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Healthy Weight Center

How Can I Find the Proper Diet?



What is a good diet?


Thanks for your question. When you say "diet", I am assuming you mean some sort of meal plan that will help you lose weight, or achieve optimal health. "Diet" is actually the foods and beverages a person eats and drinks on a daily basis, which can be healthy or unhealthy. Most people consider "diet" to mean a fad diet or meal plan which is to be followed for a certain amount of time to lose weight. Fad diets (such as low carbohydrate or high protein "diets") are not a good idea for long term weight loss, and can be detrimental to your health. Fad diets often exaggerate weight loss, are unbalanced or inadequate in vitamins and minerals, and can lead to weight cycling. Weight cycling occurs with some one that "diets" chronically. Weight goes up and down, and self esteem usually declines. Just say NO to fad diets! In order to eat a good "diet", a meal plan should be balanced, have a variety of foods, contain adequate calories, vitamins and minerals, be moderate in fat, sugar, salt and alcohol, and be plant based. A completely animal free diet is not necessarily recommended, though some people may choose this. Balanced means that you include a variety of foods from all 5 food groups (grains/cereals/bread group, fruit group, vegetable group, meat or alternative group and dairy group). In addition, balance means you should eat enough calories to maintain weight, and in balance with your activity level. Obviously, if you exercise often and are active, you can afford to eat more without weight gain. If you`re a couch potato, you may need to eat less to prevent weight gain. Energy metabolism (body`s ability to burn up and utilize calories) declines with age, so unless you decrease your calorie intake or get active, you will gain weight over time. Exercise has several benefits: weight management, muscle toning, stress reduction, improved sleep and well-being and improved cardiovascular fitness (to name a few). If you`re trying to lose weight, be sure to include regular exercise. Moderation in your diet means that you choose at least the minimum servings from a food group, and neither overeat nor skip a food group. Be sure to try a variety of foods. When you skip or limit a complete food group (such as meat or dairy), you miss out on the nutrients in that food group. In the case of meat or dairy, you`d be missing protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and minerals. Also, be sure to have variety in your diet. Bananas and oranges are both fruits, but contain different nutrients. Not only does eating the same thing every day get boring, you may also be missing out of vitamins and minerals from different foods. In general, a person should choose at least 6-11 servings of grains, 2-4 servings of fruit, 3-5 vegetables, 2-3 meat servings and 2-3 dairy servings. The sixth food group is the fat/sugar/alcohol group, which should be consumed in moderation. A person doesn't have to completely avoid junk food, but should just limit it in their diet. Basically, sweets, alcohol and other snacks add calories and fat to our diets, but not much nutritional value. In my opinion, excess high calorie snacks are one of the biggest reasons 30% of the population in the US is overweight. Choosing a diet high in fruits, grains and vegetables is the best advice I can give you. All of these foods are relatively low calorie, contain fiber, aid in bowel function , and prevention of cancer and heart disease. High fiber foods also help a person feel fuller, which can prevent weight gain. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when possible, and whole grain breads and cereals. In general, the less processed the food, the higher the nutritional value. Also, limit cooking time with vegetables and grains as nutrients are lost in heat, water and light. For more information on "good diets", check out the websites below. Eat your vegetables and good luck!

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati