Ten Ways to Begin a Low Fat Diet
Thinking about how to get back on track with a healthy low fat diet? Depriving ourselves of all treats or cutting fat entirely is the surest way to backsliding. And while it is undoubtedly hard to pass up second helpings or limit ourselves to a small helping of dessert, especially during holidays, it is emotionally better for us to indulge a little than not at all.
A low fat diet is not a choice for some: medical conditions may necessitate a strict low fat, low cholesterol diet. For others, it is a conscious decision to lose weight; and then there are those who simply believe that a low fat diet goes hand in hand with healthy living. Whatever your reasons or motivation, here are 10 things you can do to get started or get back on track:
Be realistic. If weight loss is your goal, don’t set yourself up for disappointment or, worse, health problems. Make this a positive experience and start with small, achievable goals. Sustainable weight loss means losing no more than two pounds a week. If you choose to go on a crash diet, your body will ultimately balk: your metabolism will slow down and it will become harder to shed pounds as your poor body goes into preservation mode.
Clear out your refrigerator and pantry. Those leftover holiday pies, cakes, cookies and pieces of fudge should now be tossed, and so should the whipped cream, full-fat cheeses and sour-cream dips. For a more general sweep of your kitchen, take a look at my article on the low fat kitchen. Remember, you can eat or prepare only the foods you have at hand. You can’t polish off a pint of ice cream that isn’t there.
Restock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy, wholesome ingredients. Again, the low fat kitchen article can give you plenty of ideas. Basically, substitute low fat or fat-free products for their full fat counterparts. Buy wholegrain pastas, breads and grains; and stock up with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Try to eat at least five to nine servings of these a day.
Monitor portions and serving sizes. Portion sizes have grown ever larger. Examine food labels and nutrition facts, and understand what exactly constitutes a serving size . It’s usually less than you think. Be aware that a food package often contains more than one serving, and that the nutritional analysis label refers to one portion, not necessarily the whole package.
Always eat breakfast. As well as being an important source of vitamins and minerals, a good breakfast comprising wholegrain cereal with fat-free or low fat milk, fruit and yogurt will keep your blood-sugar levels stable and sustain you until lunchtime.
Drink water, and plenty of it. Water is essential for digestion, and also helps us feel fuller for longer. Sometimes we confuse thirst for hunger, so keep a bottle of water by your side and sip it frequently—you’ll probably end up eating less.
Replace at least one meat dish with a vegetarian meal each week. That’s not an excuse to reach for a box of mac and cheese, however. A hearty three bean chili might be just the thing, or perhaps some pasta with roasted vegetables.
Eat fish at least once a week. Fish is naturally low in fat, and those that have higher levels, such as salmon, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Get moving. It’s one thing to watch our intake of fat and calories, but to complete the transition to a healthier low fat lifestyle, we need to burn calories by doing some regular exercise. You don’t have to become a gym rat or necessarily invest in a fancy treadmill. Find a friend or persuade your partner to join you; exercising with a buddy will help keep you motivated. Again, set realistic goals. There’s no point starting a rigorous regime that you can’t keep up with. Do consult a doctor beforehand, especially if you have been mostly inactive until now.
Eat healthy snacks. When you do get an attack of the munchies, make sure you reach for nutritious snacks such as fruit, low fat yogurt, wholegrain crackers, air-popped popcorn or raw veggies. An occasional cookie or square or two of chocolate is not the end of the world. Keep them as special treats, though. If you have made over your pantry then it shouldn’t be a big issue.