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A Beginner's Guide to Dieting and Meal Plans

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If you want to tap into a complicated topic, just type the word "diet" into Google—that search term yields 432 million results. You'll find diets and meal plans galore, ranging from vegan to Paleo, some with complex rules about food combinations while others mandate what you can't eat.

How can you navigate all the options, especially if you're just getting started with figuring out what's best for you? Here are some tips to consider:

Set Specific Goals

Often, it seems like every single health expert is repeating the same advice to "eat healthy." But what does that mean? In many cases, the answer is based on what works for you, and for the results you want to achieve.

For example, if you want to lose weight, you may choose to look into eating plans that are geared toward realistic and sustainable weight reduction. Despite the dramatic results on weight-loss reality shows, research has shown that losing one to two pounds per week is the most likely to lead to long-term success.

But there are many other types of goals for changing up your eating habits. You might want to build muscle, sleep better, have more sustained energy through the day, gain weight, or just have better immunity and illness prevention. It's important to know that there's no one-size-fits-all eating plan. Instead, you start with your main goals, and then work forward from there.

Start a Food Log

The next step is to understand how food is affecting you, physically, mentally, and emotionally. For at least a week, don't change your regular eating habits, but keep a journal of what you eat, including why you chose certain foods—reaching for ice cream because you're stressed, for instance—and then jot down how you feel about an hour after eating.

Although it takes some effort to keep a food log, it can ultimately lead to greater insights about why and what you eat. Maybe you eat more snacks when you're bored, or you need a sugary treat in the afternoon to get your energy up, or you skip breakfast more often than not.

Also, tracking the food's effects can be instructive for spotting food intolerances or potential allergies. You might be bloated after having any dairy products, for example, or eating much more than you realized. A food log can give you a starting point for discovering how you really eat.

Think Simple Changes

Once you know your goals and how you eat, you can start to make some meaningful shifts. Eventually, you may lean toward very specific diet plans like Paleo or the DASH Diet, but to begin, simply start removing some of the foods that are obviously giving you issues and incorporating healthier choices into your meals.

In general, nutritionists advise that you veer away from highly processed foods, including anything with white flour, sugars, and tons of artificial ingredients. Bring more real vegetables into your diet, and opt for lean protein like chicken and fish. Turn to healthy fats like avocadoes and olive oil, and drink more water instead of turning to sugary sodas.

Add Fitness

As part of your nutritional changes, you'll likely want to keep making healthy shifts, and putting fitness into the mix can be a big help. Whether your main goal is losing weight or just having more energy, blending healthy food options with physical activity has been proven in study after study to be the one-two combo that's unbeatable.

To get on track, sign up for a UFC GYM Free Pass and you'll likely see the results of your food-and-fitness efforts in no time.Get a 5 day pass

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