There is a lot of debate about the best way to lose weight, especially when it comes to carbs and fat. New research has found that both low carb and low fat diets can be equally effective in helping people lose weight, especially when a high quality diet and personal behavior change are emphasized. Basically, the best weight loss diet is the one you can stick with the longest! Not sure how to start your personal weight loss plan? Follow these five steps to lose weight by eating what works for you.
Step 1. Track your food
Losing weight is somewhat like going on a budget. First you have to take inventory of what you’re “spending” calories on, and then it’s time to start trimming back. Track what you eat for 3 to 7 days, preferably including a weekend day and at least two weekdays. It doesn’t matter if you use a food journal or an app, like myfitnesspal, just be sure to include what and how much you eat. Don’t forget to keep track of beverages as well!
Step 2. Identify empty calories.
Step two involves going over your food journal and identifying foods high in empty calories. Empty calorie foods are those that have a high amount of added sugars, added fats or energy compared to the amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals they provide. Basically, empty calorie foods have a lot of calories but otherwise very little nutritional value. Check out the list below for examples of foods high in empty calories.
Top sources of empty calories
- Sugar-sweetened beverages- sweet tea, coffee drinks, sodas, flavored milk, most juice drinks,
- Baked goods- cookies, cakes, pastries, muffins, sweet breads, desserts
- Dairy-ice cream, yogurt, flavored milk and creamers
- Fried foods- fast food, French fries, fried chicken
- Processed meats-hot dogs, salami, bologna, pepperoni, bacon, sausage
- Snack foods- granola bars, cereal, crackers, chips, candy, chocolate
- Alcoholic beverages
Step 3. Reduce empty calorie foods
Now that you have identified your personal top sources of empty calories, work towards cutting them out. A good rule of thumb is to spend less than 10% of your calorie budget on empty calories. For example, someone trying to lose weight on a 1500 calorie diet, would need to keep empty calories to 150 calories per day or less. That’s just a ½ cup of ice cream, 12oz of beer or 15 potato chips! For weight loss, save room in your diet for small portions of your favorite treats, but fill up mostly on healthy foods.
Step 4. Replace Empty Calories
Filling up on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and small amounts of healthy fats is not just good for your waistline, it’s also good for your health! The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and many health organizations recommend a plant based, whole foods diet for disease prevention. For weight loss, make at least half your plate non-starchy vegetables, and pair with a lean protein such as chicken, fish, beans, tofu or seafood. Round out your meals with whole grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes or corn, and fruit, and small amounts of healthy fats, like olive oil, nuts and avocado.
Step 5: To lose weight, use a smaller plate
Even if you eat mostly healthy foods, your weight loss efforts will be hampered if you are eating too much! Portion control is the key to weight loss. An easy way to eat smaller portions is to use smaller plates, bowls and utensils. At restaurants, pack up half your meal to go before eating. Next, start paying attention to serving sizes listed on food labels and compare them to what you normally eat. Chances are, you may be eating way more than you realize! Did you know that ½ cup of ice cream or pasta is considered one serving? For help figuring out the best portion sizes for weight loss, check out this portion size guide.
For more tips on how to lose weight, check out Seven Steps to Lose Weight Without Dieting. If you are trying to lose weight or need help figuring out the best diet for you, call us today at 301-288-1319 to set up an appointment with our Registered Dietitian for personalized nutrition advice.