Fruit juices and sugary drinks
Whole fruit may be good for you, but fruit juice is another story altogether. And don’t give me that “But it’s 100% fruit juice!” excuse!
The juices extracted from fruits are almost completely made of sugar. Although you’ll still get nutrients from the juice, you’re still drinking a shit-load of sugar in one single gulp.
Take one cup of orange juice, for example. You’ll need to squeeze three whole oranges just to fill one cup, which contains 26 grams of sugar. That is actually more sugar than you get from a serving of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia! If you’re lusting for something orangey, why not eat an entire orange instead?
The same goes for sugary drinks, whether it’s energy drinks, flavored water, or other bottled concoctions you get from the grocery store or a venti you get from Starbucks. The worst offenders are actually those masquerading as healthy. At first glance, Starbucks’ Hot Mulled Fruit with Grape, Chai, Orange, and Cinnamon sounds like something I’d recommend, but a venti cup of this contains an unbelievable 99 grams of sugar.
So-called healthy sugar alternatives
If you can’t have sugar, can you have healthy sweeteners instead? I hate to break it to you, but these alternatives are actually just as bad, if not worse.
Consider honey, for example. Honey has been exalted since ancient times for its variety of health uses. And it does have a lot of nutrients in it as well. But a single tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbs in the form of glucose and fructose. That is actually more than the 12 grams of carbs found in refined white table sugar.
Agave nectar is another offender. Many self-proclaimed healthy baking blogs mistakenly claim agave nectar as a good alternative to sugar, but it actually has 14 grams of carbs in one tablespoon.
Not that there are no alternatives. If you must eat your sweets, stevia is a good, no-calorie option. Early research shows stevia may be helpful in lowering blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. The downside to stevia is it may have a bitter aftertaste if there’s too much of it. Most people probably won’t have a problem with this, but not if you’re extremely nitpicky about your desserts.
Some other promising alternatives are erythritol and xylitol. Both are sugar alcohols that look and taste like sugar but do not raise blood sugar levels. Studies show they may also help fight insulin resistance and obesity.
As an added bonus, erythritol and xylitol have also been proven to protect the teeth by combating bacteria that can cause plaque buildup and cavities. Now, that’s a sweet way to keep your teeth healthy.
3. Eat more protein.
If you see bodybuilders guzzling foamy chocolate-flavored shakes and snacking on grilled chicken breast in the middle of the afternoon, they’re trying to increase their protein intake so their muscles have something to feed on.
You don’t have to carry around protein shakes in a shaker bottle or plastic containers of chicken wherever you go, but you definitely can learn from the bodybuilding community when it comes to upping your protein intake.
Protein is not just for people looking to get ripped like the Incredible Hulk. It is also very useful if your goal is to flatten your stomach or to stay fit and strong in general.
There are many ways protein helps to keep fat accumulation at bay. The most obvious is that protein prevents you from losing muscle, even if you don’t lift heavy weights. Your muscles feed on protein, and there is less chance for muscle breakdown if you continue feeding your muscle cells with what they need.
Having more muscle mass means your body is burning more calories simply to maintain that muscle. Even if you’re not doing anything, even if you’re just sitting there, your body needs to burn more fuel for the single purpose of keeping more muscle.
Also, protein increases leptin sensitivity, which makes you feel its effects far quicker. This is why protein-filled meals that include beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and plant-based protein sources such as beans make you feel more satisfied than if you opted for an oversized pasta bowl.
At the same time, protein cuts down the production of ghrelin. Ghrelin is more commonly called the hunger hormone. More ghrelin in your system means you feel hungrier faster.