7 Easy Ways to Eat Better

March 8, 2011

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SaladOne thing my patients and I talk about a lot is the concept of eating right. And it really isn’t surprising, considering all the conflicting information out there on the topic.

In general, I advise them to follow the current USDA dietary guidelines as far as what to eat. They were recently updated, so if you haven’t looked at them for awhile, it’s a good place to start.

Of course, these guidelines are not a one-size-fits-all solution. During our initial consultations and along their weight loss journey, my patients and I work together to tailor the dietary advice to their specific situation and needs, and make modifications if they have trigger foods, underlying medical conditions, and so on.

So rather than go into too much detail about what exactly to eat, I’d like to talk a bit more generally about some of the advice on eating well that I share with my patients.

Do Something Different: If you are usually a meat and potatoes eater or a bread and pasta lover, take a break from the usual fare as you begin your weight loss program. It’s often easier to learn new habits when you’re also eating new things. This is especially true for people who struggle with binge eating. Eating smaller portions of the same foods you’re eating now may just leave you feeling deprived versus eating fewer calories in a new way.

Bulk Up: When you’re losing weight, fiber is your friend because it helps you feel full and satisfied. Happily, most high-fiber foods are also fairly low in calories, making them a win-win for weight loss. Adding a cup of steamed or raw veggies to your lunch or dinner, a scoop of beans on the side, a serving of fruit at breakfast, an apple for a snack, or a cup of watermelon for dessert can really help break that feeling of you’re “not eating enough.” Brown rice and whole grain bread or pasta are also good fiber picks; just be sure to pay attention to calories and portion sizes.

Go Organic: Some of my patients report that going organic helps them improve their diet not only because they are eliminating potentially harmful pesticides and additives from their meals, but also because the higher cost of such foods taps into their frugal nature and makes them less likely to mindlessly eat out-of-control portions.

Try Being a Vegetarian or Semi-Vegetarian: Other patients have told me that switching from their usual meat-based diet to a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian one that’s still high in protein from fish, seafood, eggs, and beans is helpful. Some follow this type of plan every other day or just during the week, and have red meat on weekends as an easy way to eat healthier while cutting calories.

Get Some New Cookbooks: Another thing I encourage my patients to do is cook more at home, and from scratch. Visit the library or your local new or used bookstore and have a look at the cookbooks that focus on vegetarian, healthy, or low-calorie cooking. Some focus on creative “makeovers” for the dishes you know and love while others may take you in whole new directions, exposing you to dishes you have never tried but will find you really enjoy. Often, illustrated cookbooks with appealing images of these healthier meals can inspire your culinary bug.

Beware Liquid Calories: While you are thinking about the foods you eat, don’t forget to take into consideration the number of liquid calories you are consuming. Soda pop and alcoholic beverages are two obvious empty calorie sources, but even seemingly innocent options like fruit juice, milk, smoothies, and coffee drinks can be surprisingly calorie-dense. Artificially sweetened beverages may not have calories, but can lead to other health issues. Try drinking water or iced tea instead.

If You Think It’s Bad, It Probably Is: Lastly, trust your instincts. No matter what the packaging claims, it’s not a surprise that foods like ice cream, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, French fries, fried foods, fast food, chips, and the like are not great choices. I’m not saying you can’t have them sometimes and in moderation but, in general, try to reduce these types of foods and replace them with healthier options.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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Comments (6)

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