While fad diet plans claim to be the best solution to weight issues, the American Dietetic Association emphasizes that healthy weight is a “lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors emphasizing sustainable and enjoyable eating practices and daily physical activity.” A lifestyle that leads to maintaining a healthy weight is not about restricting the types of food but rather about examining how much food is eaten and the ratios of the food groups.
Control Meal Sizes
The single, most effective way to control weight is to limit the amount of food eaten rather than attempt to cut out certain foods. MyPyramid is the USDA food guide that sets out how many servings of each food group are needed. It also details the sizes of portions that contribute to meeting those nutritional requirements. Become familiar with those sizes, because oftentimes, the sizes served in restaurants or provided in packages of food are not the same sizes as those recommended portions. You may be meeting or exceeding your daily requirements with just a few servings of some foods.
A New Plate Model
Carbohydrates, in the sense of food groups, include starchy foods such as pasta, bread, cereal and rice. One of the most popular diet ideas is a restriction of carbohydrates. However, your body requires a certain level of carbohydrates in order to properly digest protein and feed the brain. Rather than focusing on the numbers of grams of carbohydrates, which is important for diabetic dieters, focus on how many carbohydrates are consumed in relation to other foods.
At mealtime, practice the new plate model. Imagine dividing your dinner plate in half. Then divide one of those halves in half again–making quarters. One of those quarters can host a carbohydrate. The other quarter should host the meat component of your meal. The large half should play host to your vegetables and salad. When following this method, you are likely to restrict your refined carbohydrate, protein and fat consumption since vegetables are often more complex, have less protein than meat and are naturally lower fat.
Your body is made up of a great quantity of water, and water is constantly being cycled through the body in different functions. Coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, and a multitude of other beverages do not hydrate the body’s cells the same way that water does. Coffee and alcohol are well-known diuretics, which encourage the body to release water. Thirst should not be an indicator of whether your body is dehydrated. Get into the habit of matching your beverage consumption with glasses of water. Sometimes appetite for food is confused with thirst. If you feel like eating, but your stomach isn’t clenching in hunger, try to drink water first.
Eat on a Schedule
Skipping meals because you forget to eat or are too busy to eat can confuse your metabolism. It may also make you feel overly hungry next time you eat, which can cause you to consume extra calories. If you work in an office, pack snacks to keep in the office community refrigerator or pack nonperishable snacks to keep in your desk drawer. Easy snacks include one ounce of raw almonds, mini boxes of raisins, carrot sticks, single servings of yogurt or a few crackers and peanut butter. Check the nutrition facts of quick snacks, and aim for two or three snacks of about 100 calories each.
Cook at Home
Restaurants can provide a tasty dinner solution for busy people, but they often serve larger portions than true serving sizes for meals, and the ingredients are usually chosen for flavor, not healthfulness. Because restaurant meals are usually higher in fat, calories and carbohydrates than you should eat regularly, consider carving out one or two nights each week to cook some meals yourself. Search for recipes online and select menu items that are within your cooking skills. By cooking one or two meals at home, you’ll be able to save money and cut down on a significant number of calories each week.
Know Your Numbers
Using the MyPyramid guide and other similar diet plan sources, you can calculate your needed calories. MyPyramid Tracker is a free USDA-run program that helps you track your calories and nutrients. Once you know that number, compare the number of calories you do eat with the calories you should eat. Gradually cut your calories, first by eliminating the extras, like condiments, and substituting healthier options, like drinking water instead of soda. Eliminating 500 calories each day for seven days helps you lose 3m500 calories, or about one pound per week. Combined with an exercise program, you can expend even more calories, improving weight loss.
Follow a Balanced Weight Loss Program
There are very good, effective, healthy weight loss programs that provide detailed plans for dieters. Be sure to check the diet plan’s recommendations against MyPyramid’s guidelines to see if the diet ideas line up with a healthful diet. The goal is to lose weight in a safe manner. The American Dietetic Association offers reviews of popular diets, and it can help guide your selection. An effective diet also includes exercise, to help use up any excess calories, to strengthen your bones, and to develop muscle tone.
About this Author
Kimberly Schaub is a nutritionist, writer, and cook whose passions have led from serving in the United States Air Force (2005-2006), to R&D for Day by Day Gourmet (2009) and into professional writing for publications since 2006. She has been published in Pepperdine’s “Graphic,” “That’s Natural in Pueblo,” and “Pike Place Market News.” Schaub earned her Bachelor of Science in nutrition at Pepperdine.