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Healthy Eating Essentials

Healthy Eating Essentials

I don't have to tell you that you should be eating healthy foods. This isn't rocket science and you've heard it from the time you were a child – eat your vegetables, don't eat so much ice cream and so many potato chips and French fries, eat lean meats, blah, blah, blah.


The truth is that many of us are loving the “bad” stuff and not eating enough of the “good” stuff. And as the world has gotten faster and busier, it seems like everything is fast, frozen, salted, sugared and packaged up - we've gotten used to eating like that.


It's not good for health and it certainly isn't good for the waistline or uncovering those ab muscles that are hidden beneath a sheath of flabby fat. You are never, ever going to see those abdominals until you get rid of the fat.


It doesn't matter how many exercises for your abs you do or how many miles you walk or laps you swim. Fat burning and developing sexy abs starts with healthy eating. There is no way around this, so if you haven't been eating a super healthy diet, plan on starting now.


Besides getting a better body, the advantage to eating healthy is that you're going to feel better, have more energy, be in a generally better mood and be better prepared to fight off or prevent illnesses and disease. Eating a proper diet does wonders for you!


How Proper Nutrition Gives You More Energy


Our bodies get their energy to do things from the foods we consume. As you know, without food, we'll die because our bodies simply have no way to produce energy on their own. Food is necessary.


Your body uses food to produce energy by converting it into glucose (blood sugar). Carbohydrates are the most easily converted type of food for energy, and are the main ingredient in the recipe for keeping your energy at a steady level.


The problem with this is that you have to know which kinds of carbs are good, causing a steady level of energy and which are not-so-good, causing your energy level to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.


Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and the carbs found in white bread are turned into energy very quickly. They give you an almost immediate boost, followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar levels and your energy leaving you unable to accomplish much of anything.


On the other hand, complex carbohydrates, like breads with whole grains give your body a subtler boost in energy and one that lasts and remains steady. So you have a constant stream of energy throughout your day that helps you feel more energized and able to get things done.


Eating complex carbohydrates also helps to avoid that mid-afternoon dip in energy that many people get, and helps to keep your energy sustained from morning to night.


If you want to enjoy higher energy levels without the nasty ups and downs, you will want to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates, protein (which the body also likes to use for energy), and low-fat foods. Don't overdo it with simple carbohydrates.


Here is a basic list of complex carbohydrate foods:


·         Wholegrain pasta

·         Brown rice

·         Grains such as barley, whole wheat and oats

·         Wholegrain breads (wheat, oat, bran, etc)

·         Wholegrain cereals (watch out for added sugar)

·         Oatmeal

·         Yams

·         Peas, beans and other legumes


And here is a list of simple carbohydrates to avoid:


·         Processed sugar

·         White bread, rolls, etc.

·         Candies

·         Chocolate

·         Desserts

·         Sweet snacks

·         Sugar-coated cereals


Note: Some fruits are considered to be simple carbohydrates because they have a lot of naturally occurring sugar. It's true that they will give you a quick burst of energy and that energy will drop off some afterwards. But fruit is still very good for you and an essential part of a healthy weight loss and fat burning plan, so eat your fruits!


Your breakfast and lunch should be the most significant meals of the day, with your dinner being smaller – you don't need all those calories or all that energy food for going to bed. You can also have two small snacks a day to help keep your energy going, but make sure they don't push you over the edge as far as calories go.


Energizing snacks that taste great, and are low in fat and calories could include yogurt mixed with whole grain (unsweetened) cereal, a handful of almonds, or half a turkey sandwich with whole grain bread and low-fat mayo.


Even though you're working to lose weight and get rid of fat, you still have to eat right. If you don't provide your body with energy, you're not going to feel like working out, and exercise is an essential part of your fat blasting and ab building program.


Proper nutrition supplies you with more energy at a more stable level because your body is getting the right fuel – fuel that burns at a steady rate.


When it comes to energy, we refer mostly to carbohydrates, but be aware that alcohol, protein and fats are also be used by the body for energy. Alcohol burns very quickly and if you've been drinking, it's what the body will use first.


This is because your body can’t store alcohol energy. You don't want to consume much alcohol when you're working on weight loss because it keeps your body from using carbs, proteins and fats.


Proteins will also be used for energy by the body. It's important to be sure you eat enough proteins to supply your body with the building materials for muscles and cells, but also a source of energy.


Fats are the last things that your body will burn for fuel. This is why you don't want to consume a lot of fats, especially if you're already overweight. Eating right, and watching your intake of calories will assure that your body will start dipping into its own fat stores and burning some of what's sitting on your belly and hips.


Why You Still Need Some Fats in Your Diet


Even when you're in the middle of working to get rid of fat, you still need to consume some fats each day. Why is this?


·         Fat serves as insulation and protection for vital organs in the body.


·         Fat helps keep skin and nails healthy.


·         Fat helps keep your hair healthy (and on your head).


·         Fat aids digestion.


·         Fat helps the body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.


·         Fat helps to maintain cell membranes.


Although everyone needs some fat in his or her diet, most of us get way too much fat. Fat is good is small doses. You can find out how many grams of fat you need per day by doing a simple search online.


A basic guideline would be as follows:


If you’re eating 1200 calories per day, you should consume about 40 grams of fat. If you're eating 1500 calories, you need about 50 grams of fat; 2000 calories – 65 grams of fat. You can find out how many grams of fat are in the foods you're eating by checking labels and reading nutrition information.


What Kinds of Fats Are Good, and Which Are Bad?


There’s another point to keep in mind about fats before you shun them or embrace them. Some are much better for you than others, and if you're going to eat fat, you should definitely eat the healthy ones and stay far away from the bad ones.


The winners of the “good fats” label are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.


Monounsaturated fats (also known as MUFAs) help to lower cholesterol and have actually been found to be helpful in the fight against body fat – this doesn't mean that you should load up on them. It just means that they are helpful. Nuts, avocados, olive and canola oil contain monounsaturated fats.


Polyunsaturated fats also help with lowering cholesterol and are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which is helpful in protecting against heart disease.  Fish oil, corn, soy, sunflower and safflower oils contain polyunsaturated fats.


So if you're going to eat fats, read your labels and stick with these.


The bad guys of the fat world include saturated fats and trans fats.


Saturated fats raise your cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease. Meats, dairy products, eggs and some seafood contain saturated fats, as do coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (these are sometimes called tropical oils on food labels).


Trans Fats are an invented kind of fat and are found in a lot of commercially packaged foods and fast foods, as well as in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. Trans fats are unhealthy because they increase cholesterol and the risk for coronary disease.


Don't strive to eliminate fats from your daily diet. But remember that part of the reason you're reading this book is that you have been consuming too much fat for some time now.


What might seem normal is probably way too much, and the only way you are going to slim down and expose those abs is by getting rid of the fat you've stored up. So eat a little, but watch it closely.


Proteins – Building Blocks for Strong Abs


Some have said that you have to eat a lot of protein to get great abs. While protein is certainly important and necessary as building block for your abdominal muscles and just about everything else in your body, you don't need to overdo it.


Eating a healthy diet that is low-fat, low in calories and that does contain good protein sources will help you not only build a great set of abs, but also great muscles in general, along with healthy cells, bones, hair and nails.


You don't have to go out and buy a fancy and expensive protein powder to get enough protein in your diet. Just take the following steps and you'll do well:


·         Choose lean meats such as skinless chicken and poultry (light meat, not dark), pork tenderloin, and lean beef.


·         Incorporate fish into your diet. Fish and seafood are great sources of protein and most are low in fat and also offer the added advantage of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your heart.


·         Beans and nuts contain lots of protein. Nuts can be pretty high in fat, so be aware of your portion size – generally, about one quarter to one half a cup.


·         Low-fat dairy products provide protein. Choose low-fat yogurt, milk and cheeses. They are also wonderful for providing calcium.


·         Egg whites contain protein and little fat, so they're great for losing weight and adding protein to your diet.


·         Even whole wheat bread and other wholegrain products contain protein. 


Most Americans get plenty of protein in their daily diet – enough to build muscle. This means that as long as you're paying attention to eating a healthy diet on a daily basis, you won't need to add any extra protein, even to get those abs defined.  


The Food Pyramid – It's Still a Good Tool After All These Years


Remember when you were in elementary school and you studied the food pyramid? All of the stuff we liked was at the tiny point at the top, or worse, it wasn't there at all (where's the chocolate cake?).


It might seem like an old-fashioned way to make your food choices, but even today, the food pyramid is a good guideline. You have grains as the base, then fruits and vegetables, followed upward by dairy and proteins and then at the tip-top, fats, oils and sweets (I guess that's where the chocolate cake is hidden).


The suggestion is that you eat 6 – 11 servings of grains (breads, cereals, pasta and rice) a day; 3 – 5 servings of vegetables and 2 - 4 servings of fruit; 2 – 3 dairy and protein servings each and a sprinkling of fats and oils.


This isn’t out of line, even for someone who is working at losing weight. The key is that serving sizes are usually far smaller than what we imagine them to be, and of course, you have to be very selective about the types of foods you eat, even if they are on the pyramid.


What the food pyramid does for us is illustrates what your body needs to function properly and to maintain good health. It tells you how much to eat of each type of food. So it's a great tool and a wonderful basis for healthy eating, but it doesn't give you the whole story.


Your Concept of Serving Sizes Might Really Be Messed Up


Over the course of who knows how many years, we've been tricked into believing that a serving of food is much larger than it really should be. With all of the super-sizing going on and changes in the way food is served at restaurants, we've gotten a very distorted impression of serving size.


This is one of the culprits in weight gain and in order to fix this particular problem, you need to understand what a serving size really is: 



1 slice - about the size of a plastic CD case

Half an English muffin or bagel

1 - 6” corn or flour tortilla

Half of a hot dog or hamburger bun


Pasta and Rice

1 half cup of pasta, spaghetti, macaroni or rice



1small baked potato or one-half cup of mashed potatoes

1 half cup of peas or corn

1 cup of acorn squash

1 half cup of beans or lentils

1 cup of raw or raw leafy vegetables



1 small apple, or one-half cup of unsweetened applesauce

12 – 15 grapes

1 cup of cubed cantaloupe

1 cup of raspberries

2 small plums

1 medium orange



1 cup of milk

1 cup of soymilk

1 cup of yogurt

1.5 -2 ounces of cheese (about the size of 2 – 1 inch cubes)


Meat, Poultry and Firm Tofu

1 serving is about the size of a deck of cards



1 serving is about the size of a checkbook



A serving is 1 teaspoon


Salad Dressing

A serving is 2 tablespoons



1 serving is about a half ounce


This list isn’t comprehensive. I could write an entire book on the serving size for every kind of food. But I'll bet that you probably gasped with surprise when you saw some of these serving sizes and you're probably upset that you've been eating much larger portions, thinking it was okay.


One of the main ways you're going to lose that weight and blast that fat is by watching your serving sizes closely.


What You Have to Avoid


You already know that you have to steer clear of the ice cream and all you can eat fried chicken. But there are a couple of things that I want to bring to your attention as things that you'll want to stay away from:


·         Meats and poultry parts that are fatty

·         High fat content foods


Don’t get marbled steaks. Make sure you buy lean meats like a filet mignon. And whenever possible, get a low or no fat version of your food products. Chances are, you’ll get plenty of fat throughout your day in other areas.


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