Once you've familiarised yourself with the fundamentals of weight loss and nutrition, the next step on your weight loss journey should be figuring out how to action what you've learned and incorporate those changes into your everyday life. Working with your health coach, you'll be able to piece together the right actions at the right time. Let's take a look at some of the goals you might decide to work on.
Restrict your calorie intake
Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume. This is known as a calorie deficit. To lose weight at a healthy and sustainable rate, you should aim to achieve a calorie deficit of 500 to 600 calories per day. As a general rule of thumb, men should aim to consume 2000 calories while burning 2500 calories and women should aim to consume 1500 calories while burning 2000 calories.
To achieve the correct number of calories per day, you should plan each meal and snack. A calorie counting app can help you to keep track of your calorie consumption.
Reduce your portion sizes
Plan each meal and cut down the portion sizes. Pay particular attention to the different food groups as you can reduce your calorie intake while curbing hunger by cutting back on the right food groups. To do this, increase the amount of fruit, vegetables and legumes in your diet while reducing consumption of the less healthy food groups, such as meat and dairy.
This will help you to control your appetite as vegetables and legumes are rich in fibre which promotes satiety, whereas certain meats and dairy products tend to contain a high amount of fat.
Eat the rainbow
As a minimum, aim for at least five fruits and vegetables per day. Vegetables are particularly important as they’re far less likely to contain fructose (a natural sugar) than fruit. Different coloured fruit and vegetables tend to have different health benefits so to get the maximum nutritional content, eat a ‘rainbow’ diet.
Where possible, try to eat fresh organic produce. Naturally sourced ingredients have an increased nutritional benefit.
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Eat unprocessed foods
Food is processed when it’s been altered in some way and so isn’t in its raw natural state. Some examples include ready meals, white bread, cured meat and cake.
To reduce your intake of processed foods, cook meals from scratch. This type of diet has a range of benefits including:
- Rich source of nutrients
- Low in refined sugar
- Reduced risk of inflammation
When purchasing food items, check the number of ingredients it contains. If there are a lot of ingredients, it’s likely to be highly processed.
Eat whole foods
Whole foods are packed with nutritional benefits. They’re high in fibre, low in refined sugar, and nutrient-dense. As well as this, they’re less likely to be high in saturated fats or trans fat, which is the worst type of fat that you can eat. Consumption of this fat raises “bad” cholesterol and decreases “good” cholesterol, making you vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.
Whole foods are less likely to cause a sharp spike in blood glucose levels compared to refined carbs. This is because whole foods are high in fibre, a nutrient that slows the absorption of glucose. As a result, you’ll avoid ‘sugar crashes’ and will feel fuller for longer.
For a diet rich in whole foods, make the following changes:
- Swap white bread, pasta and rice for their wholegrain varieties
- Increase the number of grains in your diet including quinoa, buckwheat, and spelt barley
- Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice
- Swap deli meats for roasted whole meats
- Instead of muesli bars, eat mixed nuts and seeds with dried fruit (with no added sugar)
Optimise fibre intake
Fibre has several health benefits. It aids digestion, encourages the production of good bacteria and even lowers your risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer. Fibre thickens the substance in your gut which slows down the emptying of the stomach, making you feel fuller for longer. That’s why a diet high in fibre is recommended for people trying to lose weight. You should aim for a fibre intake of 30g per day.
To increase the amount of fibre in your diet, you should try the following:
- Eat a high-fibre breakfast such as oats, shredded whole wheat cereals (e.g. Weetabix), or wholemeal bread with your favourite topping
- Swap white bread, pasta and rice for their wholegrain varieties
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (including potatoes) with the skin on
- Increase the number of pulses, beans and lentils that you consume
- Snack on fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts
Choose healthy snacks
Healthy snacking is a vital part of a weight management plan. Select a snack that’s high in protein or fibre to help you feel full until your next meal. Healthy snacks include a handful of unsalted and unsweetened nuts or seeds, whole fruits, wholegrain crackers or oatcakes (topped with avocado), nut butter (dipped with apple sticks), hard-boiled eggs, and edamame beans.
Prepare food healthily
The way that you cook your food will impact the nutritional value and fat content of your meal. When you roast or fry foods, you’ll usually use cooking oil or butter, increasing the number of calories and amount of fat in your diet. Boiling, poaching, blanching or grilling are healthy alternative cooking methods. If you do roast or fry your food, make sure you use a small amount of healthy cooking oil such as olive oil.
As well as sticking to healthy cooking methods, it’s important that you select the right ingredients to cook with. Before purchasing, check the fat and sugar content of each product. Both should be kept to a minimum while trying to lose weight.
For a healthier diet, select leaner cuts of meat. Chicken and turkey breast are leaner than the dark meat around the thighs. Lean cuts of beef include sirloin and tenderloin steak.
Optimise your water intake
Water aids weight loss and prevents dehydration. Aim for at least 1.5 litres per day. If you struggle to drink enough water, try using a 1.5-litre water bottle or setting reminders on your phone.
Reduce your caffeine intake
While a certain amount of caffeine is okay, too much can lead to poor quality sleep, negatively impacting your weight loss results. This is because a lack of sleep is associated with food cravings. On top of this, if you add sugar to your caffeinated drinks, you’ll negatively impact your diet. You should aim to consume less than 400mg per day which equates to around 2 to 4 cups of coffee.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Alcoholic beverages contain ‘empty calories’ as they have a large number of calories but little nutritional value. You shouldn’t exceed 14 units of alcohol per week, which equates to around 6 pints of lager or 9 small glasses of wine. You should also aim to have at least 3 alcohol-free days per week.
Introduce a fasting window
If advised by a nutritionist, you might benefit from eating within a specific time frame. If you include the time you sleep, then it’s easier to avoid food cravings. For example, if you’re eating within a 12-hour window, you could finish eating your dinner before 8 pm and withhold from breakfast until after 8 am.