Fitness, Nutrition

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

76764003

Please enjoy this excellent article by Kara Wahlgren.

 

In theory, weight loss should be easy: Watch what you eat, work up a sweat, and reap the rewards.

But losing weight doesn’t always seem that simple. You can feel like you’re doing all the right things — and you might lose some weight at first, but then you might reach the dreaded weight-loss plateau.

I’m sure you’ve been there: You’ve followed your diet to a T, you’ve cut calories, you work out regularly, and you’re still not losing weight. When you’re putting in the work and still not dropping pounds, well, that’s mind-numbingly infuriating. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

Don’t give up. Below you’ll find 10 reasons why the number on the scale might be stuck, as well as some suggestions on how to help you start losing weight again.

And, remember, it’s a journey. Even before you reach your goal weight by committing to a healthy lifestyle, you’ll start feeling stronger and learning to fuel your body with the right foods, and you might even find a workout you love!

10 Reasons You Might Be Struggling to Lose Weight

Losing weight takes work, but the rewards are worth it: a healthier heart, more energy, and checking yourself out in the mirror (and liking what you see), just to name a few.

1. You Have Unrealistic Weight-Loss Expectations

To be successful with losing weight, you have to have realistic and healthy expectations. And patience! You didn’t put on all the extra weight in a week or month, and you aren’t going to lose it all in a week or month either. And that’s OK.

Also, you might find that you are not actually losing weight but your body composition is changing, so the number on the scale might not be going down as fast as you like. Most scales don’t accurately reflect how much water you have in your system, how much body fat you’ve lost, or how much muscle you’ve gained. That’s why we encourage you to take “before” and “after” photos and to take your measurements.

When you lose body fat, you’ll be able to see it in how your clothes fit and in your pictures. Take a look at these “before” and “after” results to see what we mean!

“Often, I see clients get impatient and, if they don’t lose weight almost immediately, they change their regimens,” says Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “However, they may have been on the right path to begin with; they just needed to give it more time.”

2. You Don’t Eat Enough Food

Super low-calorie and elimination diets — like those that are probably clogging up your social media feed right now — ignore the fact that food is fuel. Calories, including often-maligned carbohydrates and fat, are required for you to live and breathe… let alone to lose weight in a healthy way.

“Because our body weight is regulated by multiple systems, starving ourselves activates the body’s protective mechanisms to defend our body’s weight,” says Ethan Lazarus, M.D., a board member of the Obesity Medicine Association.

“One of these mechanisms is dropping the metabolism as low as possible. In general, we recommend, unless under medical supervision, not keeping your calories below 1,200 calories per day.”

3. You’re Not Eating Carbohydrates (or Protein or Fat)

For a healthy diet — whether or not you’re trying to lose weight — the calories you eat should come from a combination of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, explains San Diego bariatric surgeon Julie Ellner, M.D.

Whole-food sources of unrefined carbs (ex. legumes, fruit, and raw veggies) are vital to keeping energy levels up so that you can crush your workouts. The fiber found in these carbohydrates (versus, say, a croissant), will help you stay full and help you be less likely to snack on something unhealthy.

In addition, when you eat too few carbs, your body doesn’t stock as much glycogen, the stored form of your body’s primary fuel source, glucose. And since each gram of glycogen is stored with three grams of water, the scale will reflect that reduction in water weight. But that’s all it is: water weight. So, while the lower number might be encouraging, it doesn’t reflect your progress toward your ultimate goal: fat loss.

In addition to losing primarily water weight, cutting back too far on carbs can leave you chronically low on energy, which can hamper your weight-loss efforts by keeping you more sedentary and lowering your workout performance.

You also need protein and fat. Both will help you feel full, but fat also helps regulate your hormones and protein is vital to building lean muscle mass, the primary determinant factor of your metabolic rate, Ellner says. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be.

4. You’re Not Working Out Hard Enough

When you go for a jog or long, slow bike ride, you burn calories, but your metabolism settles back to normal soon afterward. That’s one of the reasons high-intensity exercise like the kind of metabolic conditioning you’ll find in Beachbody programs such as CORE DE FORCE and 22-Minute Hard Corps is superior for weight loss. Not only do you burn more calories during every minute you work out, but your metabolism also remains elevated for days instead of hours.

5. You Only Do Cardio Workouts

When most people want to lose weight, the first thing they turn to is the treadmill, aka the “dreadmill.”

Hating your workout isn’t going to help you stick with a workout routine. And, you may find you have better luck losing weight if you take the emphasis off steady-state cardio and focus more on strength training.

According to one large-scale study from the Harvard School of Public Health, people who spent 20 minutes per day strength training gained less belly fat over the course of 12 years compared to those who logged the same number of minutes doing cardio.

“Even if following a healthy diet for weight loss with adequate protein, we don’t lose 100 percent fat,” says Lazarus. “We lose part body fat and part lean body weight (muscle), and losses in lean body weight can result in the metabolism slowing.”

“Strength training — whether it’s with weights, yoga, Pilates, or any other resistance-based workout — is important to preserve lean body weight and metabolism. Think about it: Weight training gives your body a bigger engine. That bigger engine burns more gas getting you around town,” Lazarus explains.

Cardio can certainly be a part of your weight-loss routine, but try to include weight-lifting sessions and bodyweight circuits into your routine several times per week.

6. You’re Trying to Change Your Whole Lifestyle At Once

Going on a diet sounds like it’s just one simple change. But, in reality, following a healthy diet and weight-loss plan may include shopping for new foods, learning new recipes, changing how you spend your time after work, potentially getting up earlier to work out, increasing your step count, fighting cravings for junk food , drinking more water, and so much more.

That’s a lot to take on at once and can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

That’s why a habit-based approach can help, especially for those who have a history of going on and off diets. A review from experts at the University College London’s Health Behaviour Research Centre shows that habit formation is vital to making sustainable, long-lasting changes.

Try focusing on changing one thing at a time, and practicing that change until it’s really cemented, and then work on adding in the next one. Some good examples of healthy changes:

  • Aim to eat vegetables in at least two meals each day

7. You Don’t Pay Attention to Your Body’s Cues

Trying to belong to the clean-plate club can hinder your weight-loss efforts because it ignores your body’s way of regulating food intake: namely, hunger and satiety.

“Paying attention to how each bite makes the body feel is critical to getting in touch with how much food we actually need, as well as what types of foods make us feel good and energized versus fatigued,” Ellner says.

She recommends eating when you are slightly hungry and to stop eating when you are slightly full. Although a 2014 Public Health Nutrition review suggests intuitive eating is a better tactic for weight maintenance versus weight loss, it has been shown to improve mental health and physical health factors other than body mass index.

If you find yourself gravitating to the kitchen or your desk’s snack drawer, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Often we eat out of habit, boredom, and stress. (Or because we’ve confused hunger with thirst!)

As you eat, nixing distractions such as the TV, computer, and phone can really help you hone in and recognize when you’ve eaten just enough, Ellner says.

8. You Eat More Than You Think You Do

“When people track their food intake for the first time, they are usually shocked to see what they are really eating throughout the day,” says board-certified family and bariatric physician Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., a diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

You don’t have to do it forever, but tracking every single thing you eat for as little as a week can help raise awareness of what you are eating and where you are getting excess calories or sugar, Nadolsky says.

Make sure to track everything — those little taste-test bites you take while cooking or handfuls of candy from your coworker’s desk add up.

Plus, if you add a “notes” column to your tracker or food journal, writing down how you felt prior to each meal can help you learn how your emotions, energy levels, and food schedule play into what you eat.

For instance, if you write: “I worked through lunch, and then my blood sugar completely crashed and I felt super shaky” after your “candy bar” entry, that gives you a lot more information as to what will help you avoid that daily 2 p.m. vending machine run, says Delbridge.

If you don’t have the time or headspace to count calories, you can also try the Beachbody Portion-Fix Eating Plan, which calculates your approximate total daily calorie needs and helps you stick to them with a color-coded portion-control container system. Simply eat the number of containers prescribed in your daily calorie range, and you don’t have to track or count calories.

Also, don’t try to accelerate your losses by slashing more calories than what’s recommended. If you don’t eat enough, your body will try to compensate for the excessive calorie deficit by slowing your metabolism. Your goal is to eat at just enough of a deficit to allow your body to burn through its fat stores.

9. You Don’t Get Enough Good Sleep

Just because you can “power through” on not much sleep, it doesn’t mean you can thrive that way — especially when it comes to weight loss.

“When we sleep, body fat makes two important hormones, leptin and adiponectin,” says Lazarus. “Leptin is our body’s best natural appetite-suppressing hormone, while adiponectin is helpful in making our body respond better to insulin.”

He explains, “After inadequate sleep, in addition to being tired, which we all know is every dieter’s worst enemy, we will be hungry and crave carbohydrates.”

In addition, one small study found that when dieters slept for only 5½ hours, they experienced 55% less weight loss and also saw their lean body mass decrease compared with those in the study who got 8½ hours of sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 sleep 7 to 9 hours per night. If you consistently get less than that — and 35 percent of American adults don’t get this amount, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — it’s time to make sleep a priority.

Stop treating sleep as a negotiable or the first thing to go when things get busy. To set yourself up for success, plan your sleep (establish a regular sleep schedule), and then schedule everything else on your to-do list around it.

10. You Spend a Lot of Time Sitting or Inactive

Hitting your workouts is great, but for optimal results, you shouldn’t limit movement to your workouts, says Nadolsky, noting that it’s your total amount of daily activity that truly matters for weight loss.

Unfortunately, simply exercising for 30 or 60 minutes a day doesn’t move you out of the sedentary category, and research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity shows that regular exercisers tend to spend just as much time sitting compared to those who skip their workouts.

Try integrating what Nadolsky calls “exercise snacks” throughout the day. Once per hour, get up and walk around your office, perform a single set of (bodyweight) squats, try deskercise,”or just enjoy a few standing stretches. Take a walking meeting, ditch the escalator for the stairs, or use a basket rather than a shopping cart when picking up a couple of things at the supermarket.

Fitness, Fortitude, Nutrition

What Happens When You Go “All In”

IMG_0512

Angie and I recently finished a rigorous fitness & nutrition program called 80 Day Obsession. The name is a little off-putting as I don’t like to think we are (or ever need to be) “obsessed” with our fitness or physique. I prefer to think of this endeavor as 80 days fully committed, focused, and “all in.” It was a personal test to see if I could eat really healthy for 3 months and stick to a challenging workout schedule. I often say we must do hard things if we want to be our best, so I put my words to action. Here are a few key takeaways from the experience:
Results are Visible
While my photos may not blow you away with transformation like Bruce Banner to Hulk, some pretty cool stuff happened to my body.
Lost over 4% body fat
Lost about 3″ from my waistline
Gained nearly 1″ in my arms
Gained about 5 lbs.
Angie reported losing over 8 lbs. and 7 inches overall which is significant for someone who is already fairly petite. There’s one thing you need to remember about the scale though. Muscle weighs more than fat, so to focus on the scale as the judge & jury for success in your healthy living journey is very short-sighted. No one wears a sign with their weight on it. It’s about how you carry the weight, how you FEEL in your skin, and what you can DO now that seemed impossible before. Clothes fit better, and in Angie’s case she’s down a couple sizes even though the scale only says down 8 lbs. More importantly, she’s gained confidence from this experience which brings me to my next point.
Invisible Results are Awesomer
That’s right, I said awesomer. Doing something hard like a rigorous fitness program does amazing things to you that can’t be seen in before & after photos.
     Added significant strength – Angie & I both increased our weights more than we could have hoped. We FEEL so much stronger because we ARE MUST STRONGER.

IMG_0489
     Mental fortitude increased – I can’t say enough about this part. The “doing hard things” is mostly mental. The body will go where the mind takes it. We are so apt to quit when something is hard, so to LEARN to conquer our mind and tell it “No!” when we feel like quitting, when we feel too tired to exercise, when we feel like eating cookies instead of carrots, is a really big deal. The DISCIPLINE learned is that I can do more than I thought, I CAN conquer my mind – my thoughts, feelings, and attitudes to align with my goals.

conquer2
     Eating Healthy Isn’t Punishment – I had my doubts about the nutrition plan that goes with the workout program. Yeah, you probably think I’ve been a healthy eater for a long time so this would be no big deal. You are mistaken my friend. To REALLY dial in the nutrition by eating certain food groups at specific times of day in specific quantities, and eating ALL THE FOOD I’m supposed to was a huge challenge at first. Practice became habit. My body adjusted to eating 5 meals with 6 servings of veggies a day . All the veggies! I was rarely hungry, no energy crashes, VERY regular digestion, and we saved money at the grocery store.

“Hmmm. Eat more, save money, and get more lean? Where do I sign up??”

Further, meal times required no fuss or thought. No scavenging through the pantry. I planned ahead. I did meal prep on the weekends. Virtually all my meals were accounted for ahead of time. Super easy. And when I wasn’t at home, I could either take a healthy snack with me or just make good choices. Just because donuts are offered, doesn’t mean I have to eat them. Especially in the last month of the program, I found it easier to make healthy choices. Instead of craving sugar and junk food more as I went along, I wanted it LESS. And when I did treat myself, it was disappointing at best. It’s miraculous really. The body craves real, healthy food and rewards you when you eat it.

Bottom line is that eating healthy is actually a blessing, a gift rather than a punishment. My transformation is mostly mental in the way I see food. I understood the ideas of healthy eating before, but this experience has changed me. Healthy habits refined. Momentum built. Confidence growing.

I firmly believe that when you conquer your mind with discipline and a lifestyle of healthy habits, the benefits can reach into other areas of your life to make you a better spouse, friend, parent, worker, etc. Do you want to be a better person? Gain confidence? Get in the best shape of your life? All at the same time? Maybe it’s time for you to go “all in” on a complete fitness and nutrition program.

Nutrition

Feed Your Machine

feed the machine1Some time ago, I wrote about some timeless principles to manage your most important project (YOU) – by focusing on being a better person. You can read it here.

I want to take the idea of managing yourself a step further to look at your physical health. After all, you can’t be your best when you don’t feel good. I’m going to focus on nutrition. Hear me out, this is not a shake-my-finger-at-you sermon to go on a diet. Diets don’t work. My focus is a paradigm shift regarding the way we think about food.

Here are two scientifically proven mathematical equations for food to get us started.

Garbage In = Garbage Out

Eat Real Food = Feel better + Improve Performance + Look Better

Your body is a finely tuned machine. You may not think so when you look in the mirror, but it is absolutely true. It performs countless functions every moment that we don’t even realize. It also gives feedback on how we take care of it.

Much like any other machine, it performs well when it is cared for, and it performs poorly when it is not cared for. Ever put soda or donuts in your car’s gas tank? Would it operate well if you did? In the same way, we need to feed our bodies with the right fuel if we expect to perform our best.

body-trash

NEWS FLASH: our bodies were not meant to eat highly processed, chemically enhanced, boxed food with 25 ingredients on the nutrition label even if it says “low fat”, “healthy”, “low calorie”, “high protein”, etc. Without getting into all the science of chemical additives and processing, I promise that these unnatural, unpronounceable ingredients are not good for us.

If you feel low on energy during the day, depend on caffeine, carry more weight than you’d like, suffer from pain and fatigue from performing common activities, have indigestion, bloating, or are often “irregular” you should first look at how you fuel your machine.

I’ve been on a journey of natural, whole foods healthy eating for a while now and can attest that it is the secret formula to help all the ailments I mentioned and more.

95 disease by food

You might say, “I don’t have time to eat healthy” or “I don’t know how to eat healthy.” I’m with you. I said these things myself, and not too long ago.

Changing your nutrition requires a change in your MINDSET about food first. You must agree that your fuel impacts your body’s performance and that natural, whole food is the best way to eat.

Instead you say, “I can’t afford to eat poorly” or “Learning to eat right is important to me and I’m going to figure out how to do it because I want to perform, feel, and look my best.”

You make conscious decisions about what you put in your mouth because you know that it will absolutely impact you whether you feel it immediately or not. Just like you wouldn’t put soda in the gas tank because you know the car wouldn’t work, you mindset about fueling your body should be the same. I mean who doesn’t want to perform, feel, and look their best today AND for the long term?

Educating yourself about proper nutrition and whole, natural food eating is key. The internet is filled with nutrition advice, some of it is good (and much is not).

My favorite healthy eating resource is www.9010nutrition.com This is a thorough resource with articles, videos, links to healthy recipes, and a no obligation email registration that connects you to even more great advice and encouragement to help you along your healthy eating journey. Of course there is the Fitness & Nutrition tab on my website that has a recipe section as well.

If you are ready to make real and lasting changes to your health, the next step is up to you. I would be honored to help you get started on your healthy living journey. Let’s chat!

Nutrition

Can You Say “I’m So Full” On Your Diet?

IMG_0400 rev

Please don’t diet.

Diets in their traditional sense are not sustainable long term. They usually make you feel terrible, starved, irritable, hating life, etc. That’s why people don’t stick to diets and why there is a multi-billion dollar industry built around our propensity to quit and re-start the next diet fad. The results are an exhausting yo-yo through our healthy living journey. What’s the latest diet craze? Keto. No carb. Calorie In Calorie Out? Anyway, whatever is the latest thing is what people will do…and ultimately quit leaving their temporary results behind. Ugh. There must be another way. Good news!

I’m no foodie, and I’m actually not very good at healthy eating. I can dive off the wagon as fast as anyone, chomping cookies all the way to a delightful belly ache. But I’m now 1/2 way through an 80 day eating plan that has my nutrition dialed in like never before and I have to tell you what I’ve learned so far.

1. Using portion control containers is a pain to learn, then super easy.
Portion control containers is not a new concept, but it’s new to me. I loathed the idea of measuring my food, and I was certain it was complicated. Yep, I’m guilty of formulating an opinion without any real evidence or trying it myself.

IMG_0415Here’s the thing. I have a complete written guide that spells out what the containers are for, when I should eat them, and in what combination. I really don’t have to think about it. Just follow the instructions.
2. I’m so full. I can’t eat anymore.
Mind blown on the first day. I selected the nutrition plan that suits my weight and goals based on a simple calculation to pin my calorie range. Mine happens to be about 2,400 calories per day to maintain weight (I’m not interested in losing weight) with 30-60 minutes of daily exercise. I ate so much food that by dinner time I was not even close to hungry. I ate anyway, as prescribed. Hey, I’m a rule follower. It seems very counter-intuitive to eat so much when you are supposed to be eating healthy, but when you eat the right foods at the right times the results will follow. Even Angie’s plan (designed for her to drop a few pounds) has her tummy full every day and she is losing inches and LB’s consistently.
One more thought about this. Simply counting calories and eating whatever you want does not work. You will be hungry because your body is starving for NUTRIENTS not calories. You must feed the machine that is your body!
3. “Meal prep” sounds like a curse word, until you actually do it.
Guilty again of opinion without personal experience. I assumed it would be terrible. “Who has time for meal prep?” Seven weeks in, I testify that meal prep works. Make a mess in the kitchen once and be done for the whole week. Having all your food set for the week is liberating. It’s easy to pack, so it can be taken to work (no excuses) and I don’t have to dig through the fridge/ pantry to find something to eat.

CaptureIMG_0444
4. My budget likes when I eat well.
You save money when you grocery shop with a plan. We no longer buy things that don’t align with the eating plan, so there is no wasted food and no worthless snacks in the cupboard. Our plan comes with a long list of options for every food category to take any guesswork out of shopping. Buying produce doesn’t go bad when you use it every day. Frozen veggies and fruits last a long time. Most boxed snacks, cereal and other “foods” are expensive if you consider that eating a serving of cookies or chips leaves you hungry in 20 minutes.

IMG_0435IMG_0449
5. Having a partner in this is the best.
I would really struggle doing this alone. Angie is my support and I am hers. We are in this together and that makes it more rewarding and fun. This adventure is something we have in common, and we pick each other up when it gets hard. It’s not all easy. Sometimes cookies sound better than carrots, but we have goals, a plan, and each other to press on. We are also in a larger “virtual” support group through a handy phone app with daily check ins and encouragement from others doing the same thing.

IMG_0457IMG_0452
6. I feel great!
Eliminating hunger from my daily struggle on my healthy living journey is FREEDOM! I don’t think about food like I used to. I eat what I’m supposed to, when it’s time, and it works. I don’t have sugar spikes and crashes, no bloating, my digestion is excellent, mental clarity is improved, skin feels better, I’m losing fat and adding muscle in all the right places.

So there you go. I guess this is my 40 day review of the nutrition part of the 80 Day Obsession program Angie & I are doing now. I didn’t even touch the workout part – maybe some other time. But even if this amazing Beachbody program isn’t for you, learning portion control and healthy eating has never been easier. Don’t be fooled by elaborate schemes, special “protein bars” or expensive mail delivery meals as seen on TV. You don’t need them. Do this. I’m happy to show you how.

Fitness, Nutrition

10 Easy Healthy Eating Resolutions

10-Easy-Healthy-Eating-Resolutions-752x472.jpg

Ah, the New Year. Everyone is talking about the tricks to making this your best year yet. But “have the best year yet” is a pretty lofty resolution that probably gets ditched before Groundhog Day. Am I right, or am I right? Instead, why not resolve to make small changes that add up to a great year – starting with eating healthier – cuz it seems everyone vows to eat better in January.

Here are 10 healthy-eating resolutions to help you feel and look your best, no joke. The great news is they’re all easy — so you can choose one or all 10! Regardless, I promise even one small change from this rock star list will lead to a healthier you.

1. DITCH THE PACKAGED PRODUCTS

The first (and best!) way to clean up your diet is to ditch the packaged products lurking in the pantry. That’s right, the ones that are full of all of those chemical preservatives and fillers you can’t pronounce. Read the ingredients list and not just the nutrition label. Ingredients is king when it comes to healthy eating. Cookies, crackers, canned soups, instant grain mixes and microwave meals: Pitch them all and start fresh with a clean pantry.

Ask yourself how many of those things you really need. Then, figure out the ones you can make yourself. We can help! For example, make your own nut butter or a one-hour jam with fresh produce (and no preservatives). Instead of keeping ancient jars of salad dressing, mix up your own vinaigrette.

2. FILL YOUR PANTRY WITH PRODUCE-FRIENDLY STAPLES

Now that your pantry has been cleaned of packaged products, you’ll need to restock with healthy grains, herbs, spices and ingredients that will help you transform all that fresh, seasonal produce into delicious meals! Great olive oil, lemons, whole grains, legumes and a nice loaf of whole-grain bread are good places to start!

3. DRINK MORE WATER

Healthy eating means healthy drinking too. A super simple way to keep yourself full and reduce the portions you eat is to start each meal with a large glass of water. Many of us don’t drink enough water anyway, and there are so many health benefits to being well hydrated. Substitute your daily soda with water and watch your body change! You will feel better, have more energy, and you will lose weight with this one thing.

4. BUY A RICE COOKER, SLOW COOKER OR AN INSTANT POT

If you’re still making everything on the stove top a la minute, you’re missing out on a great healthy eating hack (and therefore missing out on a nearly-no-brainer way to make healthy meals). Pick up a rice cooker, slow cooker or Instant Pot and completely revolutionize the way you cook and eat this year. The model you choose depends on how you eat; slow cookers (recipes) are the least precise of the bunch, but high-end rice cookers have functions for every grain you can imagine wanting to cook and they’ll cook it precisely while you’re out playing, working or getting in your workout. (Your rice cooker will even cook oatmeal perfectly while you’re sleeping so you wake up to a delicious breakfast!) Instant Pots are great, too, and cook entire meals in pressure-cooker style. Regardless of the model you choose, picking one of these counter top helpers sets your healthy eating on the right track.

5. EAT FOR COLOR

Having great ingredients on hand is key to making and eating healthy, delicious meals but pairing the foods together to make them nutritious and balanced is also vital. Aim to get 4–5 different colors in your bowl at each meal. It’s easier than you think, and certainly more fun. By adding colorful foods to each plate, you’ll add interesting flavors and appealing textures — and each of those ingredients brings a whole lot of nutrition to your meal. Crunchy purple cabbage, brilliant orange pumpkin, vibrant and fresh cilantro and crunchy black sesame seeds are all great examples of ingredients that might not be in your repertoire but guarantee you’ll never have one of those boring green salads again! And, if you find yourself in a pinch, you can always add a colorful smoothie to your lunchbox or breakfast spread.

6. BYOL (BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH)

Bringing your own lunch is another super-simple way to guarantee a great, healthy meal in the middle of the day. It’s a money saver, too. Practice the eat-for-color rule above, and prepare yourself a little mini-picnic with great leftovers from last night’s dinner. It doesn’t take much more than a bit of forethought to produce a great packed lunch. By bringing your own meal, prepared in your own kitchen, you’re doing something good for your body and your wallet.

7. BATCH COOK FOR THE WEEK

This year, make a vow to have leftovers. Really! And, promise yourself that every week you’ll spend a little time preparing them — all at once. By picking a day each week to batch cook for the week ahead, you’re setting yourself up for a week of healthy meals. Select a protein, grain and several colorful vegetables to prep and have on hand so meals come together in a snap. This makes colorful eating and lunch packing a breeze, and means you’re never feeling left in a lurch when it comes to dinner.

8. MAKE BREAKFAST AHEAD

When life gets crazy, breakfast is the easiest meal to miss. But, we all know it’s also the most important meal to eat. Eating a balanced breakfast helps keep your metabolism running and is vital to loading up your system with healthy nutrients you’ll use throughout the day to work, play or exercise. Without them, your body and brain get sluggish and you lose motivation and focus. By making breakfast ahead in Mason jars to take with you as you rush out the door in the morning, you’re making sure you never head into a nutrient deficit, and instead head into the day feeling ready to face it! I love having my daily dose of dense nutrition for breakfast every morning. It’s technically made ahead, takes only 2 minutes to mix, and keeps me full until lunch.

9. MAKE SALAD FOR DINNER

Even if you batch-cook and fill your pantry and refrigerator with beautiful, healthy ingredients, there will be nights when you realize you just really didn’t think about dinner. For nights like that, keep a bunch of kale or spinach on hand and make it your salad for dinner night. Even just once a week, you’ll find that this lighter, fresh, healthy, balanced meal is a nice way to re-balance yourself. Alternatively, you can have breakfast for dinner to mix it up.

10. SWAP YOUR SWEETENERS

No healthy eating strategy should be without healthy treats, so vow to swap out refined sugars for healthier options at every meal. Think about the source of the sugar and consider using maple syrup or honey instead of refined sugar. And, when you’re reaching for dessert, try having fresh fruits and antioxidant-rich dark chocolates instead of their super-sweetened counterparts.

Special thanks to Lentine Alexis for doing the heavy lifting on this article and for my friends at 90/10 Nutrition for helpful links that make this article a great resource.