Whether you are making a New Year’s resolution or simply want to keep improving the healthy eating strides you’ve made, professional weight loss coach Georgie Fear, RD, has some simple tricks to getting the most out of your food.
The good news? You don’t need to starve or even cut out your favorite treats (“I highly recommend playing favorites and sticking to the ones you know you love,” shares Fear). You do need to invest some time, however, into looking at your current habits and being a bit adventurous when it comes to those good for you things like veggies, fruits, beans and grains (“Recent findings are revealing that the variety of fibers reaching the large intestine fosters having a healthier gut flora,” explains Fear, “and the diverse bacterial species you’ll cultivate with a varied diet can help with blood glucose management, weight loss, immunity and possibly even mood!”).
We chatted with Fear about what you should be eating more of—and how to cook it—along with what you can work on eliminating from your diet and how to be consistent with your habits.
WR: What food, if any, do you think people should try to cut down on?
I think the number one food people should work on cutting back on are those workplace treats you only eat because they are free and there. So often, these aren’t high-quality items that really bring us great pleasure; they’re store-bought or mass-produced baked goods that we go to for a break from a tedious task or to conform to social pressures. I’m the last person who would say you should cut out all sugar or cut out all treats, but I do encourage being more selective if you want to lose weight. That means not taking every sweet thing you are offered, and instead considering if this is truly one of your personal favorites. If it is, by all means, accept and savor it! If not, you’ll likely never regret passing on it. You’ll improve your overall diet quality by reducing your intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates, but stay out of the deprivation mentality induced by having to say NO over and over to your favorite treats as you do on most diets.
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WR: What is the best way to work on cutting things out and eating healthier?
Building habits is the most powerful way to keep from burning out on a behavior-change project. What makes it difficult for people to use this strategy is our natural proneness to love immediate gratification and our faulty presumption that difficulty is linearly related to efficacy. It’s not! Making yourself miserable may shed pounds rapidly—compared to making a small consistent change—but it usually means the change is short-lived and in a matter of days or weeks you are back at your usual habits. Working on one habit at a time means less discomfort and a better chance of successfully maintaining the improvements for the long haul. When it comes to weight loss and health, being consistent for months wins every time over being heroic for a few days.
WR: What foods should people try to eat more of? Anything specific you would recommend adding to a diet at least once per week?
On a daily basis, adding extra virgin olive oil to your foods is a great dietary habit to get into. Lately, there has been a trendy move toward consuming more saturated fats (like bacon and coconut oil), however these fats and oils do not have many of the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil. Despite the buzz from bloggers, scientific evidence still backs a diet with ample olive oil as the best pick for cardiovascular health. I love a little butter here and there—there is no need to remove all saturated fats from the diet—but I recommend olive oil have a greater predominance in your diet than fats which are highly saturated.
I also recommend adding more cruciferous vegetables to your diet, both for weight loss and cancer prevention as well as reduced risk of other chronic disease. Cruciferous veggies are members of the cabbage family: broccoli, cauliflower, red and green cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and kale are all on this all-star roster. If you currently love these veggies, I’d suggest trying to form a habit of eating at least one cup of cruciferous veggies per day. If your relationship with these vegetables is slightly less enthusiastic, try to get at least one cup a week. You can do it.
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WR: Do you have a favorite recipe that includes both olive oil and cruciferous veggies?
I’m loving this 10-minute roasted kale, which includes both! It’s savory and flavorful, easy to make and packed with nutrients. It’s a perfect side dish for chicken and also delicious tossed with pasta or white beans for a vegetarian main course. I find this texture just right; the kale comes out not dry and crumbly as kale chips, but tender overall, with some browned and toasty bits. You can add cayenne pepper if you like things spicy, too.
Roasted Kale Recipe
Serves 2 Kale Lovers
1 bunch kale (curly kale or black/lacinato kale are both fine)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon white or cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Wash kale and shake off excess water (it doesn’t need to be dry). Remove tough center stems.
- Place into a mixing bowl. Tear up any very large pieces (bigger than the palm of your hand); no need to chop. Add olive oil and massage with your hand to mix and coat all the pieces.
- Spread kale evenly on a baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Sprinkle vinegar over the top, and move the leaves around a bit with your hands or a spatula to spread the vinegar around.
Note: It’s fine if it doesn’t coat every piece.
- Bake for ten minutes or until toasted brown spots appear on top.
Want more? Georgie Fear is author of both Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss and Racing Weight Cookbook, both great resources for working on a nutrition habit program and finding healthy recipes!