I'm trying to watch my weight without having to drastically diet. What's the best way?

You are already ahead of the game! Your statement about avoiding “drastic diets” is a very healthy beginning to managing weights. Diets that are too low in calories or that restrict many different foods can be dangerous and difficult to follow. Generally people are motivated at the start of these “diet plans” and they can lose a few pounds right away. However, following diets which do not supply the body with adequate nutrients will ultimately leave the person weak, irritable, and hungry! I encourage my patients to avoid these restrictive diet plans and take the old fashioned approach to watching their figure: 1. plan ahead and choose healthy but satisfying nutrient-dense foods, 2. watch portion sizes, 3. avoid consuming too many liquid calories, 4. and allow room for “fun” in your eating plan. You can bolster your chances of eating healthy by filling your pantry and refrigerator with “good for you” foods. Try to limit foods that are very high in fat, salt or sugar. Plan a few lunch and dinner meals and record the foods needed on your grocery list…and try to stick to it!! Healthy dishes could include a healthy tofu pizza! Get whole wheat pizza crust, tomato sauce, 2% cheese, and light firm tofu. Slice the tofu into small cubes and add them to a hot frying pan (use a cooking spray or a little olive oil). Season the tofu with a little salt, oregano and basil and lightly pan fry until firm on the sides. Take the whole wheat crust and add a little sauce, then the tofu (and any other vegetables that you prefer) and top with the cheese and bake. Other dinner options could include veggie kabobs on the grill (tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onions) with meat if desired, low fat enchiladas (whole wheat wrap filled with vegetarian refried beans, green and jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, black beans) wrapped and topped with a little sauce and light cheese. If you have the right ingredients on hand, a healthy dinner can be ready in no time.

Portion sizes can make or break a healthy diet. If you are unaware of what a regular portion should look like, start checking the labels and really try to look at what one portion looks like. That way when you are at home you will be able to estimate approximately how much is on your plate, and hopefully limit your calorie intake by consuming one or two portions. This will also help you when you go out to eat. Restaurants do not want their patrons to leave hungry, so they tend to over fill your plate with three, four….even five portions per meal! Traditional Italian restaurants generally fill plates with heaps of spaghetti. Because it is right in front of you, it becomes easier to consume more than you normally would. You may ask for half portions, split the meal with a friend, or automatically ask for a doggie bag at the start of the meal.

Liquid calories definitely contribute to our obesity problem in this country. Kids and adults often consume beverages will little to no nutritional value (soda, sugary fruit punch, etc). These beverages are generally high in sugar and thereby high in calories also. I recommend limiting or avoiding soda intake. Instead of fruit punch or other sugary drinks, consider switching to a tasty low sugar juice like Healthy Balance or Cranberry Naturals. These products are low in sugar and low in calories, so they can help you when you are trying to stick to a healthy diet. Of course, water is a wonderful beverage, but if you are not a water drinker, flavor the water with lemon or cucumber or dilute 100% fruit juice with water. Finally, make sure there is “fun” in your food too. If you truly have a favorite food (and it happens to be decadent and high in calories) make sure every once in a while you are allowing yourself to have that food. But, again watch your portion size, consider eating “lighter” the rest of the day and make sure that you savor each and every bite. For example, if chocolate is your weakness, give yourself permission to have some every once in a while. But, if buying packs of chocolate bars leads you to consuming several a day, consider a small bag of pre-wrapped good chocolate. Have a few and enjoy each bite. Hopefully this will give you satisfaction without all the added calories!!

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