8 Easy Steps to Eat Better
Quality Versus Quantity
If you're anything like me, I'm betting this will sound familiar: You try to eat right. And you exercise regularly. But still those last five pounds don't want to budge. So what's up with that? Turns out, much of the conventional weight-loss wisdom is just plain wrong, many experts say. It's not about deprivation or getting more veggies or eliminating certain food groups from your diet. Instead it's about a smarter and more enjoyable way of eating every day that will give you energy, boost your mood, and help you reach your happy weight and stay there. Here top nutritionists spill the new diet dos they swear by.Find your balance.
Calories in, calories out. We've been told that dropping pounds or maintaining our weight rests solely on this simple equation. Wrong! "In reality, not all calories are created equal," says dietitian Ashley Koff, RD, a coauthor of Mom Energy and a FITNESS advisory board member. "Quality is just as important as quantity." Here's why: Munching two 100-calorie packs of cookies for your midmorning snack gives you a total of two to three servings, or about 36 grams of carbs, and very little protein. Your body uses just 15 to 20 of those grams of carbs for energy, and unless you're highly active, it will probably store the rest, Koff explains. As a result, you end up gaining weight rather than losing it.
Stop the calorie obsession and focus more on balancing your nutrients. "Every time you eat, aim for unlimited amounts of nonstarchy vegetables and one serving each of carbs -- whole grains, fruits, or starchy vegetables, like carrots and corn -- protein, and healthy fat," Koff says. Consuming foods in every category gives your body a steady supply of energy all day with no fattening side effects. So instead of cookies for your prelunch snack, nosh on an apple and some nuts or vegetables and a little dip made from low-fat Greek yogurt.Stop the endless grazing.
Some of us have done away with breakfast, lunch, and dinner in favor of the six small meals many experts tout as the key to staving off hunger and losing weight. But this strategy can easily backfire if small meals creep into traditional-size ones or turn into all-day snacking. The trouble is, when you're nibbling a little bit here and there, it's hard to keep track of how much you're putting away. "Plus if you're not getting full at any given time, it sets you up to consume even more overall. There's something psychologically and physically satisfying about eating a complete meal and having that truly full feeling rather than just taking the edge off your appetite every hour or two," says Marjorie Nolan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. At meals, it's typical to have several different dishes, but grazers may munch on just one thing, like pretzels. That means you can down a whole bag and still walk away unsatisfied, Nolan explains.
Instead of picking at food all day, shoot for three meals and two snacks or five mini meals. Be sure to combine a few tastes and textures at each sitting, like carrot sticks and whole wheat crackers dipped in hummus, or half a sandwich. Plan small meals in advance so you aren't tempted by -- or stuck with -- whatever open bag happens to be within reach. And write down what you eat so you keep tabs on just how much you're consuming.Give yourself an afternoon treat.
Good news: It's healthier to hit the vending machine than to go hungry. The typical stretch between lunch and dinner is too long for blood sugar levels to remain stable without a calorie infusion, says nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a FITNESS advisory board member. Your best bet: "If you tend to get famished at 3 p.m., don't fight it, plan for it," she says. Keep healthy snacks like apples, almonds, string cheese, and pears at the office and you won't have to scramble for something to eat.
If you didn't bring your own, no biggie, just choose wisely at the machine. "Sunflower seeds and peanuts are superhealthy, a chocolate chip granola bar is a smarter cocoa fix than a candy bar, and baked chips or popcorn is better than regular chips for a salty crunch," Blatner says. Pass up fruit snacks in favor of the real thing from the corner deli. Absolutely gotta have chocolate candy? Opt for a plain Hershey's bar or peanut M&M'S which are slightly lower in calories and saturated fat and sugar and have slightly more fiber and protein than other bars.
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