Summer's coming! Want to know how you can get in shape and feel healthier as the weather gets warmer? It's simpler than you might think - and it's never a bad idea to look and feel your best as bathing suit weather approaches. Here are the four "pillars" that hold up a balanced diet, and support you solidly on your journey to better health this summer.
Pillar #1: Proteins. Protein is pure muscle food. It also helps keep your metabolism functioning at its highest level so you burn more fat. (Double bonus, there!) The key is finding protein-filled foods that boost muscle without including extra fat. Some great examples: lean proteins like fish and eggs. Not so great: ribeye steak and bacon. Start your day with a lean protein-filled breakfast and make sure to pair meats and veggies for maximum punch.
Pillar #2: Veggies. You knew this one was coming. Vegetables might not be your favorite tasty treat, but their correlation with weight loss is well-known. (In fact, one study showed that people who included a pureed vegetable dish in their daily diet consumed 360 less calories a day.)
Veggies don't just make you thinner, they make you healthier. People who eat vegetables regularly enjoy better heart health, lower cancer risk, higher energy levels and longer lives. So why wait? Fill half your plate with veggies at each meal - try spinach in your meatloaf or some pureed greens in a burger patty. You'll hardly notice the taste - but you'll notice a real difference in your wellbeing.
Pillar #3: Grains. Believe it or not, all carbs aren't bad. The carbohydrates you want to avoid are the empty, sugar-filled "refined" carbs you'll find in snack foods, sugary cereals and pastries. These carbs don't do a thing for you except help you pack on the pounds. But "good" carbs? Pick up a loaf of whole-grain bread and you'll unwrap a whole different story.
Whole grains are chock-full of fiber, which is chock-full of health benefits. Fiber slows down your digestion, helps you feel full (so you don't overeat), and regulates your blood sugar. Plus, it gives you the quick energy boost you need to get you moving in the morning. And it carries a whole load of extra health benefits, like lower blood pressure, lower BMI, and less risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Pillar #4: Spices. Surprise! Healthy food doesn't have to be bland. In fact, you can add a whole extra layer of tastiness to your diet plan with super-spices like cinnamon (an antioxidant that lowers cholesterol and blood sugar), fresh basil (a nutrient-rich powerhouse that includes vitamins A, C and K, calcium, fiber and iron) and cayenne pepper (a natural appetite suppressant). Spice things up! Your tastebuds - and your whole body - will thank you.