• 5 Surprising Ways to Make Over Your Menu
    IMAGE Thomas-Soellner/iStock
  • Surprise: The best way to clean up your diet is to eat … more. No, rea lly. “I always tell my clients that you need to add before you take away,” says nutrition expert JJ Virgin, author of JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet. “If you don’t, you end up hungry and frustrated and in worse shape than before.”

    This new year, adopt five food “rules” that feel more like big, shiny permission slips, rotating in at least one per day until you’re juggling them all effortlessly. The rules work by training your body to love the good stuff so the rest gets edged out. “When you start eating this way, you naturally cut down on processed sugar, which is so key,” says Susan Blum, M.D., founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York, and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan.

    Before you begin, promise us this: One, that you’ll tote around a water bottle and guzzle H2O whenever you can (research shows it helps you cut calories), and two, that you’ll crack open a notebook or your phone and jot down what you eat. “It’s critical as you’re going through these changes to see what you’re eating and how you feel,” Virgin says.

    1. Start dinner with an appetizer.
    You want to stick with something low-calorie here, like steamed cauliflower, roasted asparagus, or a bowl of broth-based soup. Taking a few minutes to enjoy a smaller dish before you even plate dinner helps you better gauge your hunger, Virgin says.

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    “We tend to hardly chew, and by the time we realize we’re full, we’re stuffed.” Plus, an appetizer turns dinner into a multicourse meal—something you actually sit down for, which is better than grazing your way through the evening. “It’s mindless eating that’s the problem,” Virgin says.

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    2. Add lean protein to every meal.
    “It helps keep your blood sugar steady so you don’t feel tired and cranky and desperate for carbs,” Dr. Blum says. And protein is so satisfying that you might not even think about food for hours after eating it. “Animal protein is the most easily absorbed by your body,” Virgin says. “So look for wild fish, grass-fed beef, and free-range pork and chicken." Vegetarians should focus on nuts, seeds, lentils, and plant-based protein powders, she adds. Make sure every meal contains one serving.

    3. Stock up on healthy fats.
    “Good fat is the secret weapon for your mood and energy, and it also helps you control your weight,” Virgin says. That’s because fat triggers the release of chemicals that both help your brain function smoothly and your belly feel full. But wait, you’re thinking. Are you telling me to eat three avocados and two cups of olive oil with dinner? “Actually, that’s just not going to happen,” Virgin says. “You can easily eat an entire box of cereal, but fat is so satisfying that you’ll never hear anyone say that they pigged out the night before and ate five avocados.”

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    The exception is trigger foods: If you can’t stop snacking on nuts, or you open a jar of peanut butter and a spoon seems to magically graft itself to your hand, then those are not the healthy fats for you. Aim for two or three servings with every (every!) meal. A good litmus test for healthy fats: Go for something plant-based that’s close to it snatural form. An avocado, yes; coconut oil, sure; the hydrogenated stuff in potato chips, not so much.

    4. Eat as many veggies as possible. 
    Crisp, colorful vegetables (the non-starchy kind, like leafy greens, bright peppers, and sweet, snappy carrots) are full of nutrients, low in calories, and high in filling fiber. You need 5 to 10 servings a day—and you can have more if you’d like, Dr. Blum says. Toss some in your morning smoothie, make lunch a crisp salad (complete with protein and healthy fat, of course), and don’t call it dinner unless veggies take up half the plate.

    5. Take a bite of chocolate.
    We wouldn’t dare leave out dessert. “While you’re working to retrain your taste buds to appreciate savory, spicy, and naturally sweet flavors, dark chocolate can take the edge off your cravings so you don’t wind up having cake,” Virgin says. Buy a bag of individually wrapped one- or two-ounce squares of 85-percent-cocoa chocolates, and have one after dinner each night. Ask your partner to serve them, if you’re worried you’ll tear into the rest of the bag—because restraint makes a difference. “Chocolate’s healthy, as long as you don’t overdo it,”Virgin says.

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    This story originally appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.

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