The best way to lose weight and limit your calorie intake? Portion control. This is something nearly everyone is aware of yet most people still overestimate a proper portion size. Measure everything you eat and drink for at least 3 days to get a better idea for what 8 oz. of juice or 1 cup of pasta looks like in your cups and plates. You might be find that you are actually be overeating grains, protein, and foods with empty calories (desserts, less-than-healthy snacks, soda) and undereating fruits, vegetables, and maybe even water.
Another way to get the right ratio of food is to use the MyPlate method. The typical American diet is too low in fruits and vegetables; instead we fill up on excess grains and protein. Proper portion size of foods and beverages is a very effective way to reduce excessive calorie intake.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Daily goal for adults: 2 cups fruits and 2.5 cups vegetables
- Include a variety in diet
- Eat seasonally for best flavor and price (click here to find out what is in season where you live)
- Frozen and canned are still good options
- Frozen fruits/vegetables: choose unsweetened, no added salt (skip ones with added sauces and seasonings)
- Canned fruits: packed in 100% juice
- Canned vegetables: No Added Salt is best
Make half your grains WHOLE grains
- Read food labels: whole grain should be the first ingredient listed (ingredients are listed in descending order by weight).
- Examples: whole wheat bread, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, oatmeal, popcorn*. The example below shows an ingredient list on whole wheat bread:
- Avoid refined white flour. Bread that is “wheat”, “multigrain”, “7 grain”, or “honey wheat” is not always a whole grain — you must read the ingredient list! Just because a bread is dark in color does not necessarily mean it is a whole grain (the rich, dark color of the bread is most likely from ingredients like molasses). If the first ingredient is a term other than “whole wheat flour”, like “enriched”, “wheat flour”, “unbleached wheat flour”, “stone-ground wheat flour”, this means it is not a whole grain. The example below shows something that is NOT a whole grain:
*Popcorn can be a healthy snack if done right. Homemade popcorn is best but use minimal oil and flavor with Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs and/or low sodium seasoning blends. For store-bought popcorn, read labels and buy one that is low sodium and lower in fat with no trans fat.
Eat more UNsaturated fat
- Replace saturated/trans fat with unsaturated fat. When increasing unsaturated fat intake, you must reduce solid fat and trans fat intake (so, no, this doesn’t mean to just add avocado slices to your sausage and biscuits breakfast — instead, have avocado slices or almond butter with toast).
- Sources of unsaturated fat: liquid vegetable oils like canola, olive, corn, peanut and soybean; plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, olives and avocados
- Saturated fats: animal-based foods like well-marbled meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, butter, whole milk products
- Trans fat: foods made with vegetable oils that have been partially hydrogenated like margarine, cookies, pastries, crackers
Don’t forget to MOVE
- Diet is important but adequate physical activity is another important component for weight maintenance. It also helps improve blood pressure, reduces diabetes risk, and improves your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- The American Heart Association recommends:
- 30+ minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a day (walking/running, biking, aerobics, swimming laps) at least 5 days a week (total of 150 minutes per week)
- PLUS moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity (weights, yoga, resistance bands) at least 2+ days per week for added health benefits