Healthy eating is a major concern now more than ever. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and many struggle to feel confident that they are making the right choices. Science in previous generations suggested that every calorie was the same, no matter what the source. More current research, however, leads most nutritionists to favor a more complex, nuanced approach. For example, they used to recommend a low-fat diet for better overall health. Now researchers believe that some fats are unhealthy, while others are fine. Only the unhealthy fats, which are still linked to weight gain, should be avoided.
NatureBox CEO Gautam Gupta is focused on the challenges of healthy eating. This company founder and YPO member struggled with obesity throughout childhood. Determined to make positive change, Gupta began a regime of diet and exercise that resulted in a 70-pound weight loss over six months. This experience inspired him to build a company that delivers ready-to-consume healthy snacks. Because Gupta identifies with his customers' challenges in finding healthy foods they enjoy, his company also provides personalized, real-time recommendations from users. NatureBox brings new products to market in just three months--a timeline unfathomable to most major food brands--to keep their offerings innovative and exciting.
As a busy executive, Gupta knows that unhealthy choices often seem easier and more efficient than healthy ones. Here he points out some of the greatest temptations, both at home and on the road, and how to overcome them.
1. Skipping breakfast.
While research does not definitively show that skipping breakfast is unhealthy, it does state that people who eat breakfast tend to have healthier eating habits overall. Additionally, skipping breakfast can lead to overeating throughout the day. If you are busy and tempted to leave home without it, keep some high fiber and protein options readily available. "Instant oatmeal cups, yogurt with granola, and fruit or even a breakfast bar with some nuts are all quick, smart choices," Gupta says.
2. Mindlessly grazing on snacks.
According to Gupta, "The average American consumes 25 percent of their calories from snacking. Frequent eating is easy. The hardest thing to do is to keep those small meals or snacks under control." A snack can be a useful tool to stabilize blood sugar and avoid "hunger emergencies" that cause you to overeat at your next meal, but plan them in advance and keep them small. Gupta recommends that you portion them out or snack on veggies and fruits that come perfectly portioned already (like a whole orange or apple). Try to combine a carbohydrate with healthy fat or protein to keep you satiated longer.
3. Multitasking during meals.
"Have you ever heard of the pistachio principle?" asks Gupta. "The idea comes from a study that finds people who consumed in-shell pistachios ate fewer calories than those who consumed the pistachios out of shell because the empty shells reminded them of how much they ate." Mindfulness is an important key to good eating, and it's hard to give meals your full attention while staring at a screen. "Take just a few minutes away from your desk or meetings to eat," he recommends. Give your full attention to the food, and observe cues like the empty pistachio shells, which will help you stay aware of how much you've consumed.
4. Drinking your calories.
Gupta doesn't just mean alcohol, either. "Eighty-eight studies have found a relationship between soft drink intake and increased calories and body weight. It's easy to drink a lot of sugar that your body doesn't need, even from natural sources such as fruit juices, which have over 20 grams (seven teaspoons) of sugar per cup," he warns. Water should be everyone's beverage of choice. If you really need a little extra taste, choose sugar-free flavored waters or an unsweetened ready-to-drink tea.
5. Eating too late in the evening.
"There are conflicting arguments on this," Gupta admits, "but eating a late-night snack before bed can cause an unhealthy cycle of not eating enough during the day and becoming unnecessarily hungry at night." If you tend to experience heartburn, a bedtime snack can make symptoms even worse. It's best to eat early enough that you won't go to bed on a completely full stomach but to consume enough that late-night snacking won't be a temptation.
6. Assuming food out is the same as food at home.
Gupta points out, "Most people don't know that airlines put extra salt and seasoning to counteract the effects of cabin air pressure and dryness. They don't know the additives in food at restaurants, either." It is harder to control meal ingredients and quality when you eat out, but some general guidelines help. Concentrate on getting as many colors on the plate as possible, which will make sure you get vegetables and proteins. At breakfast buffets, choose eggs over carbs. For lunch or dinner, start with the salad bar and eat a large portion of veggies before touching an entrée. Whenever possible, make sure each meal includes some sort of fruit or vegetable. Bring healthy snacks on the road to curb the appeal of less nutritious foods.
7. Tippling too frequently.
You don't have to drink to excess to suffer negative health outcomes from drinking. "Most alcoholic beverages have more calories per ounce than sugar," says Gupta, plus "alcohol weakens your immune system and negatively impacts your mental sharpness. As little as one drink in the evening can adversely affect the quality of sleep." It's best to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and to choose lower-sugar drinks when you want to indulge. According to Gupta, "The clearer the liquid (vodka, light beer) the better, and at 120 calories per glass, wine is a great option." Pair your alcohol with food so that the lowered inhibitions don't tempt you to snack or overdo it on dessert.
8. Chugging the caffeine.
Coffee is so often a go-to for professionals dealing with stress, low energy, or a tight deadline. Too many lattes can cause greater harm than just making you jittery, however. "Overconsuming caffeine can affect hunger cues, disrupt sleep patterns, and increase cortisol," Gupta says. All three of these can cause weight gain over time. And, of course, many coffee drinks contain hidden calories in the form of milk and flavoring. Gupta suggests sticking to regular coffee, a shot of espresso, or a cup of tea, and limiting yourself to two or fewer java servings a day.
Each week, Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, age 45 or younger.