Losing weight (and keeping it off) is no easy fete. Here are the most common nutrition mistakes that I see and practical tips on how to fix them:
Not Eating Enough Protein
Foods that are high in protein are going to help give your metabolism a boost. They are also crucial for weight loss because they have a satiating effect—meaning they keep you fuller for longer. Protein also helps you maintain muscle mass while losing weight and helps your blood sugars remain stable throughout the day.
How to fix it: Strive to have a protein source with each meal and snack. This could be Greek yogurt, eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, etc. You can also boost up the protein with nuts, seeds and low fat cheese. Start by picking one meal to focus on, such as breakfast.
Skipping meals to cut down on calories sounds like it would lead to weight loss, right? Well, it is much more complicated than you think. When you skip meals, your liver has to work hard to keep your blood sugars up so you do not pass out. This leads to more blood sugar spikes and crashes throughout the day (hello afternoon slump and nighttime cravings). Additionally, skipping a meal makes it more likely that you will over-eat at your next meal.
How to fix it: If you are a chronic meal skipper, start by incorporating something small at the same time each day (such as Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts). This will help your body get back into a groove of feeling hungry when it is supposed to. Know that your body needs this nourishment to function at its best.
Not Eating Enough Vegetables
The USDA recommends consuming 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. I recommend keeping your vegetable to fruit ratio at 3:1 (3 servings of vegetables for every 1 serving of fruit). This would mean that you should strive for at least 6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Sounds like a lot, right? These foods are loaded with nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber—you won’t need those multivitamins anymore!) and provide lots of volume to meals to make you fuller without loading up on extra calories.
How to fix it: First figure out how many servings per day you are getting in on average (serving size = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked). Start by adding in just 1 more serving each day (throw spinach into eggs, toss some veggies into a smoothie, blend into sauces, add a side salad to lunch). Continue to do this until you reach your goal.
Choosing Sugary Coffee Drinks
Before you get mad, I am not here to hate on your favorite Starbucks drink. That said, it is important to know what is in your beloved latte if you are going to be drinking it daily. Most of them are complete sugar bombs (read: 64 grams of sugar in a venti pumpkin spice latte) and can actually contribute to your mid-morning crash.
How to fix it: Starbucks, Dunkin’s, and many other coffee shops have excellent nutrition information online. Look up your go to drink to see what the damage is. To decrease the amount of sugar try getting a smaller size, asking for 1/2 the pumps of flavor, and learning to love the taste of coffee/tea for what it is.
Not Drinking Enough Water
Getting in adequate fluids helps your entire body work better (improved digestion, brain function, detoxification, to name a few). I generally recommend striving for 1/2 your weight in ounces per day. Example: 150 lbs/2 = 75 oz water per day.
How to fix it: Before you start chugging water and running straight to the bathroom, try these tips: Treat yourself to a new reusable water bottle and keep it with you AT ALL TIMES. Figure out how many you need to fill up to reach your water goal. Three 25 oz bottles feels much more doable than 9 cups. Also, have a cup of water with each meal—that’s already 24 ounces!
Overdoing it on the Weekend
Your body does not know the difference between a weekday and a weekend. If you eat “clean” all week and then over indulge on the weekend, your body will feel out of whack. This can hinder weight loss goals and mess with digestion.
How to fix it: Strive to maintain at least a few consistent habits on the weekend. Are you able to continue with your balanced breakfasts? Can you keep the same snacks on hand that you do at work? Set non-negotiable goals before the weekend starts. Additionally, indulge in things in moderation throughout the week so you do not feel the need to go overboard on the weekend.
If you are having trouble kick-starting your weight loss or keeping up with it, speak with the Medical Weight Loss team at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.