Raise your hand if you want to lose a few extra pounds and have more energy.
Isn’t that what we all want? And we think we can do it by hitting the gym a few days a week, don’t we? Certainly, exercise is excellent for weight loss. It boosts caloric expenditure and increases lean muscle mass which is more metabolically active and burns more calories, even at rest, than fat.
But you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
For one thing, if your diet lacks adequate nutrients, you won’t be able to build muscle tissue, nor will you have the energy to work out for very long or very frequently. And then there is the plain, hard truth of the math. For example, McDonald’s iconic Big Mac has 490 calories. To burn these off, the average man or woman has to lift weights for 57 or 68 minutes, respectively. If you said yes to “would you like (large) fries with that?”, men would have to double their weightlifting time to 2 hours. And, ladies, if you indulged in a Coke with that Big Mac and large fries, then you’d need a 2-hour cardio session to burn those calories. Not many people get the levels of physical exercise required to offset a poor diet.
You get slim in the kitchen.
Famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said it best when he said you get strong in the gym and slim in the kitchen (I’m paraphrasing from a talk he gave at the Toronto Public Library).
I know this from personal experience. I had surgery on each of my feet a few years ago and thought for sure I was going to gain 15 lbs not being able to even walk, let alone go to the gym, for 3 months. But, do you know what? Each surgery I lost 6 lbs (a pound a week!) just sitting on my butt. I was baffled. Until I realized why. For the first time in years, I was eating home-cooked food every day rather than restaurant food. Research has shown this. A 2003 study by Harvard economists surveyed cooking patterns across several cultures. They found that obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation. The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity.[i]
Cook your food yourself.
And the main reason cooking your own food from scratch is much healthier is because we can control what does, and doesn’t, go into our mouths. Corporations cook very differently than we do. Profits are the goal, so food tends to be made with inexpensive ingredients. In fact, 80% of the cost of the food eaten in the home goes not to the farmer to purchase the raw ingredients but, rather, to pay for industrial cooking, packaging and marketing.[ii] And the other goal is a long shelf life. As a result, industrially processed foods are chock full of sugar and/or salt, refined grains and hydrogenated fats with stabilizers and preservatives added to make food look fresher longer. These are not the healthiest ingredients. And when it comes to restaurant food, ingredient lists are often not readily at hand. You may not be consuming what you think you are consuming.
Case in point: the Subway sandwich chain has been in the media recently over tests undertaken by CBC Marketplace that showed an average of 42.8 per cent chicken DNA for its chicken strips. Subway is disputing these findings, but the chain confirmed the ingredients in its chicken strips as follows[iii]: boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, water, soy protein concentrate, modified potato starch, sodium phosphate, potassium chloride, salt, maltodextrin, yeast extract, flavours, spices, dextrose, onion powder, caramelized sugar, paprika, chicken broth, vinegar solids, paprika extract.
This isn’t the chicken your mama used to make! Many of these ingredients are salt and sugar additives, the former elevating sodium content to 7-10 times greater than unadulterated chicken and the latter considerably increasing the carbohydrate component which in unadulterated chicken is zero. When we cook for ourselves, we can use high quality, whole foods to make our meals both delicious and nutritious.
Eat your vegetables (like your mother always said).
And one of the best ways to do this is by cooking with lots of vegetables! I don’t mean to sound like your mother saying “eat your veg” – but almost 90% of us don’t and most prepared foods are sorely lacking in them…yet they should take up at least half our plates! WHY? They are full of nutrients and fibre and very low in calories.
Take leafy greens for example. They are one of the best sources of magnesium, a mineral in which Health Canada says most of us are deficient. Why should we care? Because we need magnesium for over 300 processes in our bodies…most importantly our cells can’t make energy without it! We also need it to move our muscles, build bone, regulate stress and protect against diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And leafy greens are full of fibre, which helps control your blood sugar (again preventing diabetes), maintains the health of your colon, lowers cholesterol and fills you up so you eat less. The best part? You get all this for very little calories so they are great for weight loss as well. You’ll never go hungry because you can literally stuff yourself with them.
And leafy greens like spinach, kale and chard are super fast and easy to prepare! Pack ‘em into breakfast smoothies, stir them into soups and stews, make a salad or just steam or stir fry them. It’s simple and takes only minutes to make leafy greens a staple in your diet!
Take action today.
Take a step toward boosting your energy and shedding that unwanted weight by preparing a few home cooked meals with leafy greens in the starring role. Make just 2 dinners. Or bring your lunch 2 days (better yet, do both by making extra for dinner and bringing leftovers to lunch). And remember, no time is less wasted than time spent cooking nourishing and delicious meals for yourself or the people you love!