Eating to lose weight? We all eat so why not learn how to eat healthy. Once you have a healthy eating lifestyle you can skip dieting forever. However, trying to eat healthy can be overwhelming. A “nutrition guide” is included in practically every diet book on the market, but each guide is based on the “rules” of that particular diet. Each month magazines are filled with different diet tips and multiple “celebrity diets”. Let’s weed through all the excess information by getting back to the basics of nutrition. You can learn how to eat to lose weight.
First lets answer some frequently asked diet questions.
Do I need to restrict carbohydrates?
Absolutely not! Eating to lose weight (or just be healthy) includes carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the fuel for your body, so restricting carbs for long periods of time can cause your body to start eating the muscle in your body as fuel instead. Fifty five to Sixty percent of your daily calories should be carbohydrates* (diabetics may go as low as 40% when instructed by a doctor or nutritionist). By getting these carbs from whole grains, legumes (beans), and vegetables you will be one step closer to better health. *(National Institute of Health)
Do I have to stop eating snacks?
Moderation is the key in all things, but it especially applies to high sugar, high salt, or high fat foods. These foods will leave your body begging for more food because of the empty calories. When you follow the nutrition guide and provide your body with healthy foods you will need less food to satisfy your bodies basic needs.
My own experience has shown me that if you restrict yourself to much from the foods you enjoy you will probably not stick to the nutrition guide for long. I recommend cutting back on these types of foods little by little as you replace them with healthier foods.
How often should I eat?
Your metabolism is a big part of eating to lose weight. To keep your metabolism working optimally you will need to eat 5 – 6 “meals” a day. A good schedule to keep is to eat within 30 minutes of waking then eat every two to three hours after breakfast. Never skip breakfast, even if all you have is a handful of veggies at least your body has received some fuel.
A basic eating schedule would be breakfast, AM snack, lunch, PM snack, dinner, and late night snack. The calories for meals should be approximately double the calories of the snacks. It is ok skip one snack a day. For most people that is either the AM snack or the late night snack. By getting your metabolism going and keeping it going throughout the day you can ward off that sluggish feeling.
How many calories should I eat?
Eating to lose weight means eating fewer calories than you are burning. This is where some guess work takes place unless you have a bodybugg (or other calorie counting device.) A basic rule of thumb is 1 calorie per minute when inactive so just by being alive you burn about 1,440 calories, 2-4 calories a minute for light activities, and 6-8 calories a minute for cardiovascular activities.
The minimum number of calories any person should ingest is 1,200 calories per day. *Consuming under 1,200 calories on a regular basis will put your body into a starvation mode where calories are automatically stored as fat instead of used to fuel the body. *(Joanne Larsen MS RD LD)
Now that we’ve gotten some questions answered lets talk about how to eat to lose weight. Our wonderful government has spent billions of dollars over the years researching and writing the food pyramid. The government may not get much right, but they are definitely right when it comes to the food pyramid. By using the food pyramid you have an easy to follow guide of how to eat to lose weight.
The guide below is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. However, if you are eating to lose weight you will need to modify the guide to your calorie intake. The average inactive person will need to keep a calorie restricted diet of approximately 1,400 calories to begin losing weight.
Nutrition guide: (Based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
Your daily calorie intake should be approximately:
55-60% carbohydrates (unless Diabetic)
Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram while fat contains 9 calories per gram. So right off the bat you can eat healthier by eating low fat foods, plus you get twice as much food for the same amount of calories!
Whole Grains – 6 to 8 servings a day. A typical servings is 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of cooked grain.
Try to avoid white rice and pastas. These foods contain processed grains not whole grains.
Vegetables – 4 to 5 servings per day. A typical serving is 1/2 cup, except for green leafy vegetables 1 cup.
Keeping your diet at about 80% raw (Always properly cook meat.) will give you more nutrients than cooked food. A quick steam just to heat up the vegetables is fine. Keep in mind that the softer the vegetable is the more nutrients it has lost.
Fruits – 4 to 5 servings per day. A serving is a fruit or approximately 1/2 a cup.
Buy fruits that are in season to save money. The myth is that eating healthy costs more, but healthy food gives you better nutrition so your body needs less! Besides convenience foods are not cheap we are just used to buying them.
Dairy – 2 to 3 servings per day. Servings are 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 oz cheese, or 1 egg.
Choose low fat varieties of all dairy products.
Protein (meats, poultry, legumes, and fish) – 2 to 3 servings a day. One servings is 2 to 3 oz.
Choose the leanest meat you can afford or dine on chicken or turkey. For those who hate fish try Tilapia with a low calorie full flavor marinade. When done right it will not taste fishy and is available at Aldi’s for just a few dollars.
Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes – 4 to 5 servings PER WEEK, not daily. Typical serving is approximately 1/2 cup, except peanut butter. One serving of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons. Nuts and seeds are good for you but they are high calorie so eat in moderation. Although nuts and seeds are high in fat it is the healthy fats that are high in Omega 3’s. Legumes can substitute as a protein serving a couple of times a week.
Fats and Oils – 2 to 3 servings per day. A serving varies by type of food. A serving can be as little as 1 teaspoon or as much as 2 tablespoons. Use extra virgin olive oil and non-hydrogenated butter substitutes when possible. Salad dressings are considered to be part of this category.
Sweets and Sugars – 5 or less PER WEEK. Serving size is 1 tablespoon.
Jellies, jams, sodas, and most desserts would fit into this category. Use real fruit spreads for sandwiches and avoid adding sugar to coffees and cereals.
This nutrition guide is not meant as medical advice, always follow your doctor or nutritionists recommendations.
The above serving sizes are based on the USDA’s Food Pyramid that can be found online at http://www.mypyramid.gov/.