which means we shouldn’t cut them out entirely.

Much like carbs, the types of fats have a lot to do with the effect it will have on your body.[4] However, don’t underestimate powerful healthy fats. Omega-3’s, for example, are powerful anti-inflammatories and have a range of other health benefits.

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Fats are actually an essential part of hormone balance as well, which is key for most women on a weight loss plan.

These three Macronutrients are all essential. While you can easily cut out one of them for a while, cutting out any macronutrient long term can cause a lot of harm!

Know Your Right Balance!

Now that you know what each macro does and how it benefits you the most, the key is finding out what actually works the best for you!

For instance, some people tend to do better on fewer carbs while others thrive on more. However, as a general rule, when trying to lose weight it’s best to amp up your protein while slightly reducing both carbs and fats.

In other words, fill up on veggies, have healthy fats in moderation, and load up on carbs, like vegetables that have a low caloric density, which leads me to my next point.

3. Eat Foods at Low Caloric Density

I love this point! In fact, when I’m cutting out food, it is the rule of thumb that I live by. Why?

The most simple way of explaining it is that I enjoy food! Having a healthy diet for weight loss doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. I don’t like feeling like I’m walking around on an empty stomach all day. Another pro is that low-calorie foods tend to be full of nutrients, which make me feel amazing!

The easiest approach is to sub a few things out of your favorite meals. If you like pasta, for instance, try using veggie noodles as a base instead! You will very likely cut the calories of that meal in half while still eating the same portion size!

Go back to my reference of fat: 4 tablespoons of oil has the same amount of calories as 10 cups of watermelon. But which one will help you feel more full?

Adding more low-caloric dense foods, like vegetables, will help you feel full and satiated while still helping you get to the results you want!

4. Master Blood Sugar Balance

If you really want to become a fat-burning machine, it means mastering your blood sugar!

What is blood sugar? Blood sugar is the main source of energy (or sugar) found in your blood.[5] It comes from the food you eat, and it is essential at certain levels.

However, spikes in blood sugar can cause a huge problem! Foods that are absorbed quickly will cause blood sugar spikes and trigger an insulin response. This response will trick your body into storing more body fat and will create a sudden “drop” in blood sugar making you feel tired and hungry.

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Think of a time when you were a little kid and overdid it on the sugar! For a while, you had a surge of energy and felt unstoppable. But soon after, you felt tired, lethargic, and emotional. You just wanted more sugar!

The same thing happens in our adult bodies when we have sugar, white bread, or other high glycemic foods.

To keep it simple, it’s best to avoid sweeteners, white flour, white rice (any white food really), and other high glycemic foods entirely. Instead, get the majority of your carbs from vegetables and whole grains (like quinoa, brown rice, or whole oats).

To become a powerhouse, make sure you add plenty of protein and moderate amounts of fats to each meal. Since these foods are digested slowly, they will release a steady stream of glucose and keep you feeling good until lunch. Just using these techniques alone will create a healthy diet for weight loss that you can easily follow!

I always tell my clients that this is the number one staple for any type of weight loss. If you have cravings, I can almost guarantee you that this is a primary reason why!

5. Let Water Do the Heavy Lifting

Did you know that if you were to follow a diet high in protein while balancing blood sugar and drinking tons of water, you would most likely lose weight naturally? It’s as simple as that, and it’s key to a healthy diet for weight loss.

Water can help do a lot of the heavy lifting for us by reducing cravings and boosting our metabolism. However, where most people struggle is remembering to drink water throughout the day. After all, we all know it’s good for us. Why don’t we do it then?

For those reasons, instead of telling you to drink more water (you already know that) I’m going to share some of my secrets on how!

Find a Good Electrolyte Mix

Electrolytes are essential minerals in our body, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc. When we drink plenty of water or workout, our body can get easily depleted of the electrolytes we need and making us feel thirstier.

I can’t speak for everyone on this, but I can say that for myself when I’ve depleted my electrolytes, drinking water feels unappealing. Adding electrolytes is a quick and easy fix that makes water feel more quenching.

My trick is to add some electrolytes to my water bottle before I leave for the day. That leaves me craving water MORE, and it makes water more satisfying. Of course, this naturally leads to me drinking more water throughout the day.

One key is to make sure you find one without sugar. There are plenty of good brands out there that sweeten theirs with Stevia or are even entirely unsweetened. My favorite type comes in a bottle and is unsweetened.

Find a Large Water Bottle With a Straw

If it’s easy to access, we’re more likely to have it! This principle comes into play when we try and keep the candy trays off of our desks. However, the reverse also comes into play with things we should have!

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Keeping a large water bottle nearby with a straw will make it easy to sip throughout the day without keeping you from your work. My favorite ones are about a gallon in size, making it easier for me to sip without even realizing it!

Step up Your Water Game

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like to sweeten my water because it tends to make me crave more sugar. For this reason, I recommend using simple water flavors to give your water a boost.

If you have a good cold bottle of water with some electrolyte drops and cucumber, you probably won’t want to stop sipping away. You can even make flavored water with berries, lemon, mint, and plenty of other great additives!

I’ve found that staying away from sweeteners entirely has made my fitness progress way more successful.

If you absolutely HAVE to, I recommend using only water flavors that have stevia and monk fruit in it. Sugar and most artificial sweeteners will most likely send you down the wrong path with your nutrition.

6. Eat Frequently

Starvation diets don’t work. They will leave you hungrier at the end of the day and will only slow down your progress.

Make eating healthy meals a priority! That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow the 6 small meals rule of thumb, but it does mean that you should be careful not to eat skimpily throughout the day only to binge at night

7. Lastly, Track Your Progress

Wait, isn’t this an article about a healthy diet for weight loss? Absolutely! But one thing to remember is that psychology plays a huge roll in reaching your goals!

If you really want to get to where you want to be, it means keeping yourself motivated! Set a goal for yourself that excited and motivated.

What is the one thing that excites you? What would change if you reached your goal? How is not being at your goal affecting your life?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself and always remember before starting on your journey.

Keep track of where you are but in moderation. The best way is to track your body fat percentage once a week. This will keep you from getting discouraged and will show you how much body fat you are losing, even if you might be gaining some good weight from muscle.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited for your journey to health! Making a decision to live a healthier lifestyle is a pivotal part of most people’s lives. I can promise you that you won’t regret it!

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More Tips for Weight Loss

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Katelyn Delaney

Owner of Revifi -- Fitness Training & Life Coaching

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Published on August 24, 2021

What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Water

This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

What Is a Whole Food Diet?

By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

  • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
  • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Berries five times a week
  • Five or more servings of nuts a week
  • Olive oil five times a week
  • Whole grains five times a week
  • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
  • Legumes and pulses five times a week
  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Minimally processed foods
  • No more than one glass of wine a day
  • One or two coffee or tea a day max
  • Two liters of water a day

That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

Whole Foods and the Gut

Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

Whole Foods and the Brain

The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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1. Practice Batch Cooking

Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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Reference

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