Many of us probably decided to go on a diet after the Christmas season, in order to burn off the turrón, marzipan and King cake. We start them with a lot of momentum, we choose a strict diet and … just two months later, we have abandoned the good intentions, we have put on the weight we lost again, and we are already thinking about the next diet because the good weather is coming and we’ll have to be ready for the spring clothes.
This is how most mortals function. And despite all the nutrition experts assuring us, again and again, that this is the worst way to address weight loss, we inevitable fall into the trap. And we do it the hard way too. We go for extreme hypocaloric diets that make us go hungry and increase our anxiety and stress over food. These are the diets that cause the dreaded yo-yo effect, i.e. alternating weight loss and gain, quickly, and which can be very harmful to health.
Oddly enough, the simplest thing is to eat well and the only secret lies in perseverance. Proper nutrition throughout the year, accompanied by moderate exercise is much easier than facing extreme diets every so often. You just need to follow a few basic guidelines. The results may take longer to arrive than when we follow extreme hypocaloric diet plans, but believe us, theywill be much longer lasting and, before you know it, the new habits will be so integrated into our daily lives that we won’t be able to conceive another way of doing things. Our health will benefit from it.
Diet has to provide the necessary nutrients to carry out all metabolic processes in the human body and they must be balanced with each other. But above all, we must not forget something very important: it must be adapted to our individual characteristics, i.e. if we are male or female, at what stage of life we are (childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, elderly, and sportspeople) or any possible illnesses that may affect us.
That said, here are 20 simple guidelines to follow:
1. Eat a varied diet and avoid highly processed foods. Choose fresh and seasonal products because they provide the best nutrients to your body.
2. Have several meals a day. It will be easier to eat in a balanced way if you are not ravenously hungry at any meals.
3. Have a good breakfast. We will not tire of repeating this… it is the most important meal of the day! And besides, we have all day to «burn it off».
4. Forget fasting. Don’t skip meals. It causes nutritional deficiencies and stress, which is not good for health.
5. Don’t banish fat from your diet. It is necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. And go for monounsaturated fats, which bringgreater benefits. This is why olive oil must become the main fat in your diet, both for cooking and to dress your dishes. Two or three tablespoons of olive oil per day provide many benefits to your body, and can be distributed among different foods.
6. Carbohydrates are also very important, but must be varied. You must also ensure that the intake of simple sugars does not exceed 10% of daily intake. To do this, consume fruit, at least 2 or 3 pieces per day; vegetables daily; wholegrain cereals, as they provide the fibre needed for proper intestinal transit; and avoid refined sugars. Be careful, too, because these sugars are «hidden» in many processed foods and beverages. Read the labels.
7. Careful with salt. It is not advisable to take more than one teaspoon a day. And again, be careful with the amount of salt in some processed products such as sausages, prepared meats, snacks, etc.
8. Dairy products are very beneficial to health and we must consumethem, but it is better to choose those with skimmed milk and low in fat.
9. Pulses are very low in fat (provided you do not cook them with very fatty foods, of course) and it is very good to eat them once a week. There are plenty of light and delicious dishes that can be made with lentils, beans, chickpeas and other pulses.
10. Choose foods that are rich in antioxidants, which are very beneficial in any diet and even more so in healthy habits. Again we are talking about olive oil, fruit, vegetables and nuts.
11. Drink plenty of water, about 2 litres a day.
12. Careful with alcohol, which only adds empty calories. Avoid high alcohol spirits. Go forred wine instead, always in moderation (one glass a day for women and two for men).
13. Opt for healthier cooking techniques: griddle, oven, steam, en papillote … it is the best way to keep all the nutrients in food and consume fewer calories.
14. Plan food purchases. This way it is easier not to fall into the temptation of buying products that are not good for you to eat. Furthermore, if you plan a weekly menu as well you can easily follow the guidelines set out. Try, if possible, to shop at markets, where you will find the freshest seasonal produce.
15. Spend at least 40-50 minutes at mealtime. That means you have chewed your food well, and that the pace was enough to reach satiety.
16. If you are forced to eat out, something very normal nowadays, choose restaurants where there is a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Above all, avoidfood in batter and very fatty items if possible. And when it comes to dessert, choose fruit.
17. You can also overcome laziness and prepare food at home to take to work. That way you’ll know the food you eat better than anyone and you can keep your good habits.
18. And if eating patterns are essential, so too is physical exercise. Do moderate sports daily, at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity or, while you’re losing those extra kilos, you can even increase it to 90 minutes. That includes cardiovascular exercise, stretching and also some resistance. This will avoid anxiety, states of depression and stress, and will help you to follow your balanced diet better.
19. Find a sport you find fun. If you like doing exercise, it will be easier for you to continue doing it. If sport is not your thing, try walking. An hour of daily walking at a moderate pace will help you stay in shape. The important thing is to move.
20. And last but not least: sleep well. Respecting the hours of sleep is essential for your body to run smoothly.