Good nutrition is vital to successful weight loss and management, and for good health. Several benefits of good nutrition are: improvement in cholesterol, reduction of blood pressure, and increase in overall energy. Many of us have tried one or more of the many fad diets or in the past have experienced the vicious cycle of unhealthy weight loss/weight regain. Some of the popular diets suggest eliminating certain food groups while others suggest taking mega-doses of vitamins. The fact is, this “yo-yo” cycle often leaves you discouraged and no closer to your weight loss goal. A good weight loss and management program incorporates sound nutrition practices, behavioral changes, and physical activity. To avoid the “yo-yo” cycles and ensure adequate nutrition, a balanced diet, and incorporation of proper nutrition is necessary in making a life long commitment to adopting a healthy lifestyle.
There are three principles of proper nutrition, which include variety, balance, and moderation. Adding a variety of foods to your diet is essential to ensure eating from the five major food groups. Remember, no one food supplies all the nutrients the body needs. A balanced diet supplies the nutrients and calories the body needs if eaten in appropriate amounts. Serving sizes differ for individual needs based on age, gender, and activity level. Many people believe they have to deprive themselves of their favorite foods, but choosing certain foods in moderation is key to successful long-term weight loss.
Here are some suggested guidelines to begin a weight loss program:
- Set a realistic initial weight loss goal. A reduction in body weight of approximately 10% in the first six months and keeping it off for one year is reasonable.
- Monitor your eating habits by keeping a food journal for a period of one or two weeks to familiarize yourself with your eating habits: how much you are eating, where, why, with whom, and what mood are you in when you eat.
- If you are eating a 2000 kcal/day diet or more, reduce your caloric intake by 500 – 1000 kcal/day to promote a safe weight loss of 1- 2 pounds/week. Do not starve yourself. Avoid rapid weight loss and its dangerous side effects such as light headiness.
- Use the Food Guide Pyramid to plan your meals so that you select foods from all six food groups.
- Read the Nutrition Facts Food Labels. Pay special attention to the fat, sodium, and carbohydrate content when shopping, especially if you have cardiovascular and/or diabetes risk factors.
- Choose protein sources from plants and lean sources of meats. A good rule of thumb in selecting meats with less fat is to look for the words “round” or “loin” when shopping for beef, and the words “loin” or “leg” when shopping for pork or lamb. Remember, when shopping for poultry, white meat has less fat than dark meat.
- Choose a diet rich in soluble fiber including oat bran, legumes, barley, and most fruits and vegetables. 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily are recommended.
- Watch serving sizes and avoid going back for seconds.
- Adopt healthy meal preparation techniques to reduce sodium, fat, and sugar.
- Drink at least 8 -10, 8-oz. glasses of water each day.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol. It provides empty calories.
Good nutrition takes practice and there are certainly long term results when you improve your nutrition. Here is a partial list:
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Better control of your blood glucose for those with Type II Diabetes
- Improvement in your cholesterol, Low-density lipoprotein (LDL- bad cholesterol) and High-density lipoprotein (HDL-good cholesterol) and triglycerides
- Increase in energy
- Improvement in self–esteem
- Improvement in overall appearance