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There are so many types of diets. Which one is right for you? The word diet is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, diet refers to foods habitually eaten. As a verb, it means to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.

As to the verb, I know two things:

  1. All diets work
  2. Diets don’t work

Here is why both are true statements. With most weight loss diets, you must restrict foods and portion sizes so that your calorie intake is less than output. The resulting calorie imbalance is the one thing all weight loss diets have in common. So, with compliance, all weight loss diets work.

However, one can only sustain deprivation for so long – especially in SaddleBrooke, where food is associated with most social activities. Once a person strays from the strict diet (verb), old habits take over and the weight returns. Thus, most diets don’t work in the long term. Lost pounds creep back on - often along with a few more.

Did you begin the year with the intention of eating better and perhaps dropping a few pounds?

What if your focus changed? What if your diet (noun) promoted a healthy weight and disease prevention?

First, consider how often you begin to eat when you are not truly hungry, or how often you keep eating long after you are full. If you are like most people, at least 100 calories a day can be attributed to either of these and can result in an extra 10 pounds of weight annually. A health coach can help you practice mindful eating.

In a healthy diet, the proportion of carbohydrate, protein, and fat is not precisely defined; however, protein should comprise just 15 to 20 percent of the total calories. The other 80 percent can be divided between carbohydrate and fat, with carb calories accounting for no less than 40 percent. Healthy carbohydrate sources include vegetables, fruit, intact grains, beans, legumes and starchy vegetables. A dietitian can help you create individualized eating plans.

To improve your diet (noun), take the steps listed below. The first three can be undertaken concurrently. Practice each step until it becomes a habit before moving on.

  1. Do a pantry and refrigerator clean out. Keep only foods which are made from ingredients you could buy in an ordinary market. Read labels for the amount of added sugar and opt for foods with a low amount. Make future food purchases with this policy in mind.
  2. Replace croutons, crackers, and chips with popcorn, nuts or roasted chickpeas.
  3. Eat mountains of non-starchy vegetables daily (strive for five one-half cup servings). Vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked, pureed (e.g. sauces, smoothies, and soups), and even dried.
  4. Adopt the half cup habit. Buy organic canned beans, and eat one serving of cooked beans or legumes (e.g. chickpeas, dried peas, lentils) daily.
  5. Move more. Take a brisk two-minute walk every hour - this helps maintain a higher metabolism.
  6. Instead of juice, eat two cups of fruit daily. A cup equals a piece of fruit, a cup of chopped fruit, or a cup of berries.
  7. Choose to eat fish more often than land animals. Consume at least two servings of fatty fish a week.
  8. Make one meal a day meatless. Create a combination of vegetables, intact grains or beans, and starchy vegetables.
  9. Focus on fiber. Your goal: 30 to 40 grams of fiber obtained from food daily. Most whole plant foods are fiber-rich.
  10. Stay hydrated. Consume lots of unsweetened liquids, and if you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. For men, moderation is a maximum of two portions daily; for women, it’s one.

Perfection is overrated. Your goal is to make healthy eating a sustainable part of your life. Now, what about popular diets? I have summarized the features, risks, and pitfalls of many popular diets, and I would be happy to share the report with you. Email your request to nancyteeter@gmail.com.

Nancy Teeter, a SaddleBrooke resident, is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a health coach.