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How to Transform Your Nutrition Habits

Elena Sonnino Jun 24, 2014

A holistic nutritionist at a luxury fitness retreat shares her philosophy.

You are what you eat – or are you?

We hear messages all the time about diet programs. Low-calorie, low-fat, high protein, gluten-free, paleo – there are more than 50 diets in North America that promise life-changing success. But what if the key to improved nutrition, weight loss and vitality was actually to focus on metabolism and nutrients?

Think of it as “mission” instead of a diet. A mission that, combined with high energy output and the best of the best nutrition, can raise anabolic metabolism and reverse insulin resistance.

Jennifer Kierstead – a holistic nutritionist at Mountain Trek, a luxury fitness retreat and health spa program in British Columbia – shares key nutritional patterns to transition from a diet mentality to a long term, sustainable lifestyle.

  • Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of getting out of bed to kick-start your metabolism for the day.
  • Consume two-thirds of daily food within the first nine hours of the day to reduce evening blood sugars and combat excess sugar as fat.
  • Maintain blood sugar levels by eating multiple food groups every three hours during the day.
  • Slow down and chew more to avoid overeating.
  • Schedule an earlier dinner and take a walk, or engage in some type of physical activity afterwards.
  • Lower alcohol intake to avoid empty calories and sugar.
  • Eliminate or minimize the use of artificial sweeteners.

 

According to Kierstead, these patterns won't just balance blood sugars and hormones such as insulin, glucagon, leptin and ghrehlin. They'll also support a “growth-centered metabolism” for active lifestyles.

Both time and meal composition play a significant role in optimal nutrition. Optimal meal composition ideas include:

Breakfast: equal volumes of complex carbohydrates, protein, vegetables or fruit, and a teaspoon of omega oil.

Morning snack: protein (such as almond butter, nuts, seeds or hummus) and fruit.

Afternoon snack: protein and vegetable.

Lunch and dinner: should be portioned by volume at 25 percent protein and almost 75 percent vegetables (plus a teaspoon of omega oil).

This combination, used five days a week, supports healthy and sustainable weight loss with a realistic allowance of two days for indulgences or special events.

While many guests visit Mountain Trek for a one-week reboot or two-week renewal of metabolism, the nutritional lessons are good for all of us. I had the opportunity to talk with Kierstead about how to integrate healthful eating patterns. Our conversation:

What's the biggest thing you notice about people's meal habits before committing to new patterns? 

When I meet with guests for nutrition consultations, we review their food diary. The first thing I often notice is that everyone leads a very busy life, and food is often something that has to happen quickly due to a lack to time. For the most part, people rely on stimulants to keep up with everything they have going on in their life, especially coffee in the morning and mid-afternoon.

How can people start to transform their nutritional patterns? 

The key is to take things slowly. We like to say it's all about baby steps. Work on one thing at a time and before you know it, you will form a new habit. Then, begin to focus on the next goal, and so on. In this fashion, we create sustainable lifestyle change.

Attempting to make a 360-degree change can become a bit challenging long term. When we try and follow all the rules perfectly, we may end up getting a little off track due to unrealistic expectations. This can be hard on your self esteem and hinder results.

What is a change that seems hardest for people to integrate? 

Eating an early dinner is a big challenge for a lot of people. Many of us work late and, because of this, are having dinner anywhere between 7 and 8 p.m. Knowing this is a reality for many of us, I suggest keeping dinner to a minimal size and including lots of vegetables with a high-quality protein source (such as wild fish, legumes and grass-fed or organic meats).If people could only integrate one nutritional strategy, what should it be?

Start your day by eating breakfast as soon as possible. We encourage guests to choose a meal containing a fruit or veggie with a complex carb and protein. This helps avoid overeating later in the day, as well as encourages the body to burn the calories vs. store them (which can happen when we skip meals).

Choosing “action-packed nutrient rich foods” makes sense for improved vitality, overall health and of course weight management. These nutritional patterns de-emphasize the notion of “you are what you eat” and remind us – according to Keirstead – “you are what you absorb."

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