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What to Choose if You Want to Lose
By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
You know that eating less is easier said than done. If losing weight were really that easy, 68 percent of American adults wouldn’t be overweight or obese, and we wouldn’t, on average, gain one pound a year between the ages of 20 and 60. So, how can you lose weight - or at least, prevent weight gain - without feeling deprived and unsatisfied? Instead of focusing on what to eat less of – focus on what to eat more of!
Instead of focusing on particular foods to avoid, think in terms what you should eat and about following a diet rich in a wide variety of healthy foods. A healthy nutritious diet can help you feel satisfied (instead of deprived) and feeling satisfied makes it easier to manage your weight for life.
Here are some foods and food groups that were recommended in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans based on the latest scientific evidence about food and nutrition and what to do to reduce overweight and obesity and the risk of chronic diseases.
Fill Up on Produce
- The evidence shows that adults who eat more fruits and vegetables seem to be protected against weight gain. Consuming fruits and veggies may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) and protect against some cancers.
- The current recommendation for most is 3.5 to 4.5 cups a day of fruits and vegetables combined. That’s 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables for a 1,600 to 2,000 calorie dietary pattern (which is appropriate for most women.)
- Aim for at least ½ cup of fruits or vegetables every time you eat, and mix up choices to get different tastes and combinations of nutrients and powerful plant chemicals.
Get More Whole Grains
- The evidence shows adults who eat more high-fiber whole grains weigh less than those who eat fewer whole grains. Consuming whole grains may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
- The current recommendation is 5 to 6 1-ounce servings a day of grains, with at least half as whole grains. (A 1-ounce serving equals about ½ cup pasta or rice, 1 slice of bread, or 1 cup flaky cereal.)
- Unfortunately, Americans don’t eat enough whole grains. In one day, they average only one serving of whole grains and about 7 servings of refined grains.
- Eat twice as many whole grains as refined grains. Replace refined grains (white bread, enriched grain cereals, crackers, and pasta, and white rice) with whole grains (whole wheat pasta, bread, crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, and others) often.
Milk Your Diet
- The evidence links a higher intake of milk and milk products with improved bone health, especially in children and adolescents. Consuming milk is also linked to lower blood pressure and reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
- The dietary guidelines recommend 3 cups a day – or 3 1-cup equivalents - of low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products. A 1-cup equivalent is 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces of processed cheese, or 2 ounces of hard cheese.
- Add one more cup of low-fat or fat-free milk every day, rounding out your intake with yogurt and/or cheese. You can have milk straight up, easily add it to oatmeal or a smoothie, or pour in your coffee. Most of us get only 1 serving of milk a day instead of the 3 servings we need.
Power Up with Protein
- The new dietary guidelines count “protein foods” as: seafood (fish and shellfish), meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds.
- Consuming more protein won’t magically help you lose weight. In the short run, high-protein, low-calorie diets promote greater weight loss, when compared to low-calorie, high-carbohydrate diets, but after one year there is little difference in total weight loss between the two. Protein is important to consume when cutting calories because it can help reduce the loss of lean muscle tissue that accompanies weight loss and it can fill you up to prevent wide swings in energy and blood sugar levels.
- The dietary guidelines recommend around 5 ounces a day. They also recommend weekly totals for seafood (8 ounces); meat, poultry and eggs (24 and 26 ounces, respectively); and nuts, seeds and soy products (4 ounces).
- Incorporate some protein-rich food into each meal and snack. To save calories and minimize saturated fat, choose the leanest meat options such as skinless, white meat chicken, and sirloin instead of prime rib.
Do you follow the recommendations for produce, whole grains, milk, and protein?
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com. Follow Elisa on Twitter/elisazied and on Facebook.