If you’ve ever followed a “fad diet,” you have plenty of company, as recent studies have shown that more than 54 percent of adults state that they are currently on a diet of some kind.
A fad diet is a trendy, new diet that promises weight loss, health benefits or some sort of exciting nutritional outlook. The problem with these types of “diets” is that they are usually temporary and do not call for a lifestyle change. In fact, 69 percent of fad diets fail to achieve the target weight you are hoping for.
Fad diets involve a period of time where you exclude certain macronutrients or micronutrients so you can lose weight or achieve better health outcomes. Even if you lose weight, you typically don’t continue with these diets for long periods of time. Once you find yourself back into your old eating routine, you will find your body rebounding to its previous state. You may even gain more weight back than you lost due to your body holding onto the nutrients you had previously withheld at a higher rate. Because of this, these temporary diets are not helpful and are, oftentimes, not healthy for your body.
Variety is Key
Just as a car needs proper gasoline to run efficiently, your body needs a healthy diet to do the same. The best diet is not a diet at all, but rather a way of life that includes the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, as well as a long list of micronutrients. A rough estimate for the average person includes a diet comprised of 55 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 20 percent fat. These needs may change based on specific needs or diseases, but when you exclude any of these nutrients, you risk nutritional deficiency and illness.
Carbohydrate needs should mostly be fulfilled with whole grains in order to receive the wide spectrum of nutrients they offer, along with ample dietary fiber. For proteins, focus on beans, nuts, legumes, white meats and tofu. These offer plenty of protein without the saturated fat and cholesterol that strain your heart. Finally, fat intake should focus on your unsaturated fat sources, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. These “healthy” fat types come from vegetable oil, olive oil, nuts/seeds and fish. Avocados also have an abundance of healthy fat. Though you want to focus your attention on these healthy fats, they provide a heavy dose of calories so you must be aware of your total caloric daily intake and percentage breakdown of calories from fat.
The key to weight loss/gain is calories in versus calories out, meaning even healthy fats and calories can lead to weight gain without proper portion control and exercise.
Food servings have grown larger and larger over the years. Most portions you encounter will be more than necessary.
A healthy serving size is:
• A cup of fruit no larger than your fist.
• 3 ounces of meat or about the size of the palm of your hand.
• 1-2 ounces of nuts or the amount of nuts that would fit in your cupped hand.
Some easy ways to scale back on your portions are:
• Serve meals on salad plates instead of dinner plates.
• When ordering out, share a dish with a friend or loved one.
• Store healthy snacks in portion-sized containers.
Follow These Simple Strategies
A healthy lifestyle includes the following:
• Eating a variety of foods
• Lean protein, whole grains, fruits/ veggies, avocados, nuts, oils. Do not exclude nutrients. This can lead to deficiencies and illnesses.
• Saying no to bad fats.
Saturated fats and trans fats from fast food, fried foods, processed foods, frozen foods, and red meats put a strain on your heart. These can cause health complications when consumed too frequently.
• Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables daily!
• Exercising at least 150 minutes each week. Spread these minutes out through-out the week and get your exercise to strengthen your body and maintain/lose weight.
• Eating smaller portions. Aim for six mini-meals each day rather than two to three big meals. Use healthy snacks to keep you sustained between meals. These include low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, peanut butter, fruits, veggies, low-fat yogurt (low added sugar) and nuts.
• Fill up on the good stuff.
Snack on vegetables and berries.
Blueberries, blackberries, cherries and raspberries are low in calories but high in fiber and antioxidants.
• Avoid “empty calories” like sodas, candy, pastries, cakes and other foods with a lot of added sugar.
Don’t diet, just live healthy!
Aaron Stonelake is the nutritionist for the Kern County Public Health Services Department. For more information on health resources and programs, go to www.kernpublichealth.com.