These are my top ten things to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Although the following recommendations may be simplistic, if done consistently, they are the answer to weight control.
1. Eat Breakfast: Breakfast will jump-start your metabolism and improve performance. Often people skimp on breakfast and lunch and then are ravenous by dinner. Try to eat your calories more consistently throughout the day to keep your metabolism up and to give you energy for the workday and exercise. Don’t skip any meals, especially breakfast. Those people who don’t eat breakfast are 45% more likely to be overweight than those who do. So your mother was right, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
2. Read Nutrition Labels: When reading nutrition labels, refer to the %DV listed to the side of each nutrient. You should look for 20% or more for Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron and 5% or less for Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Sodium and Cholesterol.
3. Watch Portion Sizes: Refer to nutrition labels and take the Pie Test Challenge: 1/2 of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, 1/4 should be a whole grain and the remaining 1/4 should be a lean protein.
4. Plan Ahead: Be sure to make healthy food available as you will only be as successful as your environment allows you to be. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This can include packing lunches and snacks rather than relying on drive-thrus or vending machines and making a grocery list for the week after planning meals.
5. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods: Focus on complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer. They have what we call “slow release energy” which means that you will still be feeling satisfied and full hours after you eat as opposed to eating refined carbohydrates that leave you wanting more.
6. Choose Lean Proteins: Choose poultry, fish, beans, tofu and low fat or fat free dairy products. Prepare with low fat cooking methods and remove any visible fat, skin or bones. Most Americans can stand to cut back on their animal products. Stick to 2-3 servings of dairy products and no more than 5 ounces of meat per day while looking to beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, soy products and legumes for additional protein. In fact, try to make at least two dinner meals per week vegetarian meals to help control calories, saturated fat and cholesterol intake.
7. Be Active: The recommendation for exercise is 30-90 minutes per day. More exercise burns more calories resulting in a bigger calorie deficit, (unless made up for in food) which can lead to more weight loss. The most important reason for exercise is that those individuals who have lost weight while exercising and eating well are more likely to keep the weight off than those who just eat better.
8. Eat Out Less: You have little control over how food is prepared when eating out. Cooking at home allows you to limit added fats, use whole grains, increase vegetable intake while using the freshest ingredients. The typical American eats out 4 times per week so what used to be a special occasion is now mainstream. The problem is that most people still treat it like a splurge, even though they do it more often. To compound the problem, people usually underestimate the calories consumed when eating out by at least 20% if not 90%! Make sure to check nutritional information on-line and don’t be afraid to ask how a dish is prepared. Ask for substitutions or omissions such as a baked potato instead of fries or steamed veggies in no butter.
9. Avoid Fad Diets: Rather than dieting focus on lifestyle changes that will allow you to lose the weight AND keep it off. Make changes that you will be able to live with because once you go off a “diet” you will gain the weight back. That weight cycling can wreak havoc on your body composition and increase fat mass in relation to lean body mass. Make realistic goals while maintaining a healthy outlook on food, exercise and life.
10. Dont Drink Your Calories: Soda pop, juices and other high sugar drinks are empty calories and do not satisfy hunger cues. You will be quenching your thirst without the triggers that you are eating and getting full. Alcohol can also be problematic and should be kept to no more than one drink per day. There are 50 calories in every two ounces of alcohol and be aware of mixed drinks that can contain a lot more calories and sugar. Try to keep any carbonated, caffeinated or artificially sweetened beverages to no more than 12 ounces per day.
Adapted from a blog post by: Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD