How to Diet Healthy, Without Starving
Participating in regular, moderate to vigorous exercise and consuming a proper diet is truly the foundation of good health. What is the proper diet for you depends on your goals. There are many diet plans: diet plans for medical conditions; pregnancy and breastfeeding; diet plans for good nutrition, and diet plans for weight loss. Even if you are trying to lose weight, you still should strive to consume a proper balance of all of the essential nutrients for peak performance. You can eat plenty of food but still be malnourished. Use these steps as guidelines for creating your proper diet.
- Calculate your calorie needs: One size does not fit all in terms of energy or calorie needs. The first step toward dieting properly is to estimate how many calories you need daily to maintain or lose weight. Use the Harris-Benedict or Mifflin-St. Jeor equations as a starting point. If you wish to lose weight, you will need to create a caloric deficit, which will vary depending upon how much weight you wish to lose in one week. Losing about 2 pounds per week is a realistic goal.
- Get a personalized eating plan: visit www.choosemyplate.gov. Here, you can enter your personal information, such as your age, activity level, weight and goal (to lose or maintain weight). The result will be an estimated calorie level (should be similar to the results of your calculation) along with a description of each food group, the necessary nutrients and how much of each food type (fruits, vegetables, grains) you need to eat to satisfy your calorie and nutrient requirements. There are tip sheets to help you along the way.
- Stay away from ‘fad’ diets which encourage you to cut out many foods or a whole food group. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source. At least 45 percent of your daily intake should be from carbohydrates. Choose those that are high in dietary fiber. Eating fiber-rich foods will enhance feelings of satiety or help you to feel fuller longer but be sure to drink enough fluids throughout the day, particularly water.
- Plan your meals, snacks and activities ahead of time: to be successful at losing weight, you need to have the right foods on hand along with a general idea of what you will eat for your meals and snacks. Use measuring cups and a food scale to be as accurate as possible. Balance your plate with a variety of healthy foods. In general, half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, about ¼ with lean meat, poultry or fish and the last ¼ with starches or whole grains. Round out your meal with a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk and a serving of fruit for dessert.
- Attempt to eat similar-sized meals throughout the day to keep your energy up and your blood sugar steady. In general, carbohydrates digest and absorb the most quickly, followed by protein. Fats are the last nutrient to leave the stomach. Therefore, it’s best for hunger control to combine carbohydrate-rich foods with those rich in protein or healthy fats. Avoid carbohydrate and fat-heavy meals that are sparse on protein. For example, at snack-time, choose an apple with 1-oz. of raw almonds (contain protein and healthy fat) or a serving of reduced-fat cheese. Eating this way will give you longer sustained energy.
- Keep a food and activity journal or diary: write down the foods and quantities of each you consume daily. You can count the calories on your own or use a computer program to keep track of your caloric intake. Your workouts should be scheduled like appointments and written in your calendar. Remember, a proper diet without physical activity is unbalanced. Monitor your weight by weighing yourself about once per week. Doing so more often may reflect fluid fluctuations and be frustrating.
- Learn how to effectively modify your behaviors and adopt weight-friendly eating habits: address thoughts and triggers which may lead to overeating or binging. For the time being, keep junk foods out of your house and limit or avoid situations which have triggered overeating in the past, such as allowing yourself to eat anywhere in the house. Designate one spot for meals and snacks. Practice other smart diet tips, such as serving your meals on smaller plates and starting your meals with low-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetable (green) salads and soups.