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2024 Diet Resolutions: Three Things You Shouldn’t Do

It’s the start of a new year and, for many people, that means New Year’s Resolutions. Many common resolutions revolve around health and losing weight.

It’s natural to want to change your diet when the year starts, especially since the holiday season is just ending. The holidays are often a challenge for weight control. There are so many gatherings and events, and they almost always include delicious meals, drinks, treats, and many baked goods that can all be very enticing.

This holiday season, you might have felt a little guilt when you picked up a second piece of fruit cake and thought “I'll have to change my diet once the holidays are over.”

Does that sound like you?

As a chef, I know how challenging it can be to be on any diet, especially since I love to cook and bake delicious foods and enjoy them too. Food is one of the most important parts of any culture, especially during celebrations and events, such as New Years, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and many others.

The key is often to keep a balanced lifestyle with a focus on healthy foods, self-discipline, and enjoyment.

There are a lot of different ways to lose weight, but you need to be careful that the strategy you choose doesn’t harm your overall health and wellness. Unfortunately, many common diet strategies – especially the ones that are popular today – can actually have negative effects.

Over the years, I have researched and practiced food as medicine. This means eating not just to survive or just to lose weight, eating foods that help your body and mind stay healthy.

When you are planning your new diet regime for 2024, practicing eating in moderation and making better food choices for your overall health. Here are three things you want to avoid while you're trying to lose weight.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

In a quest to reduce the number of calories you eat and lose weight, you might be tempted to start skipping breakfast. This isn’t a good idea. Your body needs energy to start the day. The key is to eat a healthy breakfast, rather than a doughnut or a bowl of sugary cereal.

This means having some protein in the morning.

Your body needs protein for many reasons. It fuels your body, provides you with energy, helps build muscles and tissue, carries oxygen and antibodies throughout your body, and much more[i]. It also takes longer to digest than other types of nutrients[ii], which means it can help you feel full for longer[iii].

Most people tend to get most of their protein during evening meals such as dinner and the least at breakfast. Spreading out protein consumption throughout the day can help decrease hunger and cravings, making it easier to control your weight.

Try to space out your protein so you’re having some at every meal[iv]. Around 15-30 grams of protein per meal is great[v]. What does 15–30 grams of protein in whole foods look like?

For breakfast, a banana, Greek yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg will get you about 19 grams of protein. Two soft or medium boiled large eggs and a piece of whole grain toast is approximately 15 gm of protein.

Other healthy breakfast suggestions that contain protein are:

·       Greek yogurt with fresh fruits

·       Soymilk and overnight oats with walnuts

·       Cottage cheese, eggs, and fresh vegetables

Of course, adding more protein doesn’t mean entirely eliminating carbs.

Don’t Cut Out All Carbs

Cutting out all carbs is a common practice for those trying to lose weight. However, there are several benefits to carbohydrates. Eating some carbs is important for living a healthy lifestyle[vi].

While carbs can be harmful in excess, they’re an essential part of a healthy diet. Why? Carbohydrates give your body energy. The quantity and quality of dietary carbohydrates may also have an impact on bone health.

The amount of carbohydrates your body needs will depend on how active you are. If you live an active lifestyle, you’ll need more carbs for energy than someone who is more sedentary. However, everyone needs some carbohydrates. About 45% to 65% of your total calories should come from carbs[vii].

However, not all carbohydrates are considered equal.

Refined or processed carbs, such as those found in white bread, cookies, soft drinks, and many other processed foods are far less nutritious than the more complex carbs found in whole grains and other whole foods.

Processed carbohydrates can cause weight gain, heart disease, and even type II diabetes. That’s because these carbs have many of their nutrients and fiber removed, so they tend to be mostly sugars and empty calories[viii].

Not only do processed carbs lead to potential weight gain, but they’re also proinflammatory and increase oxidative stress[ix]. They can also cause increased bone loss, low bone density, and a higher risk of fractures[x]. Foods that are high in processed carbohydrates often have a high glycemic index as well. This means they cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after you eat them[xi].

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates (found in foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil) have several health benefits. They provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the body and are used as energy[xii]. They have a lower glycemic index[xiii] and are beneficial to bone health as well[xiv].

These are the carbs you shouldn’t avoid. In fact, you need them. 

Consider adding a small bowl of brown rice to your meals, for example. Brown rice is packed with nutrients and helps you feel full[xv], while we are balancing the carbs and protein intake. There is a strong association between brown rice and weight management[xvi].

Don’t Cut Out All Sugars

You may think that sugar is bad for you and, yes, too much added sugar isn’t good for your health. However, much like with carbs, you don’t want to eliminate all sugars entirely. Again, it depends on the type.

Added sugars (such as those in soft drinks, cakes, pies, chocolate, fruit drinks and desserts) can cause health problems if you eat too much.

However, sugar can be a part of a healthy diet, especially when you get it from natural sources, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and dairy product replacements. For instance, while fruits do have naturally occurring sugars, they also contain fiber and many other vitamins and nutrients[xvii].

When you are reducing the amount of sugar you eat, it’s important to do it safely. Sugar is addictive[xviii]. Cutting out sugar all at once can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and even depression and anxiety. It can also cause you to crave sweet or high-calorie foods[xix]. Therefore, you’ll want to reduce your added sugar intake slowly.

Some of the leading sources of added sugars in the modern diet come from sodas, fruit juices, and energy drinks[xx]. Cutting these out of your diet, or at least significantly reducing how often you drink them, will help you reduce your overall sugar intake. Drink water and unsweetened coffee or tea instead.

Candies and sweets obviously have high quantities of added sugar as well. Try replacing them with fresh fruit instead.

When it comes to baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and even certain types of bread, know that these all contain added sugars. Eat them in moderation and have a small piece when it’s a special occasion. You can still enjoy life while being healthy!

Since sugar is addictive, you may find yourself craving it. Combat these cravings by eating more protein, satisfying your sweet tooth with fresh fruit instead of candy or cookies, getting enough sleep, and trying to reduce your overall stress levels. Chronic stress may contribute to food cravings[xxi].

By following these tips, you’ll be able to create a healthy diet plan for the new year and put yourself on the path to achieving your New Year’s resolutions without harming your overall health and wellness.

[i] Healthline. “9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body” Retrieved 3 January 2024

[ii] Livestrong. ”How Quickly Does Protein Metabolize?” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[iii] HealthCentral. ”Why Protein Makes You Feel Full Faster” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[iv] EatingWell. ”How Much Protein Do You Need to Eat Every Day?” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[v] Mayo Clinic. “Are you getting too much protein?” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[vi] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ”Carbohydrates” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[vii] National Library of Medicine. ” New dietary reference intakes for macronutrients and fibre” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[viii] Healthline. ” Why Refined Carbs Are Bad For You” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[ix] National Library of Medicine. ”Nutrients and Oxidative Stress: Friend or Foe?” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[x] MedScape. “What Impact Do Carbs Have on Bone Health?” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xi] Healthline. ” How to Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xii] Health.comWhat Are Complex Carbohydrates? — And 28 to Add to Your Diet” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xiii] Harvard Health Publishing. ” A good guide to good carbs: The glycemic index” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xiv] SaveOurBones. ” 8 Scientifically-Based Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of Healthy Carbs” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xv] Health.comHealth Benefits of Brown Rice” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xvi] HealthLine. ” Is Brown Rice Good for You?” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xvii] Nebraska Medicine University Health Center. ”Sugar in fruits: What matters for health” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xviii] HealthLine. ”Experts Agree: Sugar Might Be as Addictive as Cocaine” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xix] Medical News Today. ”What to know about sugar detox symptoms” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xx] NIH News in Health. "How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

[xxi] Real Simple. ”6 Reasons Why You're Always Craving Sugar—Plus Expert Tips on How to Stop” Retrieved 3 January 2024.

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