Stepping into 2024, did you set tough nutrition goals? Like super low calories or cutting out entire food groups, rapid weight loss plans with tight timelines? If so, you’re not alone. These are some of the most common ways people attempt to reach ambitious weight loss and physique goals every year. Unfortunately, they’re not a path that often leads to sustainable nutrition. By the end of January, nearly half of those who set these goals will have abandoned ship. And for those who persist, because these habits aren’t sustainable long term, they usually gain the lost weight back and then some once they break the plan. This doesn’t have to be you!
I’m Katie, a Registered Dietitian with two decades of experience helping people like you eat to live. My motto: Food Is Fuel! It’s the premium gas your high-performance body needs to drive further and keep everything inside running in top condition. Whether you see your body as a sleek Ferrari or in any other shape or size, it’s a high-performing vessel deserving of the best fuel.
Today, I’m excited to share my top five tips for sustainable nutrition that have empowered thousands of busy individuals to lose weight and feel fantastic in their bodies! Let’s dive in and make your journey to a healthier you achievable and long-lasting.
You may not be aware of this, but minor dehydration presents itself as hunger or fatigue opposed to thirst. What this means is many times you’re reaching for a snack when your body could be asking for water! What I’ve found is that staying hydrated has proven to be a game changer for my clients. Aim for at least 8 glasses a day to start. Weather or level of activity could require more. If you fear this could be a hassle, you can purchase water bottles that carry at least a day’s worth of water. How convenient is that? Then, make it a goal to complete a bottle a day.
It’s no secret that fiber supports regular bowel movements, but its benefits go beyond that. Lesser known is its ability to keep us feeling fuller for longer, regulate blood sugar, and promote heart health by reducing cholesterol levels. Feeling satiated is a key ingredient in sustainable nutrition. Here are a few simple ways to incorporate more fiber into your daily routine:
Among all the ingredients used by food makers, sugar stands out as one of the sneakiest additives. It tends to find its way into unsuspecting foods such as salad dressings, marinades, sauces, deli meats, and even breads – and that’s not even mentioning the sweet treats. Surprisingly, some snacks marketed as ‘nature bars’ pack as much sugar as a regular-sized chocolate bar!
Both added and natural sugars should be limited each day, and I recommend aiming for under 40 grams. If 1 serving of fruit averages 10-15 grams of sugar and you have 2 servings a day, that leaves 10 grams for other foods. Shockingly, the average American consumes about 68 grams of sugar daily (equivalent to 17 teaspoons). Additionally, if sugar is hindering your health goals, consider swapping out foods with added sugar for whole food options with little to no sugar. While this advice may seem counter to modern health culture, I don’t recommend replacing them with artificial sweeteners or zero-calorie options, as these come with their own side effects and may increase cravings for sweetness.
“Let thy food be thy medicine.” – Hippocrates
A real game-changer is the quality of your morning meal. I strongly advocate for a protein-rich breakfast to avoid that mid-morning sugar crash. Why? When you start your day with protein, it helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, keeping you energized and focused. Opt for a balanced breakfast with sufficient protein from options such as eggs, cottage cheese, or plain Greek yogurt. Also, you can add natural sweetness to your breakfast with fresh fruits or berries. Try to fit in some veggies, providing a flavorful and nutritious touch. If you’d like to add a meat item to your breakfast, I recommend hormone and antibiotic-free chicken sausage. Psst: I should also mention, despite what fast food marketing might suggest, pork bacon does not qualify as a good protein source. Moving on!
Good sleep is an indirect key with a direct impact on our well-being. Quality rest is not just about feeling refreshed; it directly influences our decision-making abilities. When we’re well-rested, we make better choices. On the flip side, lack of sleep can trigger a fight-or-flight response, slowing metabolism, increasing cravings, and dampening motivation for healthy eating and exercise. To ensure you’re getting the right amount of shut-eye, aim for a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. Plan your evening routine to wind down effectively, setting the stage for a restful night.
As we wrap up, these five tips form a holistic approach to sustainable nutrition habits. From staying hydrated to navigating the stealthy world of added sugars, making mindful choices in what we consume can have a profound impact. Opting for a protein-rich breakfast not only fends off mid-morning crashes but also sets the tone for better decision-making throughout the day. And let’s not overlook the silent influencer – sleep. Good sleep isn’t just a luxury; it’s a key player in our well-being, affecting everything from metabolism to motivation. (As a bonus, check out these resources, we love to help you achieve your goals!)
Remember, the journey to a healthier you is about sustainable choices, not quick fixes. Small, consistent changes pave the way for lasting results. I’m Katie, your guide in this journey, and I encourage you to embrace these tips, make them your own, and step into a healthier, more vibrant version of yourself.
Here’s to your well-being!
Katie Di Laura, RDN
Director of Nutrition