Updated: Apr 2
When clients come to me wanting to lose weight, one of the first things we tackle is the current foods they consume every day. That old adage, if you only have healthy foods, you'll only eat healthy foods couldn't be more spot on. So, how do you measure up?
Part of shifting to a healthier way of living it to clear out the pantry and fridge, making way for healthier swaps for the less nutritious food items and eliminating all overly processed, sugary food stuff. If you stock your shelves with the good stuff, you will eat the good stuff. It doesn't need to be a drastic clean out either, just start replacing food items with healthier options as you run out. But if you want to do a complete kitchen overhaul, donate unused goods, wipe down surfaces and then hit the shops or farmer's markets for fresh, wholesome goodness.
Clearing Out Your Kitchen
It's all well and good committing to eating less biscuits or enjoying more fruits and veggies, but unless you change what's in your cupboards, the chances are you'll find temptation catching up with you sooner or later.
I often recommend that clients take the time to do a thorough spring cleaning of their pantry when shifting their diet to more healthier foods. The easiest way to start is to read food labels, and systematically clean out items that you know are your downfall. Get rid of products that are overly high in sodium, sugar or artificial colorings and preservatives. Cola, tomato sauce, pre-packaged snacks and biscuits, and high-sugar cereals are all likely culprits for a purge — or at least some serious reflection over how much and how often your family enjoys them. That's not to say you can't leave a few treats — but be honest with yourself, and only allow those treats that you know you can maintain control over.
If you are at this step and ready to fill the fridge and pantry with wholefood nutrients, print or save this list and make sure you shop from it next time you go grocery shopping.
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The Functional Food Coach's Pantry - Must Haves
If you want to eat for weight loss you’re going to need to stock your shelves with balanced, whole foods and consume a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein sources.
A fridge stocked with a rainbow of produce with brightly coloured skin or flesh is going to give you best chance to improve your health and lose weight. These foods are naturally bursting with essential phytonutrients and dietary fibre, and also provide the most health benefits. It is also important to choose your dry goods carefully. Skim this list and my healthy pantry must-haves for kick starting weight loss. You got this!
1. High-Fibre Food Choices
Dietary fibre is a dieter's best friend. Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes, and is a type of a carbohydrate that helps keep our digestive systems healthy.
Consuming a high fibre diet is important for our digestive health and regular bowel movements. Fibre also helps you feel fuller for longer, can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer. On average as adults we need 30g of fibre per day and the best source is from whole, natural foods, or wholesome sources like psyllium husk, chia seeds, or other natural foodstuff.
Here's some suggestions on how to get more in your diet (and pantry).
FRESH PRODUCE: Pack your trolley with high-fibre fruits and veggies such as apples, bananas, blueberries, bok choy, capsicums, celery, cucumber, green beans, kale, legumes, mulberries, spinach, strawberries, sweet potato, raspberries, Romaine lettuce, and zucchini. These foods are all naturally filling and provide essential dietary fibre to help you curb your appetite and improve gut health. Enjoy them raw with dips, in salads or lightly steam them.
DRY GOODS: To create a healthy pantry, you will need to swap out any processed grains for more wholesome options. Instead of white rice, pasta and breads, try wholesome, fibre-rich quinoa, brown rice, rolled or steel cut oats, and rice bran. Go for whole wheat grain or rice biscuits (or make your own), rice and corn cakes, and sprouted grain and artisan breads over the overly processed choices.
To replace pasta, experiment with a spiraliser using veggies to make more nutritious and vitamin-rich noodles. You can easily spiral beets, butternut squash, carrot, cucumber, parsnip, pumpkin, sweet potato, and zucchini. These go nicely in fresh salads or lightly stir fried with your usual pasta sauces and seasonings.
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2. Water Is Your Weight Loss Accelerator
Water content foods are another must-have. These foods help to keep you hydrated and your digestive system working well. Water is also essential for weight loss and cognitive function.
FRESH PRODUCE: Choose water content veggies such as bok choy and Chinese vegetables, capsicums, celery (always buy organic), cucumber, lettuce, watercress, and fruits like green grapes, grapefruit, lettuces, lychee, rock melon, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon.
When your body is fully hydrated, you will be less likely to confuse hunger and thirst, thus you will naturally snack less often. For many people watching their weight, mindless snacking is a sneaky problem that trips them up and sabotages their weight loss efforts. If you are snackish, have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. If you are still hungry, have one of the above as a snack. It is really important to hydrate regularly and ask yourself if you are really thirsty, not hungry. All too often we mistake hunger and thirst.
HEALTH COACH TIP: when you feel peckish, have a glass of warm water or herbal tea. Wait 10 minutes and see how you feel. Still hungry? Chances are you aren't and push through until the next mealtime.
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3. The Power Of Protein
Many of my clients come to me to go plantbased, but whether you eat meat or are vegetarian, choosing clean, lean protein sources is essential.
MEAT: For those omnivores, good protein sources means organic, grass-fed meats that provide a high nutritional profile and are the purest of meats. I know it can get expensive, but start becoming more choosy and your body will thank you for it. Choose from chicken (skin off), turkey, beef, and lamb that are free of hormones and additives wherever possible. The old fashioned butcher is still the best place to get pure meats.
SEAFOOD: Low mercury fish such as wild caught cod, salmon, sardines, or whitening are examples of good, clean protein. A palm-sized serving paired with a superfood salad makes for an excellent slimming meal. Go here to find my top plant based superfood salad recipes.
VEGAN PROTEIN: Non-animal protein sources that are excellent for weight loss include beans, chia seeds, chickpeas, edamame, hemp seeds, green peas, lentils, nutritional yeast, seitan (if not gluten intolerant), spirulina, tempeh, and tofu. be sure to stock up on all of these and browse my vegan board on Pinterest for inspo.
SUPPLEMENTS: Sometimes we need to supplement our diet and as we age, protein is one of the macronutrients we start to need more and more of for good health. Adding a natural protein powder to your smoothies, overnight oats or other healthy meals is a great way to up your consumption. You can try casein and whey protein which are both derived from milk. They differ in digestion times —casein digests slowly, making it good before bedtime, while whey digests quickly and is ideal for workouts and muscle growth. Both contain different bioactive compounds that may boost your immune system and offer other benefits.
The best and most easily absorbed protein powder is by far whey, one of the two proteins found in milk. Look for a natural blend, free of sugar, thickeners and other additives. The fewer ingredients, they better. One of my favourite brands is RAW by Amazonia, which also do vegan blends.
So why is protein consumption so important? Well, a high protein diet tends to naturally boost the metabolism. Eating more protein can also helps to reduce food cravings and the desire to snack late at night. These changes have a trickle down effect overtime and can boost your weight loss results with relatively little effort.
4. Dump Sugar Like A Bad Date
Freeing yourself from the grips of sugar is a key step in managing your weight. The sweet stuff is everywhere and highly addictive. The good news is that eating healthier will help you reduce the amount you consume, and as you shift your food choices, your taste buds will gradually change. After a while you won't even miss the sugar, I promise!
When you culled your pantry, I asked you to read labels. If you found this exercise a challenge, this blog post might help you understand labels a bit better especially the sweet stuff. I know it can be so confusing as sugar comes under so many different names, it can be hard to know where it's lurking. Here's 56 different sneaky names that could be tripping you up. It also boils down to common sense. Most fresh produce and foods direct from farm to table have little or no added sugars. If you are lost reading labels, just follow that as your guideline. If it came from the ground, farm, waterways or grew on a bush, eat it. If it came from a factory, avoid it.
So if you've tossed the white stuff, but what substitutes can you use and still maintain healthy habits? I knew you'd ask, so make note of the following outlined below. Some might surprise you.
JAMS & SPREADS: Instead of sugar loaded jams and preserves, try fresh, smashed berries or homemade chia seed "jam" on your high-fibre toast. Choose fresh fruits that are naturally sweet and high in dietary fibre such as in-season berries and retrain those taste buds to enjoy real food. You'd be surprised how fast this happens if you are consistent.
SUGAR: By far the best sweetener option is a plant called stevia which is naturally sweet and negative-caloric. You can find this at the garden centre and grow it yourself or buy the granular or liquid form at the shops. Just a drop or two is all you need to sweeten most dishes or desserts. The sweetness will shock you!
You could also try agave nectar as it is low on the glycemic index and doesn’t tend to lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. Just be sparing with it. Coconut sugar is also another good option. It is unrefined and retains all of its vitamins and minerals; it also doesn’t give a big sugar high so it is easier on blood sugar levels.
Lastly, you can try using homemade juices for sweeteners. Fruits such as beets are naturally sweet and lend themselves to many recipes. Applesauce is another option if homemade, or smashed overly ripe bananas.
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5. Shopping The Outside Aisles
Always shop the outer aisles of the grocery shop where all the fresh produce is usually displayed. Fill the bulk of your trolley with the goodness, and be more selective with remaining items.
PANTRY STAPLES: In addition to filling your trolley with fresh produce, skip to the health food section and stock up on healthy macronutrients in the form dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, dried fruit and gluten-free and healthier baking ingredients. Pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds offer a sneaky protein punch and are delicious added to salads, stir fry, or as a key ingredient in bliss balls, protein balls and granola bars. These are some versatile essentials to have in your pantry.
OILS & VINEGAR: Be sure to skip the junk food aisle and go find healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, grape seed, and hemp seed which are more nutritionally dense than other varieties. Coconut oil for instance, has a much higher nutritional profile than common oils you might be used to using. Avoid oils that are typically rancid such a vegetable, canola and sunflower and restock your pantry with healthier options.
Look for apple cider and balsamic vinegar, and other basics to flavour your meals and salads. The amount of sugar in most store bought salad dressings would shock you. Make your own with a splash of vinegar in a wholesome oil such as extra virgin olive or avocado, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
SEASONINGS: Stock up on all kinds of dried and ground spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and other herbal blends. Buy in-season fresh herbs and make herbal ice cube trays to use later. This is so simple to do! Simply chop or blend up the herbs either on their own or in your favourite combinations, and then fill an ice cube tray with the crushed leaves. Add a splash of water to cover and freeze until needed. To use, just drop into your stir fry or sauce pot. So easy.
BAKING: In the baking aisle, instead of using processed flours, stock up your pantry with nourishing alternatives such as almond meal, buckwheat, brown rice, LSA, flax meal, rolled oats, or quinoa. You can also easily make your own flour by blitzing oats or quinoa flakes in the blender. You may need to adjust your recipe for the consistency, but this is a far better way to bake healthier foods if you are making them from scratch.
If you do buy the pre-made cake mixes out of convenience, take a minute to think how you can add in more nutrition. Ingredients such as chia seeds, LSA, rolled oats and other high fibre additions are easy additions to cake, muffin or cookie mixes. You can quickly turn a chocolate cake mix into a healthier version with grated apple, spinach and rolled oats. Add rolled oats and little more oil (coconut) to chocolate chip cookie mix to slow the impact of sugar (if you're still slowly eliminating it). Turn vanilla cake mix into carrot cake by adding your own grated carrot, pear and a pinch of cinnamon. Boost the fibre content with chia seeds. ground flax or quick oats. I promise the kids won't even notice!
HEALTH COACH TIP: Try adding the above suggestions to your current lifestyle. If you want lasting weight loss, start strong with a good action plan and you WILL begin to feel some noticeable shifts by next week. Eat healthy every day; get active; sleep well and keep fully hydrated.
Put it into action. ...what are you going to try from this article?
Wishing you health + happiness,
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