How to boost metabolism

What could I eat to help boost my metabolism? I'm dieting at the moment and wondered if some foods could give me a kick start!

There is no one food that can boost your metabolism. Eating a variety of foods will give you what you need for a healthy metabolism. To lose weight, reduce your energy (calorie) intake, and increase the energy your body uses up by getting more active. Remember to watch your portion sizes and reduce your intake of fat.

One way that you can boost your metabolic rate, or the rate at which you burn energy, is to exercise more. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise (like walking), tones and builds your muscle. Muscles burn a lot of calories. So the more muscles you have, the more calories you'll burn.

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Maintaining my weight

I have recently lost over 4 stone on a weight loss diet and I am really delighted. I really want to keep to this weight now. How do I go about it, and how many calories a day should I be eating?

Well done on your successful weight loss. You deserve major congratulations for what you have achieved. I'm sure you've learned a lot about healthy eating habits to make it this far - keep up those habits and you should have every chance of maintaining a healthy weight.

Women need to eat, on average, around 2,000 calories each day to maintain a healthy body weight. Eating plenty of low-fat and high-fibre foods - like fruit and vegetables - and keeping your treat foods in check will help. Eating to appetite and doing at least 30 minutes of activity each day are also very important for your success. If you have developed healthy exercise habits, be sure to keep them up.

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Which foods would keep my blood sugar levels more even?

I have a tendency to give in to cravings, especially for bread and sugary foods. Are there any foods that I could swap these for? Ones that will keep my blood sugar levels more even?

The reason your blood sugar level is dropping may be because you are eating the wrong type of carbohydrates. Or maybe you're leaving too much time between meals.

One way to keep your blood sugar steady is to eat high-fibre and low glycaemic index foods. For breakfast, try porridge with dried or fresh fruit, your favourite wholegrain cereal or wholemeal toast. For lunch, choose wholegrain bread in sandwiches. At dinner time, try to eat potatoes with their jackets or give brown rice a go. It has a nice nutty flavour.

These foods will help you feel fuller for longer. They'll also keep your energy level steady. You'll be less likely to get cravings. When you do crave something sweet, get into the habit of reaching for a piece of fruit. Some juicy grapes or some lovely summer berries may give you just the boost you need.

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What is the best diet for a busy lifestyle?

I have just started working in a busy shop where I'm always on the go. I was wondering what kind of diet (preferably healthy) I should have to keep up my energy levels during the summer. I just find myself eating more biscuits and pies because I'm so hungry!

When you are around unhealthy food every day, it can be easy to give in to temptation. One way to combat this is to make sure that your meals are filling and healthy, so that hunger pangs don't overcome your good intentions.

Start the day with a healthy and filling breakfast. Porridge is a good option as it keeps you full for a long time. You might be surprised how good it is with stewed apple, raisins and spices, banana and chopped nuts or berries drizzled with honey.

When it comes to lunch, plan ahead and either bring your lunch with you, or make sure you know in advance what the healthy options are for you in the shop. Then stick to your plan. It's also a good idea to have some healthy snacks at hand such as an apple, low-fat yoghurt, popcorn or crackers.

Sometimes you can mistake feeling thirsty for feeling hungry. Try to drink several glasses of water at work. This is especially important if you are running around a lot. Being thirsty can make you feel tired too, which may leave you looking for a sugar boost.

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Trying to lose weight but want to still feel full?

I am trying to lose some weight, but want to still feel full so I can avoid snacking on high-calorie sugary things - what is the best thing to help?

Losing weight shouldn't mean you have to be hungry! A really good way to feel fuller for longer between meals is to eat foods that are high in fibre and foods that are watery. These kinds of foods add bulk to your diet without adding lots of calories.

Go for wholegrain foods like wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholegrain bread, brown rice or wholewheat pasta. These will help keep your energy levels steady. And they'll make you feel fuller for longer. Popcorn and wholegrain crackers are also useful snacks.

Fruit and vegetables are the perfect foods to help you to feel full. They contain fibre, plenty of water as well as essential vitamins and minerals.

Have a look at your eating pattern too. Eat small regular meals. Don't leave long periods between eating. Drink plenty of water, which will also help you to feel full.

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I'm so confused!

Like many other people, my New Year's resolution has been to lose weight. There have been so many programmes on TV recently about different diets that I am completely confused as to which one to try.

I was just going to choose better (and less) food than usual, drink water and exercise, but I feel I should be looking at complex carbs, calories, fat content and more. I don't want to pay money every week or buy expensive supplements. Please give me some ideas!

Your approach to weight loss is spot on. Eating smaller portions is one of the best ways to reduce your calories. Eating healthier foods, such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and lean meat and fish, will also bring down your calorie intake while improving the quality of your diet. Get familiar with the nutrition labels on packaged foods, and pick brands that are lower in fat and calories. Your own suggestion of increasing your level of exercise is also key.  For weight loss, include an hour of moderate exercise each day. Walking is always a handy option. If you haven't got one hour to spare every day, just make sure that you are as active as you can be.

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Fry-up substitute?

What tastes as good as a fry-up but is healthy?

A good old-fashioned cooked breakfast doesn't have to be unhealthy. Grilling or poaching instead of frying will make a big difference to the amount of fat in your food. Eating less meat and using more vegetables will also change the nutritional value of it dramatically. Make sure that most of your plate is filled with vegetables such as grilled tomato and mushrooms, or baked beans. Stick to grilled bacon with the fat cut off and just have one egg. Poach it; don't fry it. This way you can enjoy your favourite foods, keep portion sizes okay, and still limit your fat and salt. Have it with a glass of low fat milk to boost your calcium.

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Which fruits are best for losing weight?

Which are the best fruits to help you lose weight, and keep you feeling fuller for longer?

All fruits and vegetables are great as part of a weight loss diet. They are packed with nutrients and are low in calories. They're great for filling a gap between meals. And they stave off cravings for unhealthy foods. No one fruit or vegetable is better than any other. Just try to eat a wide variety so that you get lots of different nutrients. This will also help keep things interesting.

Other foods that are very good for helping us feel fuller for longer are the starchy wholegrain foods, like wholegrain bread, brown rice, jacket potatoes and wholemeal pasta.

Always keep things in balance when you are dieting. Include some protein-rich foods such as lean meat and fish. And try to eat three portions of low-fat dairy foods as well.

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How do I lose weight and keep it off?

I have been battling with my weight for a year now and I really want to get onto a diet that works. How do I do this?

We all aim to lose weight at some stage in our lives. Some of us have great success; others don't. Making lots of radical changes all at once can be hard to keep up. It is easier to manage a new way of eating if you gradually introduce small changes to your diet.

A good place to start is to do at least 30 minutes of activity every day. This includes all kinds of things from lifting weights in the gym, to walking or washing the windows. It all counts.

Reduce your calories simply by eating smaller portions. Also, switch from fatty foods to lower-fat foods. Make sure to eat more lower-calorie foods like wholegrain breads and cereals, along with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Eat small meals regularly throughout the day to keep away hunger. Remember to drink plenty of water as well.

To keep on track, weigh yourself once a week. Keep a diary of your progress. Keeping a diary of what you eat each day is also a great way to really focus on what you are eating. And it stops you going back to old habits.

If you don't have success with these changes, talk to your GP, practice nurse or dietitian for more detailed advice.

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Breakfast

I want to lose some weight and keep if off. What would be a good breakfast for me to eat? I don't like porridge or muesli and would like something that is quick to prepare.

People who eat breakfast tend to do better at losing weight or keeping it off. That's probably because they don't get hungry mid-morning and then reach for sweet or fatty foods. High-fibre foods are great breakfast choices because they provide you with a steady flow of energy all day. If you don't like porridge and muesli, what about bran flakes, shredded wheat and wheat biscuit type cereals; they're all high in fibre. Look at the nutrition labels from a few of these cereals when you are shopping to see what has the highest fibre level.

Breakfast cereal isn't the only choice for a good breakfast. Try wholemeal toast with low-fat spread, or a poached or scrambled egg with grilled tomato, or go for a bowl of fruit salad with yoghurt.

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Evening eating

I know that I should watch what I eat. But when I'm relaxing in the evening, I tend to "graze" on food. Can you please suggest some healthy snacks that I can eat at times like these?

First of all, make sure to eat regular meals during the day. Eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, and drinking plenty of water between meals to keep you full should stop you overeating at night.

If you do feel like a snack in the evening, stick with fruit and raw vegetables as much as you can. Fill up your fruit bowl with fresh apples, plums, mandarins and tasty fruits of all kinds. Get into the habit of dipping in there rather than the biscuit tin. Yoghurt and popcorn are also healthy options if you fancy something different.

You need to start making small change to your eating habits. For example, if you normally have tea and biscuits during your favourite soap, have tea with just one biscuit from now on. Get used to enjoying smaller amounts of your treat foods. If you snack out of boredom, pick up the phone and ring a friend instead.

A great idea would be to take a walk every evening, maybe starting with a 20 minute walk and building up to a 40 minute walk. This way you will be burning up calories each evening (instead of just taking in calories). You will also probably find that, when you have finished your walk, you would rather have a healthy snack than an unhealthy one. Good luck.

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I would like to lose some weight

I weigh 10 stone and would like to get back down to my previous 9 stone. I have tried cutting out rubbish food and eating smaller portions, but I always seem to lose my resolve and start eating badly again. Can you help?

Reducing your portion sizes and cutting out your high-fat and high-sugar food are great ways to start losing weight. You seem to understand what to do, so it's all about staying motivated.

It may be that thinking about losing a stone all at once is too big a deal. Set a smaller goal like five pounds this month, five pounds next month, etc. Aim to lose a pound a week so that you are not starving all the time.

Also, really think about why you want to lose weight. When you are tempted, concentrate on this. You will find it is more important than whatever food is tempting you.

Lastly, don't forget to reward yourself as you reach your goals with a non-food prize: a magazine or book, new clothes, whatever you fancy.

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Bread and weight loss

I have recently decided to cut bread out of my diet. I never ate too much of it but, at times, I would feel bloated after eating it. What difference will this make? I eat quite healthily anyway and have a balanced diet.

Bread is a starchy carbohydrate food. So it's an excellent energy source for the body. Wholemeal and wholegrain breads are particularly healthy as they are high in fibre. This is important for gut health. Because bread is low in fat and provides bulk in the diet, it is usually a useful food to include in your weight loss plan, as long as you eat it in small amounts.

If you want to take bread out of your diet, replace it with some other starchy foods. Replace sandwiches with brown rice, wholemeal pasta or couscous salads at lunchtime. Have porridge or other cereals for breakfast. Base each meal on starchy carbohydrate foods like these to provide you with energy.

There are lots of breads available, including soda breads and flat breads. Why not sample these different breads? You may also find flat breads are gentler on your stomach. Experiment a little to see which breads suit you best.

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Don't skip breakfast?

Is it true that, when you're trying to lose weight, the worst thing to do is to skip breakfast? Why? Surely skipping a meal will just help you to lose weight?

Skipping breakfast after an overnight fast means your body gets no fuel for up to 18 hours. This will leave you feeling tired, low in energy and can affect concentration. Also, you can be so hungry that you reach for high-calorie, fatty snacks mid-morning. This in turn could mean that your efforts to eat less backfire. Stick to eating a small breakfast, made up of whole grains, like cereal or toasted wholemeal bread, with some fruit or juice and low-fat dairy foods. Wholegrains release energy slowly from food and help keep you going until lunchtime.

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