After a couple of weeks back at school, some find that their diet starts to get lazy. You are going from class-to-class and you need to grab something fast, so it is easy to go for the quick comfort foods or something you can eat with your hands, such as pizza or a burrito. Though you put a lot of time into schoolwork and spending time with friends, it is important to also put time into treating your body right. Most of us don’t get enough sleep, so the least you can do is give it the nutrients it needs.
A meal should be based off protein and fiber. They keep you full the longest. Plus, if you eat low-fat power foods, you won’t feel as bad about taking the soft-serve ice cream cone to-go, which, by the way, is a much better choice than hard ice cream.
Some base “healthy” meals off fruit and yogurt. In moderation, that’s a good idea, but fruit is very high in sugar, which is why, according to the recent revision to My Plate, formerly the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food pyramid, vegetables should fill up more of the plate than fruits. They both contain necessary vitamins, but veggies contain less sugar. Vegetables don’t fill me up as much as breads and more dense foods, so I like to add beans, chicken or tuna to my salads.
The body converts all forms of sugars and carbohydrates to glucose, a source of energy. According to Katie Vann of livestrong.com, “when more complex carbohydrates such as polysaccharides and disaccharides are broken down in the stomach, they break down into the monosaccharide glucose. Carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source for working muscles, help brain and nervous system functioning, and help the body use fat more efficiently.”
The liver and muscles can only store so much glycogen; therefore, any carbohydrates that are consumed beyond the storage capacity are converted and stored as fat.
Individuals who exercise regularly can double or even triple their amount of glycogen storage. Sometimes I work out before eating breakfast. It speeds up your metabolism for the day. One might wonder how I have enough energy on an empty stomach. Athletes rely on the stored glycogen to provide energy for a workout or training session. Non-active individuals need fewer carbohydrates on a daily basis and are less likely to burn off their glycogen reserves, so excess carbohydrates are more likely to be stored as fat – a double whammy.
In terms of carbohydrates, you want to aim for whole wheat.. According to the USDA, 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates because they are prime energy and fiber sources.
According to Kelly Spivey, “Carbohydrates are categorized according to their Glycemic Load, an indicator of how rapidly the blood glucose will rise upon digestion. For example, if you look at some common breakfast flakes, corn flakes have a Glycemic Load (GL) of 21 whereas All-Bran has a GL of 4.”
You want to eat carbohydrates that have a glycemic load in or below the low-teens because if they are too high they will cause a spike in blood glucose and be stored as fat. The body burns more calories digesting protein than carbohydrates. Replacing some carbs with lean protein foods can boost metabolism and the protein keeps you full longer.
Don’t neglect your low or non-fat dairy, which contains protein and calcium. I was excited last year when the dining commons added Chobani yogurt because Greek yogurt has more protein than normal yogurt.
Though foods like bagels and pasta are low-fat they can be easily converted to fat once digested. Bagels and muffins seem healthy in theory, but they aren’t. Muffins can be a healthy and satisfying snack, if made in a certain way. For example, my mom substitutes unsweetened applesauce for oil in cakes and breads. This one-to-one conversion reduces fat and calories and adds to your total fruit serving for the day. Since applesauce is sweeter than oil, you can also slightly decrease the amount of sugar you add to the recipe. You don’t even have to change the baking time. Made this way, I think muffins and cakes taste better, the baked good is softer and you don’t feel bad about eating it.
A higher metabolism burns calories faster. Men naturally burn more calories than women, but everyone can increase his or her metabolic rates. Building muscle burns fat, which is why workout systems like P90X, in which you build up your muscle mass rather than doing more cardio, provide great results.
The effect of high-intensity workouts is a larger increase in your resting metabolic rate than low or moderate-intensity workouts. Drink water, and lots of it, because your metabolism slows down even if you are only slightly dehydrated. If you have a choice, do not drink soda or fruity drinks because there’s no point in drinking those extra calories; however, black coffee and tea, preferably green, are OK choices because caffeine speeds up metabolism. Snack on fruits and vegetables rather than pretzels or chips that don’t contain any liquid at all. Eat more often, not more food, because your metabolism drops between meals, so have a small meal or snack, preferably spicy, to temporarily increase your metabolism, according to WebMD.
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Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.