Spring Clean Your Diet
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
Spring is in the air, and that means summer is not far behind. As the mercury rises, you may be thinking about revamping your eating habits to pare down for swimsuit season. It’s tempting to make drastic changes in your diet to shed the winter weight. Before you got to extremes, read on for why it pays to lose weight the right way, once and for all.
Overcome Eating Challenges
Weight loss isn’t rocket science. To shed pounds, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. So why is it so hard to lose the weight and keep it off for good? Here are some of the most common reasons why diets are so challenging.
Challenge: You get too hungry. Hunger is normal, but too much hunger is downright uncomfortable. You may be able to stick with a very low calorie diet for a few days or even a couple of weeks to lose weight, but you can’t sustain that type of restrictive eating, nor should you.
Solution: Settle for a slower rate of weight loss by cutting a few hundred calories every day on a balanced eating plan. Serve yourself smaller portions of healthy foods to keep hunger at bay. Also, move around more by getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, on most days of the week.
Challenge: Your diet is inadequate. Low-calorie eating plans nearly always lack the nutrients that support health and wellbeing, such as iron. Low levels of iron in your diet can sap your energy. In addition, women who reduce their grain intake may not get enough folic acid. The U. S. Public Health Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that women of childbearing age who are capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid from fortified foods or dietary supplements every day. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects in early pregnancy, when a woman may not realize she’s pregnant.
Solution: Dieting or not, always take a daily multivitamin to help fill in important nutrient gaps. People who eliminate or restrict certain foods, such as dairy, may need calcium and vitamin D supplements, too. Everyone over the age of 50 should consume most of their vitamin B12 in a synthetic form found in dietary supplements and fortified foods, including breakfast cereal.
Challenge: You feel deprived. Healthy eating is often thought of as an all-or-nothing affair, but banning the foods you love usually results in abandoning healthy eating altogether.
Solution: All foods fit on a balanced diet, even one that’s designed for weight loss. Plan a 100-calorie treat every day, such as 2 crème-filled sandwich cookies, to help you stay on track for healthy eating.
Challenge: You don’t cook much. You’re busy or you just don’t like to fix meals. Restaurant foods and take-out tends to be higher in calories and fat, and lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than homemade, which makes weight control and healthy eating more difficult.
Solution: Plan simple meals and snacks to prevent ordering take out or purchasing processed fare. Keep healthy ingredients on hands for meals that you can prepare in minutes, for any time of day, including the following:
- Roasted chicken purchased precooked at the store, cooked baby carrots, and pasta
- Chicken, shrimp, or tofu and vegetable stir-fry over white or brown rice
- French toast, fruit, and milk
- Green salad topped with canned salmon, whole wheat roll, fruit
- Pizza made from whole wheat naan bread, green salad, fruit
- Reduced-sodium lentil soup, green salad, fruit, milk
- Trail mix: nuts, whole grain cereal, and dried fruit
- Fruit smoothies made with milk or yogurt and fruit