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Weighing Your Diet Options

Have you made a resolution to become healthier by losing weight in 2009? Are you going to change your lifestyle by trying to “eat less and move more”? Although most weight loss plans recommend a decrease in caloric intake and increase in calorie-burning activities, there is a lot of confusion about which plans promote both weight loss and health over the long term.

How do I know which diet plans are healthy ones?

When restricting calories, you need to include nutrient-dense foods in your diet (that is, foods with a lot of nutrients for the calories). There are no magic foods or combination of foods for weight loss. You want an eating plan that has enough flexibility and variety to avoid boredom and to promote life-long eating habits. One key to losing weight is to control portion sizes. By learning to feel satisfied with smaller amounts of food, you will be able to maintain your weight loss.

Criteria for choosing a healthy weight loss diet: If you can answer “yes” to these questions, it’s likely that your diet will provide the energy and nutrients necessary for health.

  • Does the diet provide a realistic amount of calories (but no less than 1200 calories per day)?
  • Does the diet offer a variety of foods?
  • Does the diet provide at least 130 grams of carbohydrate per day, with an emphasis on fiber-rich, complex carbohydrates (such as whole grain breads & cereals, vegetables, & legumes)?
  • Does the diet include 20-35% of total calories as fat, with mostly polyunsaturated and
    monounsaturated fat?
  • Does the diet include lean sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, soy products, & legumes?
  • Does the diet include foods that are available in local markets, rather than “special” or
    unusual foods?

Current weight loss diets in the popular press: Although there are many choices on the bookstore shelves, the following authors promote healthy, long-term eating habits.

  • Joy’s LIFE Diet – by Joy Bauer, registered dietitian and nutrition expert for the Today Show. The LIFE (Look Incredible, Feel Extraordinary) diet is a realistic plan with healthful foods that are low in salt and sugar. Ms. Bauer offers numerous tips for purchasing foods, dining out, eating breakfast, and more.
  • The Complete Beck Diet for Life – by Dr. Judith Beck, psychologist and cognitive therapist. This book focuses on changing the way you think (using cognitive therapy skills) to increase your sense of control, confidence, and motivation to follow a diet. You will learn how to create a flexible and nutritious eating plan that includes your food preferences.

Remember to set a reasonable weight loss goal of 1 -2 pounds per week. If you have any health problems or take medications regularly, you should discuss your plans for weight loss with your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise program.

This article originally appeared in Nutri-bytes (February 2009), a service of the College of Nursing and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

For more information:

Go to the Diet and Nutrition health topic.