How our diet expert lost four lbs in three weeks without even trying.
Decorating, cleaning, gardening: it all adds up when it comes to losing weight.
One of the often-repeated mantras about diet and fitness that annoys me the most is this: “You won’t lose weight through exercise.”
I’ve always found this advice suspect, for several reasons. One, is it true – did you ever see a fat competitive runner, be that person a sprinter or long distance runner? No, you didn’t. Why? Because regular running burns off an incredible amount of calories, and this makes you lose weight – indeed most runners have to eat much more than most of us just to keep the slim size they are.
Two – most people think that they’ve done a lot of exercise if they go out for a half hour walk once a day. That would burn off around 100 calories for a 150lb person walking at 3 mph. So that’s about 700 calories a week, which in theory would represent about a fifth of a pound you might lose. But most people, research shows, tend to eat a little more when they have been doing their exercise, and 700 calories represents only a couple of chocolate bars, or ten digestive biscuits for example, or an extra couple of spoons of carbs with your evening meal each day.
Exercise most definitely DOES work to help you lose weight – but only if you do enough of it.
The reason I’m writing about this is that I just lost four pounds in about three weeks by taking about 500% more exercise each day than I have done in years. This wasn’t formal exercise – not the treadmill or rower, not a marathon walk or run every day, none of that.
All I did was, through necessity, get off my bottom and spend all day every day doing physical stuff that needed doing. Hard cleaning; moving furniture; sweeping outside; taking endless rubbish to the tip; heavy lifting; up and down ladders and stairs, on and off walls, all kinds of things, for around 7 hours every day.
I was preparing a small converted barn apartment – ready to advertise as a holiday let. Having lain idle for many years and been used as a junk tip it needed a total revamp – and it’s upstairs. I had no-one to help and having a few quiet weeks in the office it seemed a perfect opportunity to save money on help and get active, too. Once the barn was finally ready I then set to and tidied up the garden surrounding it, and the road entrance and nearby shrubs and borders. And then I realised that the outside of our house, which guests would have to walk past to get to the barn, looked a mess, so I was out scrubbing walls, cleaning windows, painting, you name it.
And when my jeans fell down the other day because the last hole on my belt was too loose, I weighed myself – four pounds gone. I’d been eating a similar amount to normal – but my body obeyed the basic rule of weight loss and gain. More calories expended than taken in, you lose weight, more calories in than burned, you gain weight. I reckon I was burning around 7-800 calories a day more than in my normal sedentary life, and over 3 weeks that represents around 15,000 extra calories burnt – which is almost exactly right to lose four pounds as one pound represents around 3,500 calories.
It will be interesting to see, now that my need to be so active is over and I’m about to start several weeks in the office instead, how quickly those four pounds come back on. I don’t want them to – but I now know that unless I make a real big effort to get on my feet and keep moving, they most certainly will.
What I think I should do is accept that sitting in the office 8-9 hours a day is not a great idea, and take longer with work projects so I can have at least 2-3 hours out and about every single day.
It’s not just a weight thing – so much recent research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy in several ways. One new Californian study finds that sitting up to 10 hours a day increases your risk of disease and ages women up to eight years. Another recent Norwegian study found that people over 70 who were unfit increased their risk of diabetes and heart problems by 80%. And if you do no exercise, after the age of 50 you lose around 500g of muscle a year.
I certainly felt better all round by the time the third of my active weeks arrived – in the first I had been breathless with aching muscles and joints, and simply exhausted. But by the end, I was sleeping much, much better, walking faster, was able to lift heavy items more easily, was more able to bend to reach the ground and kneel – all kinds of simple things we often no longer do as we get older.
It’s been a real eye opener for me, and I think I have the motivation now to keep moving. Every day, for as many hours as possible.
Diet expert Judith Wills assesses the most effective diets for weight loss.
A Cambridge University study found that the Mediterranean diet is a particularly good diet for people over 40 to help prevent heart attacks, stroke and other CV diseases.
More people in the UK start a weight loss campaign in the spring than in the new year, and as usual ‘what way to do it?’ is the tricky question.
Reading up on the research is a minefield of conflicting evidence, and if you ask an ‘expert’ or buy the latest diet book you’ll get a different perspective almost every time.
It’s all complicated, too, by the fact that diets are almost like fashion – what was in last year is forgotten this year. Remember the Sirtfood diet or the alkaline diet for instance? All the rage 15 months ago, hardly mentioned now.
Basic low-calorie diets were out of fashion for years, but now I notice them creeping back into favour. Even the ubiquitous 5:2 diet is, in effect, a low-calorie diet. While another old favourite, the Atkins high-protein diet has been around in one form or another for very many years, morphing into the Dukan Diet, the low-carb diet, and the Paleo diet.
So what to do? I reckon a good starting point is to pick a plan that has known health benefits, which is one good reason to go for the classic Mediterranean diet from southern Italy, old-hat though it may be. The high veg, salad and fruit regime coupled with plant oils, less red meat, more fish, and plenty of wholegrains ticks the boxes for helping to prevent cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Indeed a very recent Cambridge University study found that this is a particularly good diet for people over 40 to help prevent heart attacks, stroke and other CV diseases – 20,00 lives a year could be saved, it says after looking at data over 20 years. Such a diet is known to be one of the easiest to follow to lose weight and keep it off, too, so it does tick all the boxes.
HOWEVER! Before you leap off to get the olive oil – wait …. Here’s some other research telling us that the Viking diet is much better than the Med one, after all! The investigating team say that eating the Nordic way is the way to go, with rye bread, cabbage, root veg, fish, apples and oats resulting in a 45% less chance of women getting a heart attack. That said, the research IS by the University of Copenhagen, so maybe they would say that, wouldn’t they?
Or you could try the Amazonian Hunters diet – revealed just the other day as the perfect regime for longlife and exemplary weight and heart health. It’s a diet of lean meat, nuts, seeds, fish, vegetables, wholegrains, low-dairy ….. Oh, wait a minute, I think we’ve more or less covered that one before. It’s a mix of Paleo, Med and Scandi, do you not think?
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While you ponder on that, I’ll just mention that there are a few dieting no-nos emerging as we speak. Forget low-calorie sweeteners as a way to help your weight loss. They make you hungry and over time, make you fatter. Forget the juice diets that were so big a few years ago and remain popular with celebs – turns out that what I knew all along is correct – whole fruits, not juices, are the way to go. Then the boffins at Harvard have just found that a gluten-free diet may give you diabetes and make you miss out on fibre and nutrients so if you’re going gluten-free just to be trendy, you might want to think again.
And lastly, a diet very high in animal protein and very, very low in carbs is something for women aged 50-plus to steer clear of. It can lead to heart failure in that age group, a very large US 5-year study has found.
So, people – you know what to do. Eat a balanced diet, smaller portions, lots of vegetables, nice oils, cut right back on the white carbs and highly processed foods, enjoy your fish, have masses of garlic.
In defiance of the Amazonians, the southern Italians and the Scandinavians, I made a nice sort-of Provencal fish soup for supper the other day, with a good Provencal aioli sauce. But I ate it with a slice of dark rye bread, and followed it with a handful of nuts and a large salad.
Belt, braces, buttons, elastic. That’s me.
Next time I’ll be looking at the traditional British diet and whether or not it can help you to health and slimness.
Tasty fish soup with Aioli
1 tbsp olive oil
100g shallots, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and well crushed
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
Pinch saffron threads
200g chopped canned tomatoes
100ml white wine
200ml fish stock
Zest of ½ orange
300g white fish e.g. hake
6 very large raw prawns, shelled but tail left on
1 tbsp chopped parsley
For the aioli
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of half a lemon
175ml mild olive oil
First make the sauce – crush the garlic with the salt (a pestle and mortar is ideal. Add the egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk everything together, then gradually whisk in the olive oil in a very slow and thin trickle to make a thick mayonnaise-like mixture. As the mix thickens you can pour the oil in more quickly. Set aside.
In a lidded pan, saute the shallots, garlic and chilli in the oil over medium heat to soften (about 8 minutes) then add the saffron, tomatoes, wine, fish stock and orange, bring to simmer and cook for 20 minutes over low heat until you have a nice rich sauce.
Stir in the white fish and prawns, bring back to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with the parsley sprinkled over.
Ditch the diet rules and make yourself a plan instead, advises our diet expert.
Do diet rules work for you?
I do like the idea of doing away with as many rules in one’s personal life as possible. As someone recently said to me, “Rules are just one more thing to fail at and induce guilt.”
I reckon that in most situations, flexibility is the real key to a happy and interesting life, not rules. And never more so than when we are talking food and diets.
I bet you can think of dozens of eating plans you’ve tried over the years that have rigid rules that must be obeyed. And I bet on every one, you gave up. Or, as some would say, you failed.
Well you didn’t. It was the diets that failed you, with their lists of musts and mustn’ts, get and don’t get, rigid timings, intricate shopping lists and and so forth.
Every time I’ve been successful in losing weight, I’ve done it by following my own instincts and basically, using my own preferences, managing to cut down on the amount I ate over the course of a week. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever followed someone else’s set diet plan.
I toyed with the idea of doing the 5:2 when it was at the height of its popularity, just to see what happened. But in the end I couldn’t be bothered, and simply skipped meals when I didn’t feel hungry, now and then.
Even if you don’t need or want to lose weight, perhaps you’re being swayed by the health food police. You must eat clean! You must avoid meat! Do not touch white food items!
Banish sugar – and sweeteners – from your life at all costs. And so on, and so on, until you hardly dare get up in the morning in case someone jumps out at you from behind a hedge on your way to work and swipes the bottle of fizzy water out of your hand. “Don’t drink that! Don’t you know fizzy water is bad for you?”
So I will tell you that it’s okay to have a plan, which isn’t the same as rules at all. A plan is, “I’m going to think before I eat anything, and if I’m hungry I won’t eat.” Or maybe, “I’m going to give myself a small portion at every meal, eat slowly, and if I’m still hungry at the end I’ll maybe have a bit more.” It could even be, “I’m going to cut right back on sweet foods and alcohol and see if that helps me lose weight.”
You see the picture – you try a plan, and if it doesn’t work out, you regroup, try something a little different. Unless you are on a diet for medical reasons, with rules for a purpose.
But rules, at the saying goes, are just made to be broken, and that’s why that is exactly what people do. And when we’re talking food and weight, how very true it is. Don’t believe the hype, don’t believe the rigid diet gurus. Do your own thing, and nine times out of ten, you’ll have more success.
Ate last night
I do love fishcakes of all sorts, and it’s been a while since I cooked crabcakes. These small beauties are filled with tangy fresh flavours and their low-cal profile means you can have them with some sweet chilli jam without feeling guilty. My son gave me this jam, packed with his home-grown, metabolism-boosting chillies. The crab I used was fresh-picked white crabmeat in pots from Waitrose but if you want to add a little brown crab meat for a richer dish altogether, that’s fine.
Crabcakes with chilli jam
225g white crabmeat
2cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped OR 2 tsp ready-made minced ginger
2 fresh red japaleno chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
1½ tbsp chopped coriander leaf
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lime
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
75 – 100g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
2 level tbsp chilli jam
few handfuls mixed salad leaves and fresh herbs
2 tsp French dressing
In a bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients, then stir in the egg yolk and around half the breadcrumbs, or as many as you need to form a fairly firm mixture, and combine well. Cover the bowl and put the mixture into the fridge for half an hour.
Put the flour on a plate. Beat the egg with a little water and put into a shallow bowl. Put the remaining breadcrumbs on another plate.
Divide the crab mix into four cakes. Put the oil in a frying pan and begin to heat it up. Meanwhile, dip each cake into the flour, then the egg mix, then the breadcrumbs to coat. When the oil is hot, fry the cakes over medium-high heat for around 2½ minutes a side or until golden. Serve with the chilli jam and the salad sprinkled with the dressing.
We probably all know the desire to give in to our sweet tooth — we need sweets and we need them NOW! We might also have cravings for pizza or some other type of greasy, salty food.
Nasty cravings seem to appear when we least expect them and usually when we are unequipped to resist them.
Are cravings caused by nutrient deficiencies?
Although some conditions such as sodium deficiency and pica can cause cravings, there is no conclusive evidence that cravings are caused by nutrient deficiencies. Certain known facts about cravings like the influence of sleep and nutrition habits (and perhaps even gender differences) make it more likely that cravings are caused by external factors and not a lack of specific nutrients.(1, 2, 3,4)
Here is an emergency plan so you can be prepared next time the cravings kick in…
10 TIPS TO STOP FOOD CRAVINGS
These tips to help you reduce cravings are ordered based on how fast you can act on them. So while you may be tempted to reach for the fastest ones, we encourage you to give all of them a try over the next few weeks for best results.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP CRAVINGS IN 5 MINUTES OR LESS
1. DRINK SOME WATER
The easiest thing you can do to curb your cravings is to have a large glass of water and wait for a couple of minutes. Even if the craving doesn’t completely go away, the fullness of your stomach will make it less intense.
2. PLAY A GAME ON YOUR PHONE
Who knew that playing a game on your phone can help reduce cravings? Whether you had a glass of water or not, it’s important to take your mind off the cravings for a couple of minutes. A study found that playing Tetris on your smartphone for just 3 minutes can weaken different types of cravings, including food cravings.(5) It’s too easy not to try, right?
3. DRINK SOME COFFEE
Coffee might have a stronger influence on your appetite and food intake than water. Although more research needs to be done, it seems that coffee can suppress acute energy intake.(6) What does that mean? Right after drinking a cup of coffee people will eat less than they would have without it. So even if you end up giving in to a craving, you have a higher chance of keeping the size of your treat moderate and not going overboard. Another study found that decaffeinated coffee might help suppress the appetite even more!(7)
4. BRUSH YOUR TEETH
This trick will work in two ways. First of all, it might trick your brain into thinking that the meal is over. But even if you’re brain is not easily tricked, the cool mint toothpaste flavor left in your mouth will make it hard to eat anything afterwards. At least it won’t taste nearly as good…
Craving something sweet?
Cravings can range from sweet to savory and fatty. But sugar cravings are usually the ones that are the hardest to deal with — that’s why we have extra tips (and food alternatives) to curb your sugar cravings!
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP CRAVINGS ALL DAY LONG
5. EAT MORE PROTEIN
Protein is your ally against crazy cravings, here’s why:
Before you start rocking 100 burpees, think about this: an intense workout might make you feel even hungrier, but a low intensity activity, such as a brisk walk or short bodyweight home workoutcan have the opposite effect. One study found that it might actually make you eat only half the amount of chocolate that you would have eaten otherwise.(11) If you’re feeling playful, next time your cravings kick in try walking backwards.
7. AVOID GETTING TOO HUNGRY
The hungrier you get, the higher the chance that you can’t fight off that intense craving. It’s as simple as that. So don’t look for solutions when it’s almost too late. Plan your meals ahead and make sure to have a healthy snack by your side if you are prone to craving attacks.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP CRAVINGS LONG TERM
Insufficient sleep can affect your appetite and increase cravings. (12) Unfortunately, the importance of sleep is often neglected when it comes to fitness and weight loss.
The problem is that we easily get used to sleeping less and fail to notice the real effect it has on us. We get cranky, are constantly hungry and unhappy, and start to blame it on work, stress, or lack of time. But more often than not, the real reason is the lack of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, these 11 tips can help you sleep better!
9. MINDFUL EATING
Mindful eating is related to the general practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness in general is about practicing awareness and being present in the moment without judgement. This can also be done in relation to food and eating. (13)
An experiment from the Indiana State University tested the effect of mini-meditations prior to eating or when urge to binge occurs. It involved focusing one’s awareness on behavior, beliefs, and emotions associated with food intake. The results suggested a positive effect, as the binges decreased in frequency and severity for the meditation group. (14)
Even though binge eating and cravings are not the same thing, they may show up together. And other more recent studies have been exploring the potential meditation has to change these behaviors. (15)
10. THINK LONG TERM
It would be unrealistic to expect that a craving can be stopped by thinking about it rationally, but taking a step back and visualizing the long-term consequences helps some people manage their cravings better.
If you are just eating better because somebody told you to or because you think you should (but don’t really have a real reason)…every day that you deprive yourself of your favorite foods will seem like torture – you’re going to fail miserably.
Instead, look at the changes you’re making to your diet as small steps on the path to a leveled up live.
You’re not depriving yourself of junk food because you want to suffer, but rather because you want a better life, a happier existence, and/or because you want to set a good example for your children.
Eat more real food, you must. Eat less junk food, you will.
I realize this concept is nothing new or revolutionary, but up until now the ability to actually DO IT has eluded you for some reason – your heart wasn’t in it, you got sick, went on vacation, got bored, or just decided that you couldn’t live without certain foods (SPOILER ALERT: you can).
I am NOT a fan of “diets”, detoxes, juice cleanses, or crash-fads that result in vast fluctuations in your body weight and health. These are the useless solutions that are sold to you in pill form, in MIRACLE DIET INFORMATION ads online, and in super expensive health food stores.
You are smarter than that.
Want to know what I am a fan of? Small changes that produce big results, like my boy Optimus Prime.
You need to determine for yourself how likely you are to succeed depending on how many changes at once you can deal with: Some people can radically adjust everything they eat overnight and have no adverse effects. Other people wouldn’t dream of giving up certain foods and the second they go more than a few days without it they become Crankenstein.
Eating healthier? You need to determine:
How averse are you to change?
How much weight do you need to lose?
How quickly you need to lose that weight? (wedding? honeymoon? vacation?)
How likely are you to stick with your changes?
Like playing a video game, you need to determine what level of difficulty you’re up for. Sure playing on “Ultra Hard Difficult gives you less room for error, but it also hones your skills far more quickly and produces more impressive results. Or maybe you’re cool with playing on easy, because you don’t have to be as neurotic and can have more fun with it.
Long story short: decide what method works best for you based on how radical of a change you’re chasing. Just don’t overdo it – small permanent successes will beat out massively ambitious failures 100 times out of 100.
This is the reason behind our 10-level nutritional system that we follow here at NF! Each level gets a bit more challenging and healthier, but you can progress at your own speed to make your changes stick!
You can download our 10-Level Nutrition Guide when you sign up in the box right here:Download our free weight loss guideTHE NERD FITNESS DIET: 10 Levels to Change Your Life
Follow our 10-level nutrition system at your own pace
What you need to know about weight loss and healthy eating
3 Simple rules we follow every day to stay on target
If I had to break down the Nerd Fitness Diet into a single sentence, it would go something like this:
“You’re smart and you know what real food is, so stop eating crap.”
You know what real food is: things that grew in the ground, on a tree, came out of the sea, ran on the land, or flew through the air. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts are all great examples of REAL food.
On top of that, you know what crap food is: food that comes from a drive-thru window, a vending machine, box, bag, or wrapper. If it has an ingredient list longer than A Game of Thrones, it’s probably not good for you. If it started out as real food and then went through fourteen steps to get to the point where you’re about to eat it, it’s probably not good for you.
Use this information and combine it with this mantra: “you can’t outrun your fork“. When trying to lose weight, feel healthy, and get in shape, 80% (not an exaggeration) of your success or failure will come from how well you eat – which is why this point is one of the cornerstones of the Rebellion.
Now, this is a very oversimplified explanation, and I’ll get into the nuance below.
Our goal isn’t NEVER EVER eat junk food again. I love pizza and candy too. They’re delicious.
Instead, we’ll start being smarter about making slightly better food decisions, slightly more frequently than we did in the past. Small changes to start, and continued adjustment.
Those cookies in the break room sure look tempting, don’t they? And those potato chips in the vending machine are so conveniently located right down the hall from your office. We live in a world where unhealthy food is around every corner and it might take a little more effort to find better options. The workplace is no exception to this.
A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy and Dietetics found that we eat an average of 1,300 calories at work during the week. However, the foods we are more likely to consume at the workplace are high in refined grains, sodium, and added sugar. Another component to consider is that 70% of the food consumed at work during the study was free. Companies are providing food to employees, which is a great concept…if they were offering healthier options. Some of the most common foods acquired at work include regular soft drinks, sandwiches, cookies & brownies, potato chips, and French fries. Forty-eight percent of the intake at work was for a snack or drink, 28.9% was for lunch, 16.7% was for breakfast, and 6.4% was for dinner.
Here are some tips to help you take control of your eating habits at work:
Bring Your Own Food If you want to avoid the temptation of higher-calorie-items in the vending machine or in the cafeteria, bring your own food. Some recommendations from Christine Tenekjian, MPH, RDN, LDN, Dietitian Clinician at Duke University Diet and Fitness Center, include having healthy snacks available, such snacks include fresh fruit, portioned packages of nuts, seeds or trail mix, or cut up vegetables with a hummus or guacamole dip.
Consider When and Where You Get Tempted Tenekjian also recommends to consider when and where you get tempted. Do you best to avoid the places with temptations when you are at your most vulnerable. For example, if there are donuts in the breakroom and you are feeling stressed and likely to cave, choose not to go to the break room – try going for a brisk walk to unload some of that stress instead.
Have a Plan & Eat Satisfying Meals The best way to minimize the temptation of food at work is to eat satisfying meals and not let yourself get too hungry. Trying to find something to eat in a time crunch or when you’re ravenous will lead to poor choices. It’s also a good idea to know what healthier foods are offered at your office. Having a few go-to items at work will eliminate last-minute unhealthy food decisions when you are in a hurry.
Here at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, we teach clients how to handle the temptations without feeling deprived. Navigating situations, like those you might encounter at work, can be tricky, but with the help of the staff at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, you will be more than competent at sticking to your goals when faced with adversity. Healthy eating at work is possible, it just might take a little extra effort. In the long run, it will prove worthwhile.
Smell that? It’s the fresh scent of springtime air.
And that means a whole array of tasty vegetables, fruits and healthy grains that are ripe and ready for cooking.
From spring salads, to onion frittatas, to rice cakes, soups and more, we put together our 10 favorite, light, crisp recipes that taste like springtime.
1) Spring Niçoise Salad
Serves: 4 Calories: 290
6 baby beets, greens removed and washed 2-1⁄2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar; more as needed 1 lemon, halved, plus 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice 8 baby artichokes, trimmed 1 cup plus 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 1⁄4 cup dry white wine 2 sprigs fresh thyme Red pepper flakes Kosher salt 3⁄4 lb. new potatoes 1 clove garlic, pounded to a smooth paste with a pinch of salt 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard 1 large egg yolk 1 lb. tuna, such as yellowfin or ahi, cut into even slices about 1 inch thick Freshly ground black pepper 2 not-so-hard-cooked eggs, peeled 1 handful arugula, preferably wild, or young dandelion (about 1 oz. total), washed and dried
Heat the oven to 350º F. Put the beets in a single layer in a baking dish. Add water to come about 1/2 inch up the side of the dish. Cover with foil and roast until the beets can be pierced with a sharp knife, about 45 minutes. When cool, peel and cut them into 1/2-inch wedges, and toss with 1 Tbs. of the vinegar and salt to taste; let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice of the lemon halves into it. Trim off the top quarter of the artichokes and snap off the tough outer leaves. Using a small, sharp knife, peel the stem and the base of the artichokes, then cut them in half and scoop out the choke with a spoon. As you finish trimming each artichoke, drop it into the bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent browning.
Just before cooking, drain the artichokes well. Warm a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1⁄4 cup olive oil, the artichokes, wine, 1⁄2 cup water, the thyme, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season with salt and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender when pierced at the base with a small, sharp knife, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes. If the liquid evaporates before the artichokes are tender, add a splash more water. Let cool at room temperature and then taste for salt.
Put the potatoes in a shallow baking dish or pan just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 Tbs. oil, season with a generous amount of salt, and toss well. Add a splash of water (just enough to create a little steam as the potatoes cook). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a small, sharp knife, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Remove from the oven, vent the foil, and let cool at room temperature.
To make the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, mustard, 1-1/2 Tbs. vinegar, and 1 Tbs. lemon juice in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg yolk, and then slowly whisk in 3⁄4 cup oil. Thin the vinaigrette with a few drops of cool water if necessary (you want it thin enough to drizzle nicely.) Taste and adjust with more salt or vinegar if necessary. Set aside.
Shortly before serving, halve or quarter the potatoes (depending on size and preference) and season with about 1-1⁄2 Tbs. of the vinaigrette. Set aside.
Season the tuna on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Warm a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat until very hot. Add 3 Tbs. oil and place the tuna in the skillet. Cook, without moving, until seared and nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tuna. Turn and cook on the opposite side for another 2 to 3 minutes. (The tuna should be pink in the center.) Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Drain any liquid from the artichokes and discard the thyme. Cut the eggs into quarters and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Scatter about half of the arugula around a large platter or individual plates. Tuck the potatoes, artichokes, beets, and eggs in and around the greens. Using your hands, break the tuna into rustic pieces, or slice it with a knife and nestle it in and around the other ingredients.
Drizzle about 1⁄4 cup vinaigrette over the platter, or about a Tbs. over individual portions, and serve immediately, passing the remaining vinaigrette at the table.
1 cup arborio rice ½ cup white wine 1 clove garlic, minced ½ large onion, chopped 3 cups veggie stock 2 tablespoons butter (I use non-dairy butter) ½ tablespoon olive oil 1 egg yolk, beaten 1 small lemon, zest and juice ½ cup peas (or however much you like) 1 cup asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces 4 basil leaves, chopped handful of sprouts salt & pepper sun dried tomatoes (optional) shaved parmesan or pecorino (optional) red pepper flakes (optional) water or more stock, if needed
Put veggie stock in a pan on the stove and simmer. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat butter, oil, onion, garlic, and a few pinches of salt. Cook until onion is soft, 4-5 minutes.
Add rice, stir together, and let the rice toast for about 1 minute.
Add white wine and half the lemon juice and let it cook, stirring for about 2 minutes until the wine is somewhat evaporated.
Add stock, one ladle full at a time, stirring continuously. When stock becomes mostly cooked down, add the next ladle full. This process should take about 20 minutes. Add more stock or water if necessary. During the last few minutes of this process, add in asparagus and peas.
Remove pan from heat. Mix in sun dried tomatoes, remaining lemon juice, lemon zest (reserve a bit for garnish at the end), beaten egg yolk, and cheese (if using). Stir together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more hot stock if necessary to reach your desired consistency.
Scoop into bowls and garnish with lemon zest, sprouts, basil, red pepper flakes & grated cheese, if you like.
1/3 cup olive oil 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato pesto 1 tablespoon dried basil 2 teaspoons dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried parsley 1 teaspoon dried dill 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to your liking 1-2 cloves garlic minced or grated salt + pepper to taste 1/3 cup kalamata olives halved 1/3 cup roasted marinated artichokes, drained + roughly chopped 2 tablespoons pickled pepperoncinis roughly chopped (optional) 3 cups cooked quinoa* 4-8 ounces ricotta cheese omit for vegan version 8 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded (omit or use vegan cheese for vegan version) 2-3 red bell peppers sliced 8-12 pepperonis optional 2-4 ounces pecorino cheese freshly grated (omit for vegan version) cherry tomatoes + freshly torn basil for topping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add the olive oil (make sure the oil covers the entire bottom of the baking dish, if not add more oil), now add the sun-dried tomato pesto, dried basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, dried dill, crushed red pepper, garlic and salt and pepper to a 9 x 13 inch or slightly smaller baking dish (I like using one of those oval dishes that is just a little smaller than a 9×13). To the baking dish add the cooked quinoa, the olives, artichokes and pepperoncinis.
Toss well until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Dollop the ricotta over the mixture and gently mix to combine.
Overtop, sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese and then scatter the sliced red peppers over top. At this point it will seem like there are too many peppers, but this is fine. They will cook down.
Place the pepperonis on top. Sprinkle on top 2-4 ounces of pecorino and another drizzle of olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the peppers have softened.
Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil, tomatoes and more pecorino or parmesan. Cut and eat.
8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat penne pasta 1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 2-in. pieces 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 cup halved multicolored grape tomatoes 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
To prepare pesto, bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add spinach and basil; cook 20 seconds. Remove spinach mixture to a bowl filled with ice water (reserve water in pan); let stand 30 seconds.
Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Place parsley and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in food processor; process until finely chopped. Add spinach mixture and 2 tablespoons oil; process to combine. Place 3/4 cup pesto in a small bowl; place plastic wrap directly on pesto. Reserve for Pesto Chicken with Blistered Tomatoes and Vegetable Soup au Pisto.
To prepare pasta, return water in pan to a boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions, adding asparagus during last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high until butter melts. Sprinkle shrimp with red pepper and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove shrimp from pan.
Add pasta mixture and reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in remaining 6 tablespoons pesto, shrimp, grape tomatoes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 bowls.
Cooking spray 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion 4 garlic cloves, chopped 3/4 cup unsalted vegetable stock (such as Swanson) 12 ounces fresh broccoli florets, cut into 1/2-in. pieces 1 (8.8-oz.) pkg. precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s) 1/4 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) 1 tablespoon grainy mustard 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt 3 ounces preshredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided (about 3/4 cup) 2 large eggs, lightly beaten Sliced green onions (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes. Add stock and broccoli. Bring to a boil; cook 3 minutes.
Heat rice according to package directions. Combine broccoli mixture, rice, panko, mustard, pepper, salt, and 1/2 cup cheese in a large bowl. Stir in eggs. Divide and shape broccoli mixture into 8 (2 1/2-inch) patties. Arrange patties on prepared pan; coat patties with cooking spray.
Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes. Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese, and bake at 450°F for 4 more minutes or until cheese melts. Garnish with green onions, if desired.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 small red onion, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 carrots, peeled and diced 2 celery stalks, diced 1 green bell pepper, diced 1 red bell pepper, diced 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced 1 (14. ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed 1 (14.5 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed 1 (14.5 ounce) can Great Northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (no salt added) 1 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 tablespoon oregano flakes 1 tablespoon ground cumin salt and pepper, to taste 2 medium zucchini, Blade D, noodles chopped
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, carrot, celery, peppers, and jalapeño. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and season with oregano, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chili thickens. Taste and adjust to your preferences.
Once chili is thickened, add in the zucchini noodles and stir to combine thoroughly.
Let cook for 2-3 minutes before serving. Serve into bowls.
3 medium zucchini 2 large carrots ½ red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin 1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce ( or coconut aminos for Paleo) 2 tsp pure maple syrup 2 tsp sesame oil 1-2 cloves garlic, minced ( or ⅛ tsp garlic powder) ½ tsp sriracha ( more or less to taste) ¼ tsp rice wine vinegar ( or a squeeze of lime) 1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter (or almond butter for Paleo) Optional garnishes, sliced green onion, toasted sesame seeds, chopped cilantro
Wash the zucchini and cut off ends. Use a spiralizer ( or julienne peeler) to create “noodles” . Line a bowl with paper towels or a clean tea towel. Place zucchini noodles in bowl while you make the carrot noodles and sauce.
Wash and peel carrots. Use a spiralizer ( or julienne peeler) to create “noodles.” Cut red bell pepper into thin strips.
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil, sriracha, rich vinegar and peanut butter. (It may be necessary to add ½ tsp or so of water to create a creamy sauce.)
Squeeze excess water from zucchini noodles by gently squeezing with clean hands or by wrapping in tea towel/clean cloth.
10) Arugula, Carrot and Chickpea Salad with Wheat Berries
Serves: 4 Calories: 500
1 cup dried wheat berries (or spelt berries or farro, adjust cooking time accordingly) 2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 4 carrots, sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled 4 to 6 cups arugula (if it’s not baby arugula, you might want to give it a few chops to break it into smaller pieces
⅓ cup olive oil 2 teaspoons honey 2 garlic cloves, pressed ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 small lemon, juiced ½ teaspoon ground sea salt or kosher salt freshly ground black pepper, to taste
There’s an equal amount of confusion and hype surrounding a low-carb diet.
Research shows low-carb diets can be an effective way to shed pounds — although not necessarily superior to weight-reduction results achieved by other diets, such as a low-fat or reduced-calorie diets.
But a low-carb diet plan isn’t as straightforward as the name might have you believe.
“A low-carbohydrate diet can have a wide, unclear definition,” says Holly Klamer, M.S., R.D., “but in general terms, it means following a diet that has less than 45–65 percent of [total daily] calories from carbohydrates.”
(For reference, the recommended carbohydrate range for adults, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is 45–65 percent of total daily calories.)
Some low-carb diets, like the modern Atkins diet, for example, limits trans fat and sugar in addition to carbs, while a ketogenic diet drastically reduces carbs and replaces them with fats.
In general, however, most low-carb diets focus on limiting refined grains and starches (like white bread, pasta, and potatoes) in favor of lean protein, whole grains, non-starchy veggies, and low-glycemic fruits.
But with so much varying information out there, it can be easy to misinterpret a low-carb diet or to implement its principles in an extreme or unsustainable way.
The intention behind the diet — to reduce the amount of unhealthy carbs you consume on a regular basis — isn’t inherently a bad idea, but you need to be smart about how you execute it. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid.
7 Common Low-Carb Diet Mistakes
1. Ignoring the nutritional value of carbs
Carbs aren’t the enemy. There are plenty of nutritious and super yummy carbohydrates you can and should be eating in moderation. Think: fruit, whole grains, beans, and vegetables, to name a few.
These foods provide our bodies with the natural, sustained energy we need to function and stay active. “A carbohydrate-dense fruit such as a banana can give you the fuel you need to increase the intensity of your workout; [you might] burn more calories [as a result],” says Klamer.
High-quality carbs are also chockful of vital nutrients like B vitamins, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Klamer says reducing your carbohydrate intake to super-low levels puts you at risk for deficiencies in these areas.
2. Eating too much unhealthy fat
Eating low-carb isn’t an excuse to go nuts on beef, pork, eggs, butter, cheese, and other foods with high trans or saturated fat content.
Eating a diet high in trans fat isn’t heart-healthy, says Sharon George, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Consuming high levels of trans fat may cause your liver to produce more LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
According to the American Heart Association, too much “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and not enough “good” cholesterol (HDL) may put you at risk for certain types of disease.
In fact, one study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a low-carb diet high in animal protein (dairy and meat) was associated with higher all-cause mortality, while a low-carb diet high in plant protein (veggies, tofu, lentils, etc.) and lower in trans fat was associated with lower all-cause mortality rates.
Monitoring saturated fat intake is also an approach to maintaining good cardiovascular health. One review of research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritioninvestigated the issue of what to replace saturated fat with in the diet.
Researchers found that substituting saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates may be beneficial for overall health.
The overall takeaway: Cut back on trans and saturated fat consumption, while also reducing refined carbs (think: white bread, pasta, rice, sugary pastries, cookies, etc.).
Instead, eat healthy fats, such as mono- and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Great sources of these types of fats include salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, seeds, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil.
3. Misunderstanding portion sizes
If you don’t have a basic idea of portion sizes — say, what a single portion of brown rice or steel-cut oats actually looks like — you’re likely to either over- or underestimate how much food you need.
Understanding portion sizes can help prevent overeating while also ensuring you consume enough nutrients to fuel your body properly.
(Pro tip: For a crash course in proper portion sizes, Portion Fix’s color-coded containers make it super easy to meal plan and lose weight.)
Denis Faye, M.S. and Beachbody’s executive director of nutrition, says the Portion Fix plan advocates for a healthy balance of macronutrients: 30 percent of your total daily calories from protein, 30 percent from healthy fats, and 40 percent from carbs — the majority of which should be unprocessed and unrefined.
“By going with 40 percent carbs, we’re able to make the majority of carbs [in the plan] produce-based without crushing people [who are] new to healthy eating under a kale, broccoli, and mixed-berry avalanche,” says Faye.
There are three containers for carbs in the system: Purple is for fruits, green is for veggies, and yellow is for other carbs like whole grains. You fill each one up with its corresponding foods anywhere from two to six times a day, depending on your predetermined calorie target range; no measuring or overthinking necessary.
Faye also notes that the 40 percent carbs guideline isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: “Starting your diet at 40 percent carbs allows you to experiment and increase your carbs to a level that best works for you, which is much easier than trying to slowly reduce carbs to find your sweet spot,” he explains.
4. Eating too much protein
“Getting enough protein is hugely important for both health reasons and because it aids muscle recovery,” says Faye. (Protein breaks down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle.)
Eating less carbs certainly means you’ll need to eat more protein (especially if you want to crush your workouts), but it’s important not to go overboard.
“When [your] carbohydrate intake is significantly decreased, the body starts breaking down stored carbohydrate sources [glycogen, for energy],” says Klamer. “When these stores get depleted, the body will start altering fat and protein to make carbohydrates.”
Gluconeogenesis (which means “creating new sugar”) is the metabolic process by which the liver converts non-carbohydrate sources (like fats, amino acids, and lactate) into glucose to regulate blood sugar levels.
Gluconeogenesis usually occurs when your body doesn’t have sufficient carbohydrates to properly fuel your brain and muscles.
Amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can’t be stored for long-term energy, which means the body has to convert this excess protein into either glucose or fat storage, possibly negating the effect of eating low-carb and making it more difficult to lose weight.
To avoid getting too much of a good thing, aim for protein to make up a solid 30 percent of your diet, not half. For ideas, check out these healthy, high-protein snacks for when you’re on-the-go.
5. Not considering activity level when determining carb intake
“Carbs are fuel. They’re massively important and the body is superefficient at processing them, which is a blessing and a curse,” says Faye. “If you get the right amount [of carbs], they’re the ideal fuel for exercise, health — even for fueling your brain.”
But what’s the ideal amount? That depends, in part, on your level of activity and how much weight you want to lose. If you exercise a few times a week and make a point to move often throughout the day, you probably don’t need more than 40 percent of your daily calories from carbs. This amount ensures you get enough carbs to energize and fuel your body, but not so many that you can’t burn them off through regular exercise and your daily 10,000 steps.
Just remember, the carbs you eat should be of the clean, whole-grain variety: fruit, vegetables, quinoa, sweet potatoes, or wild rice, for example.
6. Eating too many carbs
Just as it’s possible to eat too few carbs when starting a low-carb diet, it’s also possible to eat too many.
What constitutes an excess of carbs varies for each individual depending on metabolism and activity level, but in general, consuming more than 45 percent of your total daily calories from carbs isn’t technically a low-carb diet plan, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
If carbs make up half or the majority of your food consumption, you may be missing out on other essential macronutrients like lean protein and healthy fats. Protein is necessary for building muscle, and healthy fats provide our bodies with energy, aid in nutrient absorption, and facilitate cell growth and function.
7. Eating too many processed low-carb foods
Just because a food is low-carb doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. Highly processed foods like bacon, certain deli meats, and low-carb snack bars don’t have many carbohydrates, but they’re often loaded with excess sodium, trans fats, and other additives.
Eating low-carb foods with refined and processed ingredients may not provide you with the nutrients you need to feel satisfied and energized. Before you load your shopping cart or plate with any item that has a low-carb label, consider the quality of the food in front of you.
If a food contains refined grains, artificial additives, added sugar, or ingredients you can’t pronounce or wouldn’t cook with at home, it’s probably highly processed.
Whenever possible, choose whole or minimally processed carbs. “Naturally occurring carbohydrates like the ones found in whole foods such as whole grains, dairy like yogurt and milk, and fruits and vegetables, provide important nutrients,” says Gorin.
How to Reduce Your Carb Intake in a Healthy Way
Adopting new eating habits takes time and patience, which is why it’s important to go slowly and be realistic about your expectations for weight loss.
“Many people get discouraged when starting a low-carb diet because it can take weeks to see results [from actual fat loss],” says George. Though you might see a lower number on the scale in the first week of eating low-carb, this change is probably a result of losing water weight.
The process of shedding fat and gaining muscle, however, might be more gradual. If that’s the case, remember that slow and steady wins the race.
Cut back on less-healthy carbs first
“If you’re looking to reduce carbohydrate intake,” says Gorin, “I recommend reducing the types of carbs that aren’t beneficial — [like] processed foods that contain added sugars and refined [grains].”
Items such as soda, candy, desserts, chips, and other processed foods don’t supply your body with enough vital nutrients. You don’t need to completely nix these foods from your diet, though (unless you want to!).
Instead, aim to enjoy them sparingly and with smart modifications. With Beachbody’s Portion Fix Eating Plan, for example, you can indulge in the occasional treat made at home using whole foods and natural ingredients, such as unsweetened applesauce, pure maple syrup, or extra-virgin coconut oil, to make treats like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, strawberry lemonade bars, or red velvet cupcakes.
Eat carbs with more nutritional value
“If you are choosing to eat less carbs, it is important to make the carbs you do eat as nutritious as possible,” says Klamer. Try to eat low-glycemic, high-fiber carbs whenever you can.
Low-glycemic carbs such as legumes, nuts, sweet potatoes, berries, and green apples help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide longer-lasting energy, says Klamer.
For more fiber and nutrients, Klamer recommends whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, and brown or wild rice. Other fiber-rich foods include black beans, lentils, broccoli, barley, artichokes, and raspberries.
(Pro tip: Need ideas on how to lose weight and get fit? Download our free “100 Ways to Lose Weight” guide here!)
High-Quality, Nutrient-Rich Carbs
Not sure which carbs to enjoy? Here are some examples of totally delicious and Portion Fix-approved carbs to add to your diet:
Many people who start low-carb diets take them to extreme measures, and can end up drastically reducing their carb intake, consuming large amounts of unhealthy fats, or not incorporating enough nutrient-rich carb sources into their meals.
That doesn’t mean low-carb diets are bad, though — they can be an effective weight-loss strategy, but you need to be thoughtful about the approach you take.
In general, focus on limiting processed and refined carbs, and eating more high-quality carbs from whole grains, fruits, and veggies. You’ll gradually lose weight and get all the nutrients you body needs to thrive.