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Every year (or perhaps even every few months), a new diet appears that’s supposed to be the best and most effective one ever. By this point in time, it seems like we’ve heard it all; eliminate carbs, and the pounds will melt right off; eat greasy bacon and see results; eat cookies and lose weight—the list goes on and on.
However, these temporary solutions aren’t going to achieve much in the long run. When it comes to eating right and maintaining a healthy weight, you need a balanced diet, portion control, and a whole new perspective on food and eating.
“Weight loss is a challenge,” said Kate Nellett, a Registered Licensed Dietitian at Abington Memorial Hospital. “Generally, I teach patients to stick with smaller portions and foods that are low in fat and calories.”
So what does that mean exactly?
Nellett advises her patients to use the Choose My Plate recommendations, which are provided by the USDA. According to these guidelines, you should aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with protein, and one quarter with grains and starches.
While most of your grains should be whole grains, Nellett says to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying and eating. “Many people look at brown foods and think they’re whole grain, but make sure you read the ingredients list. The first item should say whole wheat or whole wheat fiber.”
Additionally, look for whole grain food products that have three grams of fiber or more to ensure it’s a good source of fiber. Whole grains not only contain more nutrients than white grains, but they’ll fill you up and make you feel fuller longer.
Foods packed with protein, such as peanut butter, nuts, and fish, can also make you feel more satiated, so you won’t be tempted to eat more unhealthy foods later on. Other sources of lean protein include poultry (with no skin) and beef that’s at least 95 percent fat-free.
Nellett also recommends including a good amount of non-fat/low-fat dairy into your daily diet as well, such as milk or yogurt. “When choosing yogurt, try to find one that’s low in carbs, sugar, and doesn’t contain that fruity stuff at the bottom,” she added.
According to Nellett, the biggest difficulty most patients have is avoiding the high-fat, sugary foods and drinks. But you don’t have to eliminate these completely, you just need to watch how much you consume. “Most people can’t give these up totally, or else they lose their motivation to lose weight.”
Now what about trendy diets?
“You can certainly lose weight in the short-term, but you don’t change your eating habits with these diet fads,” said Nellett. “People go on them for six to seven months, lose weight, but it comes right back.” Many get tired of not having carbs, or whatever it is they can’t eat, so they fall off the bandwagon. While she says that meal replacements, such as a nutrition-packed drink, might be okay for one meal a day, you still need to make sure you’re getting enough carbs and calories in it. To really lose weight and keep it off, it’s essential that you make permanent changes to your eating habits.
If you struggle with obesity, Nellett emphasizes the need to understand the triggers the cause overeating. Keeping a food journal to track how you feel after eating can help identify the underlying issue(s). In these cases, Nellett says it’s a person’s relationship with food that needs to be changed.
However, you can’t do it alone.
“I encourage people to make these lifestyle changes together because they need to support each other,” said Nellett. Whether it’s Weight Watchers or a friend, it’s good to have someone hold you accountable.
Additionally, be sure to set realistic goals for yourself. “Don’t set the goal of losing 100 pounds in six months; say you’re going to lose one to two pounds a week, and don’t forget to include exercise,” said Nellett.