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All around the world, February is the month of love, but here in our sweet island of Trinidad and Tobago, our love this month is expressed through Carnival. We come together and celebrate our one true culture which is not only unique, but colourful, full of life and offering a feeling of satiety that cannot be found anywhere else. Diet and exercise seems to be at the forefront of our minds, as Carnival is in the air and Machel’s song “Happiest Man” is buzzing throughout Port of Spain.

This is the one time when the Savannah is full of people running and walking – even aerobics classes are being offered in the open fields. Most restaurants’healthiest meals are selling out, and people on the whole are more conscious of what they are consuming. Calorie counting, scale weighing and diet plans are all in order.

As a Health Coach, I can’t help but notice how we take Carnival so seriously, with most of us going on fad diets, erratically skipping meals or simply making poor food choices which can wreak havoc on your system, draining your energy resources, leaving you feeling lethargic, foggy and affecting your overall well being.

Here are some useful tips you can use to help you shed those unwanted pounds, while still giving you energy and leaving you feeling healthier and happier:

  • Always drink water warm with a squeeze of lemon or lime.
  • Take a spoonful of apple cider vinegar before each meal (if you can’t do each meal, thenat least before breakfast).
  • Always eat breakfast.
  • Never skip a meal, especially breakfast first thing in the morning when the body is at its lowest energy levels and needs fuelling after a long period of rest. Skipping meals during the day, surviving on cups of coffee and eating a large meal at night can lead to weight gain and nutrient deficiencies. Depriving the body of food during the day will deplete your blood sugar levels and cause your body to go into starvation mode which will shut down your metabolism. So avoid skipping meals at all costs!
  • Eat three meals a day.
  • Take a B12 complex multivitamin in the morning.
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water.
  • Try to eat dinner no later than between 6 and 8 p.m.
  • Avoid carbs at night.
  • Eat at least one portion of fruit per day.
  • Avoid wheat, dairy and sugars.
  • Eat unlimited portions of vegetables.

 

To succeed at your Carnival Diet:

  • Adopt a positive attitude from the beginning.
  • Stay focused throughout.
  • Regard each day as a new challenge.
  • Experiment with different food combinations and be creative.

 

What to buy?

Shopping for food can be a nightmare, especially if you are trying to keep a mental note of those foods that will provide extra energy and those that are depriving your body of energy, however tempting they may look.

Here are some guidelines to make that choice a little easier for you:

Fresh Fruit

– Fruit provides most of our daily intake of Vitamin C. Aim to eat a minimum of one fresh fruit each day.

Vegetables

– Vegetables are good foods. They are packed with essential fibre, vitamins and minerals.

– Aim to include substantial portions each day.

Protein

– Protein is an essential part of our diet. It is burned slowly by the body, so it helps us feel full for longer periods of times, balances blood sugar to reduce cravings and is great after a workout for muscle rejuvenation. Aim to eat beans as a protein instead of meat/poultry.

Fats and Oils

– DO NOT FEAR FATS! There are beneficial fats to have in your diet that actual help your body burn fat and keep your metabolism functioning optimally. Fat is also essential for brain function and keeping our skin glowing. Cook with extra virgin olive or coconut oil and use pure whole milk (unsalted) butter instead of hydrogenated oils such as canola, soybean or cooking sprays.

– Incorporate healthy fats into your diet such as avocado, nuts, and seeds.

Energy snacks

While on a diet, you may find yourself feeling peckish from time to time, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the lack of sugar in your diet. In this case it is always a good idea to have some nibbles on hand which can help you avoid those hunger pangs and raise energy levels.

All the following are good energy snacks: Fresh fruit, nuts (brazil, almonds, pecans, walnuts), raw vegetables, pumpkin seeds, rice cakes, sunflower seeds

 

The ” Try to avoid at all times” foods

If at all possible, avoid the following foods which may give you an instant high, but then several hours later you will feel the lows.

  • Ice cream
  • Margarine spreads
  • Pork products
  • Refined white flour
  • Salty foods
  • Sugar
  • Wheat-based foods
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Cow’s milk
  • Diet foods
  • Diet drinks
  • Hydrogenated oils

 

What to drink?

Maintaining a healthy balance of fluid in the body is important, provided that it is the right type of fluid. Experts recommend that we should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day to help clean out toxins and keep our bodies in tip-top condition. A glass of water with a squeeze of lemon or lime added to it taken first thing in the morning will detox your liver, refresh the mouth and kick start your metabolism into action. Although we say that everything in moderation, there are some drinks that should definitely be avoided or at least limited.

 

Good                                                                             Bad

Fresh juices                                                                  Alcohol

Fresh veg juice                                                             Coffee

Herbal teas                                                                   Sweet drinks

Water                                                                            Diet drinks

Coconut water                                                              Milk (dairy)

 

Its not what you eat some of the time that matters, its what you eat most of the time that makes the difference.