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Balancing your diet

bowl of fruit

During winter, our eating habits tend towards the rich and stodgy, with heavier meals to fight against the cold and wet, and combat winter fatigue. As well, the festive season is often the scene of more than a few indulgences! The result? When spring arrives, we can step on the scales with a few kilos too many. You may be tempted to launch yourself on a strict diet. However, the best way back to fighting weight is through healthy eating habits and a more balanced diet.

We all dream of a slimmer silhouette. But it shouldn’t come at the price of starving yourself or limiting yourself to a single type of food.  In fact, certain diets that promise rapid weight loss in just a few weeks can be downright dangerous for your health. In 2010, ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) carried out a study of some of the more popular diets of the moment. The results are clear: every single one was unbalanced!  Around 80% suggest a higher proportion of protein than the recommended daily amount, and 63% don’t contain the recommended amount of iron for women. Add to that a lack of vitamins, calcium and fibre, amongst others, and the list of deficiencies grows longer. The repercussions for our health can be dramatic: problems with kidneys, liver or our endocrine system, or loss of lean muscle mass and digestive problems, just for starters. Obviously rapid weight loss is not the best way to get back into shape. Start by looking at your eating habits and diet. Yes, it may take a bit longer, but you’ll be able to maintain the results.

Take a look at what’s on your plate

The first question you should be asking yourself is: What’s behind your excess pound? Are you over-eating? Eating badly? Are you getting regular exercise? Do you skip meals? Are you very stressed at the moment? By changing your (bad) habits and taking a second look at what you’re eating, you’ll be giving yourself every chance of getting rid of the excess weight, and keeping it off.

Should you always go back for seconds? Piling up sausage, mash and dessert at every meal? If you have a good appetite, try to gradually reduce your portion sizes, and avoid seconds.  One good tip is to serve your meals on smaller plates, giving yourself the illusion of a bigger portion. Choose taste and quality over quantity. And try exploring new recipes and different tastes, getting away from the uniformity of pre-prepared meals.

A varied and balanced diet

A balanced diet also means a varied one, in which all the food groups are represented. That means including starches like bread, pasta, rice or pulses because their starch and fibre gives you a feeling of satiety. Watch out for bad fats and sugar – frequently found in industrial pre-prepared foods. Instead, rediscover the pleasure of cooking delicious little meals (and avoid ruining them with vast amounts of mayonnaise and ketchup). Try not to add salt systematically either as it can increase your feeling of hunger.

Eat slowly

Take the time to eat slowly. Too often meals are eaten on the fly, while standing up or are reduced to a quick sandwich, or snacks in front of the TV. Eating quickly has become a bad habit, which is very stressful for the stomach, and bad for your weight. In fact, it takes only 10 minutes for your stomach to transmit the message of satiety to your brain. If you can take that time into account - and chew thoroughly – you’ll find that you’ll know better when you’re full, and won’t be tempted to overeat. Ultimately, don’t forget that eating should be a pleasure; meals should be experienced as an enjoyable, shared moment, far removed from stress and guilt. That also means you can indulge yourself here and there, as long as you eat healthily for the next few meals.

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