By Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
The new year is upon us and it’s time to commit to the lifestyle changes we want (or need) to make. Are you determined to meet your weight loss goals this year? If healthier habits are among your New Year’s resolutions, pat yourself on the back for making health a top priority. In the past, if you started off January with a bang and religiously followed diet rules only to make zero progress (or gain weight) it’s easy to become discouraged. There are so many confusing weight-loss theories out there. Don’t set yourself up for another resolution failure. When your progress is lacking, diet myths could be to blame.
Myth: Calories don’t matter if food is healthy.
Truth: Nutrient-rich foods like calcium-filled low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats provide more vitamins and minerals per calorie than processed foods, so you can eat more and consume fewer calories. Wheat pasta, whole grain bread, and brown rice have significantly more fiber, which is a good thing, but just as many calories as their regular, less healthy versions. Avocados, nuts, and olive oil deliver heart-healthy fats, but also are high in calories. To stay on track, carefully watch your portion sizes.
Myth: Exercising means I can eat what I want.
Truth: Anyone can out eat the best workout plan. The average person burns 100 calories a mile. Finish a 5K and you have earned an apple and cheese stick. When weight loss is your goal, you will need to burn or remove 500 calories per day to drop a pound a week. Feel like you are starving after exercise? Make sure you have a small snack before working out and are well-hydrated to curb post-workout hunger. Remember, diet and exercise should complement each other.
Myth: Salads are always the best option.
truth: Most of us can use more vegetables in our diets, so what’s the problem? The toppings! Restaurant salads can have as much saturated fat as a double cheeseburger. Pack your own salad for a convenient lunch. You’ll get a bounty of nutrients from the vegetables, but you can also control and add ingredients that offer other vital nutrients to your meal, without piling on the fat. Dining out? Choose low-fat salad dressings on the side, stick to just one meat at a time, and opt for either cheese or bacon, not both.
Myth: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight.
truth: Most Americans overeat processed carbohydrates with no nutritional value. Removing those products from your diet is a step in the right direction. But, avoiding all whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables can lead to constipation due to lack of dietary fiber, and also make you feel nauseous, tired, and weak. High-protein foods like meat, eggs, and cheese are higher in cholesterol, which may raise the risk of heart disease. By following a balanced eating plan, and choosing your carbohydrates and proteins carefully, you can avoid neglecting entire food groups and missing the key nutrients they contain. It is easier to maintain a diet that includes a greater variety of foods.
Smart Choices Are Key
Attack your weight loss and healthy eating resolutions from a different perspective by cutting them into bite size pieces. When it comes to reaching a healthy weight, small changes can add up. You can shave off 100 calories a day and lose 10 pounds in one year. Cutting calories in the New Year doesn’t mean you have to go hungry or surrender your favorite foods. Smart substitutions or a change in portion sizes is all it takes.
Better Breakfast Choose a whole wheat English muffin instead of a bagel. Replace your morning pastry with one cup of high fiber cereal and skim milk. Prepare your coffee with fat-free skim milk instead of regular half and half or whole milk.
Don’t Drink and Diet Replace an 8-ounce soda with water to save 100 calories a pop. Substitute a fresh orange over your morning OJ. Leave sports drinks to the athletes.
Snack and Save Use fresh vegetables in place of chips or crackers for dips. Choose salsa for dipping instead of guacamole. For snacks, substitute baked potato chips for regular potato chips.
Thin the Skin Pulling the skin from a serving of poultry instantly trims 100 calories. To keep your bird moist, do the peeling after baking or broiling.
Spread Love not Fat Butter has 100 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving. Avoid adding butter to dishes once at the table. Jams and jellies are pure sugar. Make the swap to apple butter or no added sugar options.
Slim Down Side Orders Replace a side of fries with a salad or vegetable soup. Choose a cup of soup instead of a bowl. Ask for salad dressing and condiments on the side. Season steamed vegetables with fresh lemon or herbs instead of butter or margarine. Opt for salads that contain more veggies and less cheese, ham or bacon. Just say no to full-fat dressings.