Gaining weight? Let Zest's nutritionist Judith Wills eliminate the diet saboteurs in your life, whether you're at home, in the supermarket or eating out
Get calorie clever and learn to love carbs again - the US Institutes of Health found that a diet heavy on low-GI carbohydrates, such as pulses, brown rice, sweet potato and wholegrain bread, stabilise blood sugars and create a full feeling for longer after a meal. The general rule is that carbs, including veg and fruit, should make up about 40% of your daily calorie count, with 30% of the total calories devoted to protein and the last 30% being made up of a small quantity of high-calorie healthy fats from olive and rapeseed oils, nuts and oily fish. No one wants to whip out a calculator at every meal, but there is a simple, more visual, way to stick to the rule. Divide your plate into two halves at lunch or dinner. One half should be equally split between low-GI carbs and lean protein. The second half of your plate should always be filled up with vegetables or salad. The fat-calorie content will usually be hidden in your meat, or the oil in your dressing.
Are you the sort of person who eats dinner on your lap in front of Heroes and wolfs it down before the first ad break? Then start to take your time over eating. According to Japanese studies, people who eat fast miss their 'feel full' signals. So chew, chew again and concentrate on the act of eating (yes, that means turning off the telly) as this will make you eat more slowly, and so eat less.
This year, over 10 million of us will go on some sort of diet. Six weeks on, half of us will have thrown in the towel and, even if we do manage to shed a few pounds, 12 months later 95% of us will have put all the weight back on. The key to escaping this on-off dieting mentality, says Zest nutritionist Judith Wills, is to boost your body IQ.
'Intelligence is usually applied to our mental prowess; we rarely think of our physical intelligence,' she explains. 'Upping your body IQ means learning how your appetite works naturally and getting savvy about the hidden fat traps that send you off course, such as two-for-one supermarket offers, indulgent restaurant meals and shop-bought salads that come with a creamy dressing.'
And if you change your habits? You'll get weight loss without the work... and no chance of the pounds creeping back on, either. Up your physical intelligence in three key areas - how you eat, shop and dine out - and rejoice in the results!
Heading out for dinner? These days, it's easy to check out the menu online rather than just turn up and find everything is deep fried. If you can't give the menu the once over in advance, Japanese or vegetarian Indian food tend to be healthier options. If you're eating Italian, opt for fish, shellfish and vegetables instead of big plates of spaghetti, or have a starter portion of pasta for your main dish. Eating Thai? Plump for hot and sour dishes, while in Indian restaurants choose tandoori bakes and grills, and lentil-based dhals instead of creamy curries.
You may be on first-name terms with the guy in your local sandwich shop, but getting up ten minutes earlier to make your own sarnie will up your body IQ, and reduce your waistline. If that's not practical, check what you're buying for hidden extras. Just because it's a salad doesn't mean it's healthy - it could be loaded with high-fat mayonnaise. Consider what you'll be eating and doing for the rest of the day, too. If you've had a low-fat yogurt for breakfast and are planning to have steamed salmon and veg for dinner, but know you're going to be rushing around all afternoon, then you'd be better off going for that cheese and ham baguette. Yes, a crayfish salad can be healthier, but not if it means you're going to be tucking into a Mars bar during the afternoon because your energy levels are flagging. Tune into what your body needs and you'll find healthy eating isn't about depriving yourself.
Supermarkets know your body IQ better than you do and use a whole host of ploys to tempt you into buying things you don't need. So watch out for these tricks. Popular brands are often placed at eye level, and essentials such as bread and milk at the back of the shop, so you have to walk past all the other products - inevitably falling for extras that catch your eye along the way. Wise up to 'coupling', too - you go to buy a bag of salad and some tomatoes, then spy the bottle of Caesar dressing and pack of croutons beside them. Suddenly, that healthy lunch you were planning has more hidden fat and calories than a mayo-filled sarnie.
OK, it's something your mother would do before hitting the shops, but answer this: how many times have you gone into a supermarket for a pint of milk and come out with a bag of crisps or cookies that just happened to be on offer? Following a list is the first step to improving your shopping IQ, as it means you won't get distracted by tempting treats you don't really need. Set yourself a speed-shop time limit, too - according to one study, once you linger, pick something up and look at it, there is a 50% chance you'll buy it. Avoiding food shopping when you're hungry is also an effective trick, as you'll be more likely to grab snacks and ready meals than healthy ingredients. And use a basket, not a trolley - if you're carrying what you buy, you'll be less likely to load up on bulk-buy offers.
For more ways to boost your body IQ, read Judith's book Escape the Fat Trap for Life (Kyle Cathie, £9.99)
Like us on facebook
Follow us on twitter
Other Hearst Magazines UK sites