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Diets don’t work; healthy choices do

Colleen Lingley, Registered Dietitian

We try all kinds of diets. Some diets restrict one or two foods; others restrict an entire food group, such as carbohydrates. The question becomes, “how long can we hold out and stay on these diets before we eventually fail and then feel like a failure?”

Below are eight simple rules that produce good and healthy results: 

  1. Eat slowly. Eat small meals on a small plate or in a bowl; take small bites, chewing each bite 20 times. By chewing well, we eat slower and we allow our stomach to tell our brain it is full. It takes about 20 minutes for this to happen. When we eat fast, we usually overeat.
  2. Eat less white foods. Pay attention and limit how much brown, tan and white food is being consumed. Light colored foods are usually breads, rice and potatoes.
  3. Buy colorful foods. Colorful fruits and vegetables that are on sale (thus, in-season) are packed full of nutrition. Colorful fruits and vegetables are high in water and fiber. Thus, fewer calories and more bulk in our stomach, telling our brain it is full.
  4. Plan ahead. Wash, chop and prepare them all at once so they are ready to pack in lunches for the week. Planning ahead and packing a colorful lunch and snacks will mean fewer calories consumed because we aren’t running to the vending machine or getting overly hungry and eating everything in sight. Frozen vegetables and canned beans are great to have on hand for fast dinners.
  5. Don’t drink your calories. Avoid drinks loaded with sugar and calories. If you want fruit juice, eat the fruit. You get more fiber and fewer calories.
  6. Drink water when feeling hungry. The body confuses hunger and thirst signals. When hungry, drink a glass of water (8 ounces) then wait 10 minutes to see if you were really hungry or merely thirsty.
  7. Taste each bite. Take time to pay close attention to how each bite tastes. When the food doesn’t taste as good as that first bite that is a sign it is time to put the fork down and save the rest for later.
  8. Sleep well. Seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended. Often, at night when the desire for snaking or dessert begins, it is really the body saying it is time to go to bed. Before you have that late night snack, trying a cup of tea or drink of water and climb into bed. Most often the feelings of hunger are put to “rest.” Our body knows it is tired and tells us to snack because it needs more energy from somewhere if we are not going to get enough sleep.

Why do the above recommendations produce good and healthy results?  The reason they work and are sustainable for a lifetime is because they are not part of a restrictive diet. Rather, they are guidelines that encourage being aware of what we eat and making healthy choices.
Remember: If we fail to plan, we have planned to fail. – Anonymous