When it comes to weight loss, what and how you eat is the most important component. While most everyone is looking for a quick fix, lasting weight loss and maintenance is achieved through everyday healthy (and sensible!) eating. Instead of looking for the next fad “diet”, consider making changes to reach a healthy place where your body and your mind will be happy, not deprived.
So, instead of dieting, which is concerned with what we can’t have, let’s focus on what we should be getting from our food. A good place to start is with the Federal Dietary Recommendations, which take into consideration an individual’s required nutrients depending on gender, age, activity level, health status, and other factors. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, MyPlate, and Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIS) provide individualized nutrition recommendations for a healthy diet. Published every 5 years, the Dietary Guidelines are the government’s best advice to Americans on how to eat to promote health. The goal of MyPlate is to simplify the government’s nutrition messages into an easily understood and implemented graphic – a dinner plate divided into four sections: fruit, vegetables, protein, and grains, with a glass of 1% or non-fat milk – and to encourage Americans to eat a more balanced diet that is made up of approximately 50% fruits and vegetables.
On the website www.ChooseMyPlate.gov, consumers can use the Super Tracker, which uses age, gender, height, weight, and physical-activity level to develop an individualized eating plan to meet their caloric needs. The program calculates estimated energy requirement based on this demographic information.
In general, Myplate encourages people to:
- Balance calories. People should only eat the amount of calories that the body needs. Physical activity helps to balance calories. Individual recommendations are available at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
- Enjoy your food, but eat less. The key here is to slow down while eating to truly enjoy the food and key into the body’s internal cues of hunger and satiety. Try to minimize distractions like television.
- Avoid over-sized portions. MyPlate recommends smaller plates, smaller serving sizes, and more mindful eating.
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, w hole grains, and fat-free or 1% milk dairy products for adequate potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Most Americans need nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. Full-fat dairy products provide excess calories and saturated fat in exchange for no nutritional benefit over fat-free and low-fat versions.
- Make at least half your grains whole grains. This will help to ensure adequate fiber inake and decreased intake of highly processed foods.
- Eat fewer foods high in solid fat (typically saturated and trans fat), added sugars, and salt.
- Compare sodium in foods and choose the lower sodium versions.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks to help cut sugar and unnecessary, empty calories.
If you follow these guidelines, it will be hard to fit in the foods that are not healthy because you will be consuming so many fruits, vegetables and whole grains that you will feel full and satisfied. Instead of crash dieting, you will be eating well and feeling great, while losing excess weight and keeping it off for good. Isn’t that a better goal than just looking good for one event?
If you need help implementing these changes, consider speaking with a certified trainer or nutrition counselor. If you have more advanced questions regarding diabetes, eating disorders, etc., see a registered dietitian who can recommend specific menu plans.