The Road To Weight Loss: Part One

Where to Begin

So you've had it with that number on the scale, you're sick of the safety pin keeping your pants done up, and tired of people telling you that you "carry it well." You're ready to kick those extra 30 pounds to the curb - good for you! That's actually the first step to losing the weight. But then what?

Not sure if you're ready? These steps can help you prepare.

Step 1: Clear Out Your Refrigerator


Get rid of all cookies, mac'n cheese boxes, ice cream, hard alcohol, soda, and processed foods that live in your fridge or cupboards.

This is perhaps the most important and most difficult first step you'll ever make on your road to weight loss. We have a strange attachment to our food - it has provided us comfort and delight at our most vulnerable moments - but this is why you need to let it go. The longer you hold on to your comfort foods, the longer you are letting them control you. Remember that you are the one in control, and you are the only one who can decide what goes into your body.

So toss it all out! Don't worry, we'll be replacing everything you get rid of with healthy, fresh food. A lot of it.

Get to know your produce!
Get to know your produce!

Step 2: Go Shopping!


Spend a lot of time in your local grocery store's produce section - or better yet, visit your local farmer's market.

Have you ever tasted the difference between fresh, steamed broccoli and frozen, boiled broccoli? It's like night and day - the frozen broccoli not only lacks the fresh, crisp flavour of fresh broccoli, but it lacks the bright green colour and texture of fresh broccoli.

So spend a decent amount of time shopping for fresh fruits and veggies at your local grocers or at a market. When I say spend time I mean really put in the time - fruits and vegetables come in all sizes, colours, and textures, and you'll eventually figure out how to pick out the best ones for your currently empty fridge. Here are a few tips on how to pick out produce at the store:

Fruits and Veggies:

Broccoli: Colour is key when buying broccoli - the stalks should be bright green and the "trees" should be a deeper green. They should not be overly fragrant and the stalks should be firm.

Asparagus: These are usually sold in bundles and should be found standing up. They should be bright green with closed, firm tips. The green colour should go down to almost the base of the spear.

Brussels Sprouts: Should be bright green in colour (noticing a trend?) and the leaves should be fairly tight to the body of the sprout.

Carrots: These should be bright orange and free of roots or cracks, and should be very firm. These taste best when they are fresh from a garden rather than the bagged, grocery store carrots.

Cauliflower: Should be creamy, bright white and should be free of blemishes. The curds should be tightly packed.

Spinach: I find that good spinach is hard to find. Spinach should be a darker green colour with a fresh smell and the leaves should not be limp.

Tomatoes: The green stem on a tomato should still smell "planty" and the tomato should be free of bruises. Tomatoes are not as flavourful during off season in my opinion but are still good to cook with.

Bananas: Should be mostly yellow when you purchase them, and will ripen faster if you place them in the sun. Never put bananas in the fridge! I often put over-ripe bananas in my freezer to use for banana bread later.

Canteloupes: Tough fruit, literally, to get the hang of. The best way to determine a canteloupe's freshness is through smell. The sweeter and tastier the smell, the sweeter and tastier the melon. The skin should also be cream coloured, not greenish.

Grapefruits: These should be firm and heavy, with a thick-feeling skin and medium firmness.

Apples: If you are picking out red apples, choose those that are deep red in colour. If you are picking out green or yellow apples, they should have a rosy hue. They should be firm.

Strawberries: Strawberries should be deep red with shiny skins, and it's best to avoid large strawberries, as the smaller ones generally have more flavour.

I could go on forever about how to find the best fruits and veggies! If you want more information, ask your local grocerie store's produce department.

Protein:

Obviously you're not expected to survive solely on fruits and vegetables. My personal diet is more of a psuedo-vegetarian diet and the only meat I consume is fish, however most lean meats are really good for you as you lose weight. Lean protein such as turkey, chicken and fish are delicious and full of protein and nutrients. This is especially true for fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, and herring, because not only are they are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and B vitamins, but they are generally only 100 - 200 calories per 4 o.z. serving. Farmer's markets are usually the best places to buy fresh meat, but there is nothing nutritionally wrong with buying fresh fish fillets, chicken or turkey from your local grocers. Whether you buy organically or not is really up to your own preference.

Bread:

Aim for whole grain bread products. When I can, I usually use a whole grain pita pocket instead of bread - it keeps your sandwich together better and ends up being fewer calories.

Dairy Products:

When it comes to dairy, I have to be extra careful. I love, love, LOVE cheese! So I try to buy individually wrapped mozzarella cheese strings. They're relatively low in calories, and it gives me my "fix."

You don't have to drink skim milk if you hate it - my boyfriend and I have different milk preferences. He likes 2% and I grew up drinking skim, so we compromised and we drink 1%. 1% is all right, really! Don't shy away from the fat content. You'll never drink enough of it to make a difference. You should be able to get enough calcium in your diet with a slice or two of cheese a day, and when you are dieting your beverages should contain mostly water anyway.

Eggs are great! Many people feel like eggs are bad for your diet, especially the yolk as it's high in cholesterol, but eggs really are great for you. They're high in protein, they're delicious, and they have a low caloric value. A great way to add some protein to a simple salad at lunch is to slice up a hard boiled egg and toss it with your salad. I try to eat a couple eggs a day - they're great for you so embrace them!


Storing your healthy food in a visually appealing way can make you want to eat healthy more often.
Storing your healthy food in a visually appealing way can make you want to eat healthy more often.

Make Your Food Look Good!


Once you bring back your purchases, don't just throw them in the crisper or meat drawers and walk away! We're lazy by nature - especially when it comes to food preparation. Before you put your groceries away, put them in Tupperware or glass containers so that they look both appetizing and easily accessible. Think about it: you're unlikely to reach for the bagged, unwashed, needs-to-be-chopped lettuce when that instant dinner you left in your freezer is right there, ready to go. So the moment you get home, unpack everything you need to prepare in someway and start chopping! I usually chop up and wash everything, put them in containers and arrange them in my fridge, ready to grab as soon as I need to. Feeling peckish? Grab the container of chopped cucumber and your tub of hummus, and indulge!

I also have a "thing" for sweet fruit salads, so I usually combine some chopped canteloupe, pineapple, strawberries, apples, mangoes and some grapes in a big container and pull it out whenever I need a sweet treat. Throw in some chopped banana and a couple heaping tablespoons of low-fat greek yogurt before you eat it - it's delicious!

Keep your meat, whole grain bread and dairy products handy in similar containers to keep them fresh and easy to access. Most people tend to munch on food while they're cooking - keeping everything handy helps reduce the time you spend cooking and gets that food in your belly much faster!


Meals and Snacks To Keep You Satisfied


I've been losing weight for a few years now, and over that time I've gathered a ton of healthy snacks and recipes to keep me out of the candy aisle. I recommend eating at least 5 times a day, or every 2 to 3 hours, to keep your metabolism working full steam. Here is a sample daily meal plan for weight loss:

Breakfast

Make sure you eat breakfast! It will keep you from binging late at night.

Scrambled Egg and Tomato Pita Pockets:

Combine 3 scrambled egg whites with some chopped fresh tomato, and put it into a pita pocket lined with a little lettuce. Add some parsley and a spoonful of salsa for a little kick!

Morning Snack

Apples and Cheese:

I medium red apple, chopped, with a mozzarella cheese string on the side is a perfect snack. Try to get a little protein in every meal to keep you going all day.

Lunch

Shrimp n' salsa salad:

Bake or BBQ 4 oz. of small shrimp with a little oil and cayenne pepper. Serve with 2 cups of mixed salad greens and about a 1/4 cup of fresh salsa.

Afternoon Snack

Celery sticks and Peanut Butter:

This is an old favourite of my Mom's - chop up some celery and dip it into a couple tablespoons of natural peanut butter. An alternative to natural peanut butter is Kraft's new whipped peanut butter - it's delicious and designed for dipping! Use peanut butter sparingly though, as it's high in fat.

Dinner

Salmon and Roasted Asparagus on Wild Rice:

Bake or pan-sear 4 oz. of wild salmon in some olive oil. Season with a lemon or lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve on about a 1/4 cup of wild rice. Oven bake about 12 medium sized spears of asparagus with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and serve on the side. You can add a little more to this dish by grating some mozzarella cheese on the asparagus shortly before taking it out of the oven. Make sure you don't over cook the asparagus!

Try to go light on salt and sugar in your diet, and most importantly stay hydrated.

Check out: The Road To Weight Loss: Part Two!

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