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This article was written on 31 May 2008, and is filled under Tips and Tricks.

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Diet tips – what is important

Foods to avoid

Generally speaking, try to avoid foods that have been highly processed, as they are less nutritious and healthy, but they also contain the things our body doesn’t need or want – sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and preservatives.

Fat by itself isn’t bad for our bodies or health, as it is found in many healthy foods, but there is a higher concentration of calories in fatty foods (the most by weight of any nutrient), and it’s the easiest nutrient for your body to convert into body fat. Saturated fat (which is solid at room temperature) is the kind of fat found in meat, butter, and cheese, and can increase your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Trans fats (or hydrogenated fats) are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable fats, and are found in deep-fried foods, doughnuts, and some types of margarine – these also raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood, so it’s best to avoid them.

 

Carbohydrates are another source of calories that are not bad or unhealthy for you, but you may want to eat in moderation if you want to lose weight. Our bodies turn carbohydrates into blood sugar to use for energy, so when there is less energy available through blood sugar it will turn to your stored fat for the energy. Be careful when following low-carb diets, as they often heavily restrict carbohydrate intake, but allow high protein/fat intake, which studies have shown has a relationship to higher risk of heart disease.

Avoiding foods with high amounts of sugar is good for two reasons – not only are they associated with higher calories, but eating high-sugar food will also cause a spike in insulin levels, which makes the body think that it has enough energy already, and it should start storing excess energy as fat. Even worse, it is then followed by a drop in insulin level, which makes us feel tired and hungry, so we end up eating more as a result. Try to avoid sodas, as they often contain very high levels of sugar (a 12 ounce can of pop contains the equivalent of 4-5 tablespoons of sugar), or at least switch to diet sodas – if you regularly drink soda, this alone can help you lose 1-2 pounds in a month.

If you find there are certain foods or tastes that you love, read the labels at the grocery store to see if there are different varieties or brands that are healthier, contain less calories, or are less processed. Eating healthy doesn’t always mean stopping enjoying things you love, it often just means being smarter about what you eat. Look for substitutes or alternatives that provide similar flavours, tastes, or complement the other foods you’re eating (for example, mustard instead of mayonnaise, diet soda instead of regular soda, light cream cheese on a bagel, etc.). When shopping, make a list in advance, then stick to it – many bad foods are purchased on the spur of the moment when you’re hungry, so avoid the temptation of the display aisle.

Water

One of the easiest and most effective ways to help your diet is to drink water – it’s recommended to drink 8 glasses of water per day, although most people don’t often drink that much. Water provides a number of benefits when dieting – if you’re hungry, you can have a glass of water, it has zero calories and it helps to fill your stomach and suppress your appetite. Water also helps to flush out your body, including toxins that you would want to get rid of already.

As our bodies are made up of mostly water, we can go longer without food than we can without water, as the body requires water to run efficiently. If you don’t drink enough water, you can get bloated – so although it sounds counterintuitive, to get rid of excess water you need to drink more water (in fact you can often lose a few pounds within the first week or two just from increasing your water intake, which helps release all the excess water your body has stored).

A further tip is that drinking ice-cold water actually burns more calories, as your body needs to heat it up to absorb it properly, so if you have an ice water dispenser at home or at the office, fill up a glass regularly and keep it nearby.

Meals

Adjusting your meal schedule can also be an important part of dieting and losing weight. Try to eat more small meals throughout the day, rather than one larger meal, as it is easier for your body to digest and work off the food in smaller quantities. Also, eat larger meals in the morning instead of in the afternoon or evening, as your body not only has more time to burn it off (you’re more active during the day than in the evening or night), but a morning meal also helps to burn calories faster by kick-starting your metabolism (which has been in slow gear all night while you were sleeping).

Plan your meals in advance, and look at the calories that are in the meal to ensure that you have a healthy balanced meal without high calories, and wherever possible, plan to bake or roast foods instead of frying (fried foods are almost always harder on a diet). When preparing food for the table, a successful diet trick is to use smaller plates in order to help reduce the portion sizes. Most people have become more and more used to larger portions, and using smaller plates tricks our mind into thinking we have a full serving, so we can finish a full plate without feeling guilty.

Try to avoid snacking, and ideally don’t buy processed snack foods and keep them around the house – it makes it easier to avoid temptation when you’re looking through the cupboards for that evening snack during the TV commercial break. Cut up healthy snack foods in advance such as carrots, celery, and fruit, so that you have something good to reach for in the fridge when you need that extra bite.

Journal

Keeping a journal as you progress through your diet is a great way of tracking your progress. Keep track of everything you’re eating, not only is it easier to count up the calories to make sure you’re on the right path, but putting it on paper also makes you more aware of what you’re eating throughout the day.

When tracking our food in your journal, also track your weight – it helps you see the bigger changes over time that you might not notice from day to day. Weigh yourself once a week to avoid tracking and getting frustrated over the normal daily fluctuations – weigh yourself on the same day of the week, at the same time in order to keep it consistent.

Before you know it, you’ll find that you’ve hit the goals you initially set, and then you can set new goals, or move into more of a maintenance phase of your diet – where you may not be as concerned with losing weight, but hopefully the healthy eating habits, lifestyle changes, and regular exercise will have made a big difference to your overall health.


BMI (Body Mass Index) Chart

Your BMI is based on weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (a BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal, higher or lower than that value puts you at increased risk of related health problems and diseases:

BMI 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 35 40
Height Weight (lb)
4′ 10″ 91 96 100 105 110 115 119 124 129 134 138 143 167 191
4′ 11″ 94 99 104 109 114 119 124 128 133 138 143 148 173 198
5′ 0″ 97 102 107 112 118 123 128 133 138 143 148 153 179 204
5′ 1″ 100 106 111 116 122 127 132 137 143 148 153 158 185 211
5′ 2″ 104 109 115 120 126 131 136 142 147 153 158 164 191 218
5′ 3″ 107 113 118 124 130 135 141 146 152 158 163 169 197 225
5′ 4″ 110 116 122 128 134 140 145 151 157 163 169 174 204 232
5′ 5″ 114 120 126 132 138 144 150 156 162 168 174 180 210 240
5′ 6″ 118 124 130 136 142 148 155 161 167 173 179 186 216 247
5′ 7″ 121 127 134 140 146 153 159 166 172 178 185 191 223 255
5′ 8″ 125 131 138 144 151 158 164 171 177 184 190 197 230 262
5′ 9″ 128 135 142 149 155 162 169 176 182 189 196 203 236 270
5′ 10″ 132 139 146 153 160 167 174 181 188 195 202 207 243 278
5′ 11″ 136 143 150 157 165 172 179 186 193 200 208 215 250 286
6′ 0″ 140 147 154 162 169 177 184 191 199 206 213 221 258 294
6′ 1″ 144 151 159 166 174 182 189 197 204 212 219 227 265 302
6′ 2″ 148 155 163 171 179 186 194 202 210 218 225 233 272 311
6′ 3″ 152 160 168 176 184 192 200 208 216 224 232 240 279 319
6′ 4″ 156 164 172 180 189 197 205 213 221 230 238 246 287 328

Calories Burned Chart – this chart shows the estimated number of calories burned during various common kinds of exercise or activity over a one hour (60 minute) period, based on your weight (as your weight affects the number of calories burned):

Weight (lb)
Exercise 125 150 175 200
Aerobics (high impact) 398 477 556 636
Bicycling 225 270 315 360
Gardening 308 369 431 492
Hockey 458 549 640 732
Housework 165 198 231 264
Running 652 783 914 1044
Sleeping 52 63 74 84
Stationary Bicycling 398 477 556 636
Swimming 345 414 483 552
Walking 158 189 221 252
Walking (briskly) 292 351 410 468
Weight Lifting 195 234 273 312

Food Calories Chart – this chart shows the estimated number of calories found in various common kinds of food, based on a standard serving size or portion:

Food Calories
Apple 80
Bagel 165
Beer 150
Bread 65
Broccoli (cooked) 25
Carrots (cooked) 35
Cheeseburger 565
Cheesecake 405
Chicken (roasted) 140
Chili 305
Cola 150
Corn Flakes 110
Danish 395
Egg (fried) 95
Milk (whole) 150
Macaroni and Cheese 515
Minestrone Soup 80
Orange 60
Peanuts 165
Potato Chips 145
Salmon 145
Spaghetti (meat sauce) 310
Steak 240
Yogurt (plain) 140

Goals

The first thing to do when starting any diet is to figure out what you’re trying to achieve, and set goals around where you want to be. Do you want to diet to lose weight? Do you want to diet to improve your health? The goals you make will determine how you should approach your diet, but more than that, setting the goals gives you something to work towards – it’s easier to achieve something when you commit yourself to a specific goal.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that your goal should be reasonable – losing weight too quickly or losing it the wrong way can lead to either health risks, or can set you up to gain it back more easily. The most successful diets are the ones that allow you to pace yourself. Losing 1-2 pounds/week is more than enough, it took a long time to put on the weight, be patient taking it off if you want to remain healthy, and be successful.

Before you set specific weight goals, it’s important to determine the ideal body weight range for your height – this can help you to get an objective idea where you should set your goals. (see contains BMI (Body Mass Index) chart that can help you determine your ideal body weight.

Exercise

One of the most important factors in a good healthy diet is exercise – any diet that tries to lose weight without exercise is likely either misleading, ineffective, or unhealthy.

To be successful with exercise (especially if it’s not normally part of your routine), is to look for ways to integrate it into your daily lifestyle, instead of just getting exercise whenever you have a free moment. Look for any opportunities to get more exercise – take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from your office and walk, as long as you’re moving around, you’ll be burning off more calories than if you were sitting.

A helpful tip is to schedule your exercise as you would other activities during the day – put it in your calendar, work it into your routine as a planned activity – or it will get pushed aside.

If possible, you should also try to plan your exercise for after meals, as that’s when you will get the maximum effect of burning calories, instead of having your body convert those calories into stored fat.

Calories

Calories represent the energy your body takes in through food, which it processes and uses to fuel your body – the trouble comes in when you take in more calories through food than you burn off through activity and exercise, as your body stores the excess calories in the form of fat.

Aside from exercise, the simplest way to lose weight is to reduce your caloric intake, by eating less calories. You can do this in one of two ways – either choose foods that contain less calories, or eat smaller quantities/portions of the same foods that you are already having.

A simple rule of thumb is that 3500 calories equals 1 pound, so if you can reduce your daily intake by 500 calories/day, then you should lose roughly 1 pound/week. To maintain a healthy diet, avoid cutting calories alone without exercising – find a balance between both approaches, as you will not only end up with a much more healthy end result (as exercise offers health benefits above and beyond weight loss), but if you avoid exercise your body’s metabolism will adjust by burning less calories, so you won’t end up being able to sustain any weight loss.

In order to determine how many calories you should be cutting, you need to determine how many calories your body needs to get through the day – every height/weight has a basic requirement for calories, so look at what your body needs and what you’re normally taking in – this will provide you a starting point so that you can compare your current intake with what your body really needs.

Different kinds of exercise will burn different amounts of calories, so plan your regular exercise routine into your calorie counting, it will give you an idea of how many pounds you can expect to lose and how quickly, so you can determine if you are on track to meet your goals.

Foods to eat

As a general rule, when dieting you should focus on natural foods, they contain the things that are important to our body and health – such as fiber, whole grains, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (found often in fruits and vegetables). Not only are they better for us, but they also help reduce the risk of other health-related problems such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Fruits and vegetables are a key source of vitamins and minerals, but they also provide an important source of natural energy. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, and some (such as broccoli and blueberries) are full of cancer-preventing antioxidants. To ensure that you’re taking in the nutrients that your body needs, make sure you enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables – the broader the selection, the better the health benefits.

Making sure your diet includes fiber, as it has a number of key benefits – it not only helps you feel more full (the fiber mixes with water in your stomach and expands, making you feel more full and eat less), but it also helps slow down your digestion, which regulates your blood sugar level and reduces insulin spikes (which make you feel tired and hungry), and helps to flush out your system more quickly.

Another category of foods to eat is commonly referred to as “negative calories”, which although it sounds strange, these foods use more energy to digest (in the form of calories) than the food provides back to your body, so eating those foods actually help reduce your overall caloric intake – some examples include: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, celery, lettuce, spinach, apples, grapefruit, and pineapple.

One of the most important things when maintaining a diet is to read the labels on the food you eat – you may be surprised to find out the level of calories, fat, sugar, sodium many foods contain. Many foods at the grocery store contain labels showing that they are made naturally, or are healthier – wherever possible, try to stick to these kinds of foods, the more natural the food you take in, the easier it will be for your body to use the energy and nutrients, and the easier it will be to lose weight.


4 Comments

  1. baby
    June 17, 2008

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    June 19, 2008

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