A few years ago, I was plagued with some serious stomach issues that turned out to be Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or more commonly known as Acid Reflux. In order to reset, I had to make some serious lifestyle changes.
I was already a pretty healthy person by nature – I don’t smoke and move my body for exercise on a regular basis – but there were a few bad habits that caused my busted gut. In addition to eating too much at one sitting and too close to bedtime, my addiction to spicy foods, love of champagne and daily coffee intake were literally burning me up from the inside out.
So I immediately began to avoid (some of) these trigger foods and, once I got used to my new fit practices, the extra pounds started melting away for good.
#1 Eat Breakfast Every Day
- Eating a Healthy Breakfast Can Offer Enhanced Performance and Weight Loss
We’ve heard it all our lives, a nutritious breakfast will keep you going until lunch time but, really, who has time in the morning? If you’re lucky, you grab a quick cup of Joe and a breakfast sandwich, right? Well, if this you, think again.
Many experts advise that by eating a healthy – not necessarily hearty – breakfast can offer enhanced performance and weight loss.
Eating a healthy breakfast can give you the following:
- A more nutritionally complete diet higher in nutrients, vitamins and minerals
- Improved concentration and performance in the classroom or the boardroom
- More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity
- Lower cholesterol levels
However, common sense should prevail here; don’t raid the donut box or go for the luck o’ the Irish with a bowl of Lucky Charms. In other words, refined carbs and sugars are not the way to go; these are just empty calories that will put you back to sleep faster than you can say sweet dreams.
Do choose the following:
- 100% Whole Grain oatmeal with fresh fruit
- Hard-boiled or poached eggs
- Natural Greek Yogurt with fruit and/or honey
- Sliced banana with all-natural peanut butter
#2 Eat only Real Foods that Your Granny Knows
- Eating “Real” Foods with 5 Ingredients or Less Leads to Longer, Healthier Lives
Since the early 1970s, Americans have slowly started adding more and more nutritionally engineered “food-like products” to their diets which aren’t necessarily good for us. These “processed” foods are riddled with ingredients that are not natural but, over the years, have become the norm. Some research indicates that by eating a diet consisting of mostly processed foods can lead to diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer among other illnesses.
A good rule of thumb is to read labels and eat only “real” foods that include 5 ingredients or less.
Avoid the following at all costs:
- Food products that are unfamiliar to you
- Food products that have ingredients that you can’t pronounce
- Trans Fats
- High fructose corn syrup
- Food that comes in elaborate, fancy packaging
- And finally, all processed foods
If your Grandmother doesn’t know what it is, then don’t eat it!
#3 Say Bye-bye to Sauces, Dressings and Condiment
- Avoiding Dressings in Salad May Cut At Least 140 Calories Per Meal
Since spicy was doing me wrong on so many levels, I just knew that I had to say good bye to salsa, Sriracha hot chili sauce, and I am still mourning the loss of my ability to drink a Bloody Mary. However, I decided to take it a step further and cut out all sauces, dressings and condiments and this is why:
The nutritional value of 2 Tbsps. of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing has 140 calories, 14 g of fat, 2.5 g of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and a whole slew of ingredients that I can’t pronounce; And while 2 Tbsps. of Hidden Valley Farm House Originals with Italian Herbs is not quite as bad at 80 calories with 7 g of fat, it still has several ingredients that I can’t pronounce and that are definitely not considered real food.
Can’t stand a dry salad? Then sprinkle some lemon juice or try my go to dressing of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) and lemon juice or olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Some might argue that my dressing(s) are fattening since 1 Tbsp. of EVOO weighs in at 119 calories and 13.5 g of fat but it is rich in Omega 6 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and high in monounsaturated fats which are good for your heart plus there is only one ingredient.
Also, most condiments are a food like substance and don’t contribute any added nutritional value to a person’s diet so I said buh-bye for good.
#4 Plan and Pack Ahead
- Sticking to a Meal Plan Helps Keep the Calories at a Minimum
Nothing derails my healthy eating habits more than not having a plan in place. This is why I create a weekly menu for lunches and dinners. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I have a standing lunch date with a salad and, on the alternate days, a turkey sandwich with hummus and avocado with a small bowl of vegetable soup and some carrots to add a crunch instead of chips or pretzels. Boring, right? Not necessarily; I always change it up by adding left-overs and unconventional healthy accouterments such as nuts and seeds, exotic soft cheeses and protein.
Also, I always keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand at home and work so, if I’m having a weak moment, I am more inclined to grab a cheese stick, handful of almonds, veggies with hummus, or a piece of fruit.
Often it is our addictions to refined carbohydrates and sugar that cause unhealthy eating habits so make sure to keep healthy options in the pantry and toss out all those unhealthy temptations.
The best advice I ever heard is that, if you are really hungry, an apple will satisfy your craving. So let’s not forget the old saying that, an apple a day, keeps the doctor away.
#5 Be Mindful of What you Eat
- Use Technology to Remain Accountable for Calorie Intake
My weekly menus also help me to be mindful of what I am eating. Since I am planning in advance and shopping for specific meals, it is easier to be accountable. I truly try hard to keep in mind that, if I had a sandwich for lunch and the family is having turkey burgers for dinner, I either go bun-less or throw it on top of a bed of greens and call it a salad. The same goes for dairy; However, I am not a big milk drinker so I typically get my calcium intake via Greek yogurt, half and half, soft cheese and sour cream.
However, one of the easiest bad habits to fall into is “Denial Eating.” This is when one might have a splurge day – filled with fast food, sweets, and lots of refined carbs – and then feel bad about it so they make sure to eat healthy for the rest of the week but only to disrupt all the discipline by treating themselves to another splurge day as a reward. After such a setback, we wonder how we possibly could have packed on the pounds after we’d been so good.
The key is being responsible and remembering what has passed through your lips. With technology, this is easy. There are many apps and websites that help you count your daily calorie intake and can also factor in exercise. A few of these are www.caloriecount.com; www.myfitnesspal.com; and www.fatsecret.com. Investing in a Fitbit ® is another great way to track your fitness.
I’m not saying that you should never treat yourself or splurge but, by having a plan in place and able to track calorie intake, you are more likely to stay on task with clean eating forever.
#6 Drink Water – not Sugary Drinks – and Detox
- Spa Water Can Naturally Aid Weight Loss, Reduce Bloat and Curb Appetite
I am an anomaly because I mostly almost only drink coffee, water and wine…with a little cold-pressed green drink thrown in now and again. I had to give up orange juice due to its high acidity and I have never been a sugary beverage drinker, but that is good. Soda, juices from concentrate, and the plethora of sweetened drinks out there are loaded with sugar but not the natural type. In addition, they are high in calories and, even if they are “diet,” they contain those food products (aka chemicals) that are not real foods.
Not a water drinker, then make “spa water.” By adding fruits and/or vegetables to your water, it naturally aids weight loss, reduces bloat and curbs appetite. Some examples: Grapefruit is a fat fighter and helps to curb appetite; cucumber helps to ease bloating; coconut water is hydrating; Aloe Vera is a natural detox and good for curtailing stomach acid; and lemon revs up digestions.
#7 Caffeine and Alcohol in Moderation
- Coffee and Wine in Small Quantities Offers Healthful Benefits
Nobody is perfect and that is why I do my best to follow my own advice. However, my love of coffee with loads of half-half and white wine are my vices. I know this which is why I try to ingest them in the most healthful way possible.
Coffee is known to contain some essential nutrients like an array of Vitamin Bs, Magnesium, Potassium, and Folate in addition to being high in antioxidants.
I have found an organic (fair-trade of course) breakfast blend that is low-acid. I use real stevia as a sweetener and gallons of REAL half-n-half. It certainly is fattening but, once again, the ingredients are only milk and cream, and are contributing to my daily calcium requirement. I have one cup at home in the morning and one cup when I arrive at the office.
If you love your high-end coffee drinks such as lattes and Cappuccinos, I have bad news for you. Despite being absolutely yummy, these designer drinks can start at 240 calories for a non-fat latte. A cup of drip is a mere 8 calories and, for me, the addition of 40 extra calories in my half and half.
In addition, I try to be mindful of my alcohol intake. There are some that believe – including myself – that a little wine on a regular basis is actually good for you. I have heard that red wine boasts the most healthful attributes – think Mediterranean diet – but any alcohol in moderation can be good for you. For women, a glass a day and, for men, two glasses can offer healthful benefits such as antioxidants, boosting blood flow and reducing depression. If you don’t imbibe your varietal on a daily basis, no more than 3 glasses in one day because binge drinking is not good for anybody in any capacity.
#8 Not Just What, But When you Eat Makes a Difference
- Eat Small, Healthy Meals Frequently to Lose Weight
One of the biggest contributors to my acid reflux was eating huge meals, especially at dinner time. The best thing for my body now is to eat only small, frequent meals throughout the day.
I almost always have the following every day: whole grain oatmeal and fruit every weekday morning or poached eggs on the weekend; some Greek yogurt mid-morning; my aforementioned pre-planned lunch; afternoon snack; and then dinner. I almost always end the day with a cup of herbal tea that helps to aid digestion. It is advisable to eat your final meal two hours before bedtime.
By following this regime, I never allow myself to get too hungry so that I won’t overeat and the smaller meals in my gut keep the acid at bay.
By making these 8 healthy changes to my eating habits, I am happy to report I rarely suffer from my GERD and I have lost the 10 pounds that I have been able to keep off.
So why diet when you can just eat healthy?
I am the creator of All Things Fashionating, a personal and lifestyle blog where this Jersey Girl turned Angeleno posts about my real life stories, notions of fashion and style, views on family, obsession with health and exercise, journey into spirituality, among other topics I find fashionating.