By Georgia Pandelios, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Owner at Nutrition Prescription.
COVID kilos, or pandemic weight gain, has become a common phenomenon – especially for those working from home. With reduced commute time and increased screen time, our lives have become even more sedentary. We zoom more and move around less. Except for those round trips to the pantry. Together with the boredom of being confined at home, we might graze more often as food is within arm’s reach, just a few steps away from our “office.”
Yet with summer around the corner, many are now realising the impact these homely habits have had on the scale. Do not panic. Losing weight can be easy, effective and sustainable when done with a plan.
Here are eight dietitian endorsed steps to rebooting your diet before summer.
1. Set a goal:
Goals are important in keeping us accountable, on track and motivated. The key is to make sure it is realistic and achievable. Set a long term goal as well as several short term goals. A healthy and sustainable amount of weight loss ranges between 0.5kg to 1kg per week. Different things work for different people and you don’t need to use kilo goals – you can use dress sizes or even belt loops.
2. Start meal planning for your grocery shop:
Try to plan out each of the meals you will cook, as well as your snacks, in addition to setting a regular grocery shopping day. This can be weekly for some, fortnightly for others. The key is to set out what the necessities for your diet are and some back up options in case the unexpected happens.
3. Boost the quality of your diet:
Focusing on your diet quality means choosing lots of wholefoods and limiting processed foods. By default, these foods are usually more filling and restrict excess calories, whilst also maximising nutrient intake to support overall health.
4. Portion Control:
Calorie counting is undeniably an exhausting task and doesn’t necessarily improve our diet or health. No matter what the meals are, it is important to get the balance right. The plate model is a very simple and useful tool to portion control a main meal. This strategy aims for 50% of your plate as non-starchy vegetables or salad, 25% as lean protein (eg. meat, chicken, eggs, fish, tofu) and 25% as complex carbohydrates (eg. brown rice, sweet potato, grainy bread). Don’t forget to include some healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil or avocado in your meal for added flavour and to help with absorbing those important fat-soluble vitamins.
5. Eat consistently:
Eating regularly and evenly spreading out our meals can prevent us from overeating and make portion control a lot easier. Make sure to not skip meals or snacks. For those of you who are always on-the-go, convenient protein-rich snack options might include a small tub of yoghurt, cheese and crackers, or some trail mix.
6. Take advantage of low energy foods:
Low energy foods are those that are low in calories, but usually rich in nutrients that are good for our health. These foods are great fillers to do exactly that, keep you full. If you haven’t guessed it yet, most of our plant foods fall into this category. My favourite ones for summer are berries, passionfruit and cucumbers. These can bulk up a meal or snack to help keep us more satisfied and fuller for longer.
7. Drink water:
With the warmer days ahead, it’s also important to make sure we are drinking enough water. Some people might find themselves snacking more when their fluid intake is low as a result of confusing the thirst mechanism for hunger. The average adult needs 2 litres or 8 cups of water per day and sugar free soft drinks are not a substitute. Cold water can be more potable compared to tap water, alternatively adding some berries, mint, lemon wedges or cucumber slices to a drink bottle can make it more enjoyable.
8. Ask for help:
Developing a healthy eating habit is a lifelong skill that takes time and practice. Having support from family and friends in following a routine at home or when eating in social settings is important. This might include delegating age appropriate food prep tasks to family members or ordering takeaway that is in line with the plate model.
Managing weight is very possible, even during pandemic times. By shifting the focus onto building healthy eating habits, we can make our health and weight journey more successful, less stressful and more sustainable. We’re not robots. We have the sense of taste and smell for a reason and enjoying our meals is also key. Having a dietitian on board to coach you along the way is definitely beneficial. Speak to your GP about accessing Medicare rebates for sessions with a dietitian.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is generalised and is not intended to replace medical or dietetic advice, nor directly manage any medical conditions. For personalised advice, please speak with your doctor or contact our office to make an appointment with one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians.