For many, now that the new year has begun, so does the start of diets, weight loss programs, and exercise routines. Making a change can be hard, since waking up an hour earlier to go to the gym and chug a green smoothie can, at first, seem like climbing a mountain.
If you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to achieve a healthier version of yourself, then congrats! You’ve made the first step. The next step should be to eliminate meat and dairy, and to eat more vegetables. Though keeping track of your calorie intake is important, don’t get too caught up in counting. You risk loosing sight of the larger picture. Some low-calorie foods and food products marketed as helpers of weight-loss aren’t made with healthy ingredients. Here are five rules to eat plant-based without thinking about calories or nutrient ratios.
1. Don’t overdo it on healthy fats
Nuts and seeds like flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil are good vegan sources of the omega-3 ALA. But too much of these good things can mean bad weight gain. These are plant-based foods you don’t want to overdo on consuming. Don’t eat too much or you could gain weight. If you find yourself killing multiple handfuls, take a break. A couple of tablespoons is usually enough to add a healthy amount of fat to your meal.
2. Always go for raw fruits and vegetables
Do you find yourself comparing the two nutrition bar packages for which one has the most vitamin A, C, fiber, etc? Remember that eating the raw version of foods is the best way to get the most nutrients from the food. Raw is the simplest, purest form of the food, so eat an apple over applesauce. Eat raw broccoli on a salad instead of boiled broccoli with butter.
3. Look for “unsweetened”
People who embrace a new vegetarian or vegan diet for weight loss reasons may be fooled into eating packaged foods labeled “vegan.” If you are having trouble losing weight, consuming too many sweetened products could be one of the culprits. Even foods that are considered healthy like almond milk can have sugar in it. Instead of buying the vanilla or regular dairy-free milk, vow to always buy the version labeled “unsweetened.” Follow this rule when grocery shopping instead of comparing sugar contents on flavored drinks.
4. Include carbohydrates, protein, and a healthy fat in each meal
Though it’s best to figure out the nutrient ratio of your food, a rule to eat plant-based without worrying about those numbers is to remember: pair fat, protein and carbohydrates. Balance is the key. Make a list of healthy fats, like olive oil, then add proteins like lentils and carbohydrates like fruit or sprouted grains. Then, make meals by combining one from each list together. Once you remember what’s a fat and what’s a protein, then when in your kitchen trying to figure out a balanced meal, you can quickly grab three items without thinking about it too much.
5. Never eat packaged bread
Some of the ingredients in store-bought loaves of bread with a relatively long shelf life are just downright awful for your health. Potassium bromate, high fructose corn syrup, and refined grains are just a few of the unhealthy and harmful ingredients that are hiding in packaged bread. Don’t get caught up in comparing calorie amounts per slice or studying all the packaging statements like “heart-healthy, good for weight loss, etc.” Instead, remember the rule to not eat those products. Instead, make your own healthy bread, or go to a health food store and purchase organic sprouted grain bread. Most stores keep it in the freezer, since there are no preservatives to make it last like other breads. Personally, I love the Ezekial 4:9 brand by Food for Life.