This guest post was written by Dr. Shawna Darou, who has been a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 10 years. You can check out her amazingly informative blog about all things health related here.
In such a time where pastries and fancy coffees for breakfast every day are a cultural norm, it takes skill and discipline to stick with a healthy diet. I fully believe and practice a nutrition plan that builds in moderation, meaning eating healthy, balanced meals at least 80% of the time, and leaving room for occasional treats and indulgences. But how do we prevent these indulgences from going too far? The key is eating for satiation and increasing the nutrient density of your meals. Let’s look at each of these parts separately.
Eating for satiation:
Satiation means a feeling of fullness that stops you from continuing to eat. There are things you can do to improve feelings of satiation without heavy, high-calorie eating. Here are some of the basics:
- Increase the volume of your meals to literally fill your stomach more with each meal. This could simply mean having a green salad or a vegetable-based soup before your meal. When your stomach is more full, you are less likely to overindulge.
- Take your time eating and chew your food thoroughly. If you eat more slowly, the feeling of fullness will kick in before the meal is complete.
- Include more raw vegetables, and foods such as beans and lentils for more fiber. Higher fiber diets are more satiating.
- Eat protein regularly through the day to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. When your blood sugar is stable, you are less likely to be famished before eating, and much less likely to overdo high carbohydrate foods.
- Include healthy fats each time you eat. Fats give us a feeling of fullness. This can be olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds or avocado. This works best when combined with fiber, to prevent overdoing it. For example an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter; a big salad with olive oil and avocado; coconut oil and ground flax seeds in a smoothie.
Increasing nutrient density:
The second recommendation is to eat a nutrient dense diet, as a way to ensure that all of your nutritional needs are met. Nutrient dense meals are ones without empty calories, meaning minimizing filler carbs such as bread, rice and potatoes, and emphasizing foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Here are some examples:
- Eating eggs or a protein-based smoothie containing fruit, greens and chia seeds for breakfast, instead of cereal, bagels or toast.
- Switch out your pasta or potatoes for sweet potatoes or squash which have much more nutrient density, or better yet add extra vegetables to your meal instead.
- Snack on colorful fruits with nuts, vegetables with hummus, roasted chickpeas or seaweed with avocado.
- Try a grain-free diet for a month as a way to quickly break some of your empty-calorie habits.
- Focus on the veggies, aiming for at least 6 servings per day. Aim for ½ of your plate with both lunch and dinner to be filled with vegetables.
Tips to reduce cravings and binges:
Many of our good intentions and successes are quickly derailed by binges. I am constantly recommending that my patients avoid extreme diets or anything that is simply too restrictive. If your body is not nourished, you will almost always create out of control cravings.
Here are some simple and concrete tips to reduce your cravings and binges:
- Steer away from foods that you find ‘addictive’, meaning foods that once you start you just can’t stop. Rather than fighting the constant cravings, it is often simplest to just stay away from them. This may be sugar, chocolate, cheese, wheat products…. Whatever it is that you have a hard time avoiding.
- Don’t diet. Any radical restriction in your diet will create cravings and binges. Choose a more moderate approach and change your lifestyle instead. If you are trying to lose weight, a healthy lifestyle will still support weight loss, and you will learn how to eat to keep it off.
- Eat from smaller plates and bowls, and with smaller cutlery. By making your meal look generous on a smaller plate, you are more likely to be satisfied with less food.
- Finish your meal with a cup of tea. A routine of drinking a cup of green or herbal tea after eating can help to prevent you from going for seconds, or seeking out dessert.
- If you have intense sugar cravings, try a small amount of dark chocolate – just a couple of squares to satisfy it. You are very unlikely to overdo a high-quality dark chocolate, and the sugar content is much lower than a cookie, pastry or piece of cake.
The overall message is that a healthy diet is the key to feeling full longer. Including plenty of vegetables, eating balanced meals with protein and fats, and emphasizing nutrient dense foods. By committing to your health, and nourishing your body well you will be eating exactly what you need for optimal energy and metabolism.
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