For some people, buzzy meal plans like Whole30 and the ketogenic diet are the only things that motivate them to overhaul their eating habits. For others, diets can be seriously problematic. That’s one reason New York City–based nutritionist Brooke Alpert, RD, wrote The Diet Detox. An anti-diet guide to making healthy food choices, the book provides “ten simple rules to help you stop dieting, start eating, and lose the weight for good.”
According to Alpert, diets don’t work because they have expiration dates; you're only supposed to be on them for a fixed amount of time. When they end, so does your weight-loss success. A better idea, she believes, is to follow a meal plan that helps you develop lifelong healthy eating habits. Here, three bite-size pieces of nutrition advice we ate up from Alpert’s new book.
Have protein and fiber at every meal
Rule number one of Alpert’s eating plan is to include these nutrients at every meal. Why? Protein helps prompt metabolism and fills you up, so you’re less prone to overeating later. Fiber puts the brakes on the body’s absorption of sugar, making you more likely to use glucose for energy rather than store it as fat, she states.
Not sure what to nosh on to get optimal protein and fiber all day long? Alpert recommends an omelette (protein) with spinach (fiber) and cheddar cheese or chia pudding (protein) with berries (fiber) for breakfast. For lunch, try chicken (protein) with a big crunchy salad (fiber), followed by sauteed shrimp (protein) over zucchini noodles (fiber) and tomato sauce at dinner.
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Clock your meals
Stable blood sugar levels are at the core of sustained weight loss, Alpert believes. So allowing seven or more hours to go by between lunch and dinner isn’t advised; your blood sugar will plunge, driving you to eat too much in response. Instead, eat a meal or snack every four hours to keep blood sugar in check and avoid hanger (which will likely cause you to overeat).
Also smart: leave at least 12 to 14 hours between dinner and breakfast the following day. Animal studies suggest that when mice are put on restricted feeding schedules (for example, are only given a 9-12 hour window to eat a day's worth of meals), they develop less body fat compared to mice that can eat whenever they want, even if both groups consume the same amount of calories.
“Fat does not make you fat,” writes Alpert. Not only does this satiating macronutrient fill you up faster than refined starches, but studies also show that adding healthy fats to your diet can positively impact insulin levels and reduce your type 2 diabetes risk.
Apart from trans-fatty acids like those found in processed vegetable oils, all fats are fair game—even the saturated kind, states Alpert. Include at least one small serving of fat at every meal, say by blending avocado into your morning smoothie, tossing sunflower seeds in your salad, and cooking your veggies in coconut oil.