Lose weight and tone up – two of the most common goals people have when it comes to their health. And while countless online programs, gym challenges and tea detox plans promise you these effects (often overnight) with their unique formulas, I’m sorry to say that you really can’t beat a healthy balanced diet. So, here’s how to nail the healthiest version of yourself, once and for all.
If weight loss is your aim, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s no need to starve yourself or resort to the latest and greatest fad (take that, keto warriors). Instead, I recommend starting with small, realistic changes that you can accumulate over time. It’s a far more sustainable approach than a crazy crash diet.
The first place to start is with the core food groups, because these should make up the foundation of your diet. To get you up to speed, if you’re a female between the ages of 19-50, here’s how much you’re recommended to have each day:
1. Five serves of vegetables – mostly the non-starchy kind. One serve is a cup of raw vegetables or half a cup of cooked veg.
2. Two serves of fruit – for one serve, think an apple, two kiwi fruits or a cup of berries.
3. Six serves of grains – preferably wholegrain. One serve is equivalent to one slice of bread, half a cup of cooked rice, pasta or noodles, or a quarter of a cup of muesli.
4. Two and a half serves of protein – more on that later.
5. Two and a half serves of dairy or alternatives – mostly reduced-fat. One serve is one cup of milk, three quarters of a cup of yoghurt or two slices of hard cheese.
When I’m working with clients to lose weight, the first step I usually take is to compare their current diet to these guidelines, and recommend a few key changes to get them on track to healthy eating. Most of the time by simply tweaking their intake to focus on their core food group targets, they see results pretty quickly.
Once the core food groups are down-pat, the next step is to focus on discretionary choices (think: chocolate or wine). These foods are a common culprit for lots of extra calories that can lead to weight gain over time. So, it pays to be portion wise and cut down on these foods as much as possible – but of course, balance is important. So, for what it’s worth, to me that means enjoying a small portion of chocolate a couple of days a week or some wine on the weekend – but certainly not every day!
If you’re looking to build muscle mass, you’re probably thinking you need to spend up big on protein shakes and supplements. After all, that’s what the gym junkies do, right? But chances are you’re probably already eating far more than you actually need – and eating extra won’t automatically convert to increased muscle mass.
So, how much is enough? If you’re a female between the ages of 19 to 50, just two and a half serves of protein per day is recommended (yes, you read that correctly). One serve is just 65 grams of cooked red meat, 80 grams of cooked poultry or 100 grams of cooked fish. Two eggs, a tin of tuna or 170 grams of tofu also count as a serve. Spreading this protein content throughout the day is recommend, too.
For the average Joe to build lean muscle, you need to combine a healthy diet with resistance training two to three times a week. That doesn’t mean pumping iron at the gym every day – body weight exercises in your lounge room or at the local park count, too.
Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.