These days, exercise seems more glorified than ever.
Whether it's because of the excessive amount of gym selfies that appear on our Instagram feeds, or the glorification of athletes' own fitness regimens, there is no shortage of reminders that if we really want to be cool, we need to hit the gym.
Yes, being fit is in. Contrary to popular belief, though, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll wrote for the New York Times in July that people who choose the work-out route alone are misguided.
If they would spend just half the time they do exercising trying to make a difference in the kitchen, they’d most likely see much better results.
Dr. Tara Narula, who commented on the piece during a reactionary segment on "CBS This Morning," backed up Carroll's statement, stating that cutting fat is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise.
Clearly, stepping it up in the kitchen is much more important than hitting the gym.
So, do you want to keep it lean? Here are 11 easy tips for altering your diet to perfectly complement your trips to the gym.
Do The Math
The first step is to get the idea out of your head that you can eat anything you want as long as you exercise enough.
As Dr. Narula points out, you could easily cut as many calories by eliminating sodas or certain sweets from your daily meals as you would by working out for one hour every day of the week.
Count your calories, evaluate your own diet and see what has to be substituted, which brings us to these next points...
Bake Chicken Cutlets Instead Of Frying Them
There might be no other main dish that combines simplicity and satisfaction like chicken cutlets. Most times, though, chicken cutlets are fried.
If you want to stay lean, limiting how much fried food you eat is an obvious objective to have.
As a general rule, you'd rather broil or bake your chicken than fry it. And when it comes to chicken cutlets specifically, there are ways to enjoy them without having to fry.
Plenty of sites, like LiveStrong.com, will provide steps on how to alter your chicken recipes for healthier alternatives.
More Fruit, Less Fruit Juice
Storing lots of fresh produce in your refrigerator is one of the more obvious ways to impose a healthy eating habit. Most people know that, but dumbing down the benefits helps to enforce that fact.
In a New York Times article that suggests simple rules for healthy living, Dr. Carroll put it simply,
You’re far better off eating two apples than drinking the same 27 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce glass of apple juice
Also, if you want to consume more fruit, you're much better off storing it in your own refrigerator where it can say fresh and crisp. It's a much better alternative to the stale apples that have been sitting near a register for hours at the deli near your office.
Eat Every Three Hours
Fitness expert Jorge Cruise recommends that you eat every three hours. When you factor in the recommended eight hours of sleep we should get, you should be consuming about five meals per day.
WebMD provides a pretty handy review of that diet plan here. Among the benefits listed is the fact that eating more often will constantly reset your metabolism, thus helping you burn more fat.
Needless to say, if you want to eat more meals, you'll have to spend more time preparing them in the kitchen.
Make Your Own Salad Dressing
There are two key benefits to making your own rather than buying it outside your home.
First, it's so much more cheaper to make your own. Now that goes for most meals, obviously, but salad is also so much easier to make than the main courses at restaurants you're too lazy to figure out yourself.
The second is the fact that you can decide which toppings you want. Creamy dressings, even the low-fat ones are not the way you want to go as they can add on the calories and fat that you're trying to avoid in the first place (one serving of ranch dressing has 145 calories, according to the USDA).
You're better off making your own dressing, using ingredients like red wine, balsamic vinegar or different oils.
Add More Fiber
As we've noted before, meals that are high in fiber will keep you fuller for a longer period of time than usual, and of course, it's just a generally healthy addition to your diet.
Fiber, which can be found in the skin of your baked potato or the stem of your broccoli, also helps prevent your body from absorbing fatty acids among other benefits, which the San Francisco Chronicle perfectly outlines here.
Fiber is not exactly hot in the streets, though, so you'll have to count on your inner chef if you want it added to your diet.
Make Your Own Fruit Smoothies
Making smoothies is a great and creative way to consume the two cups of fruit per day recommended by the USDA for men and women between the ages of 19 and 30, who are looking to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Spending more time in the kitchen, with either your blender or your juicer, can make the difference.
Substitute Fattening Ingredients
The more time you spend in your kitchen, the more you are able to substitute certain ingredients that are common in restaurants and replace them with healthier alternatives that do not drastically take from the overall taste of the food.
Suggestions for what the best substitutes are, furthermore, are plentiful on the web. This chart from Nestle, for instance, suggests small steps like substituting one egg and replacing it with two egg whites.
Use Unprocessed Food
By far, the majority of calories we consume comes from processed food. Processed foods are altered in a way that can keep them from spoiling, but also add ingredients that drastically change the food from it's natural state.
According to Time.com, 77 percent of the calories the average American consumes comes from foods that are processed either moderately or highly.
Keep out all the extra stuff from your body and stick to unprocessed foods.
The most prevalent excuse for not eating healthy food or, at least, not making healthy food is time. None of us have the time to cook for ourselves because we're busy and have lives of our own.
A good Sunday meal prep is a way to get around that, though. All you need a is good amount of Tupperware and a block of time during the least busiest day of your week and you can make enough meals to keep your instances of eating out to a minimum.
It's not only dietary changes that can affect how lean you are, it's the literal changes you can make to your kitchen as well.
Using smaller plates, and thus eating smaller portions, is widely advised a way to keep away from eating excessive amounts of food.
At the very least, if you finish your portion on a smaller plate, you can always get more. But you won't end up in a situation where you had enough of food on a big plate, but end up force-feeding yourself to finish the rest.
In essence, you're tricking yourself, but with a purpose!