Healthy eating: it's easier than you think
Although diet plans high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates are gaining in popularity for rapid weight loss, some of them may pose serious health risks in the long run because of the emphasis on saturated fat and the removal of important nutrients that are important for a healthy long-term diet. Successful, permanent weight loss depends upon limiting energy consumed (calories) and increasing energy expenditure (exercise and daily activity).
Fasting may result in rapid weight loss, but lean muscle mass is lost as well as fat. All-liquid diets must be medically supervised and may be used for a short period of time in people who are obese, but these diets are not the long-term answer to weight loss. Fads, fasting, and popular diets are usually not medically proven, healthy options for weight loss; in fact, fad diets are more likely to result in the weight coming back in what is often called the "yo-yo" effect. Any extreme form of dieting that is not supervised by a physician may also cause damage to your body.
However, there are dietary recommendations that, if followed, will lead to weight loss:
- To lose weight and keep it off for a lifetime, begin thinking about an individualized eating plan instead of a “diet.” A plan tailored to personal likes and dislikes will have a better chance of producing sustainable weight loss. A balanced diet that is restricted in calories - 1200 to 1400 calories for women and 1500 to 1800 calories for men - may work well. A registered dietitian can help you create an individualized diet plan based on your particular needs.
- Include a variety of foods in your diet.
- All fats are not bad. It is now known that polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats provide health benefits for your heart. Nuts, seeds, and some types of oils, such as olive, safflower, and canola, have a place in a healthy eating plan.
- Choose whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread rather than white rice and white bread. Whole grain foods are rich in nutrients compared to more processed products. They are higher in fiber and therefore absorbed by the body more slowly, and they do not cause a rapid spike in insulin, which can trigger hunger and cravings.
- Drink plenty of water - at least 48 to 64 ounces a day. Water helps curb cravings and flush toxins from your body. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, as these cause dehydration.
- Include a multivitamin as part of your eating plan. Although healthy eating will increase your nutrient intake, it is often difficult to get all your nutrition from food alone. Also, some vitamins - such as the B vitamins and vitamin C - help your body convert food into energy.
- Choose at least five servings daily of fruits and vegetables. Make your plate colorful - eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, as all contain different amounts and types of nutrients.
- When dining out or ordering take-out food, ask for a take-home box or avoid super-size selections when you order. Many restaurant portions are too large for one person, so consider sharing an entrée or ordering an appetizer instead of a main dish from the entrée menu.
- Read food labels carefully, paying particular attention to the number of servings contained in the product and the serving size. Food packaging can be tricky business! For instance, if the label on a can of soup says a serving is 225 calories, but also lists two servings per container, eating the whole can of soup doubles the number of calories to 450 (along with doubling the listed amount of sodium, fat, etc.).