What if there was a diet that allowed you to eat a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich foods while still losing weight? I am a product of the old Weight Watchers plan of long ago (thirty plus years ago) that still serves me well to date. I’ve modified it a bit to reflect some life milestones, two pregnancies, some hormonal changes, but the basic approach to my diet has remained. It's a check list approach that frames a day’s worth of eating from the 6 food groups – fruits, vegetables, dairy (I use soy or almond milk), protein (I include tofu, tempeh, fish, eggs, beans and seeds), fats ( I include olive oil, avocado and nuts) and grains (which is my most limited category). You are supposed to eat a certain number of servings from each group based on your goal - weight loss or weight maintenance. the health benefits are built in because you are eating a well balanced diet of nourishing choices.
I find this approach to eating easier, because I am able to choose variety, good taste, and I can mostly meet my diet needs whether at home or on the go. It’s pretty easy to track my total daily calories and "per meal calories" based on the number of servings from each food group, thanks to app technology. My personal daily checklist usually includes:
- 2-3 servings of fruit
- 5-6 servings of vegetables
- A daily total of 8-10 ounces of protein
- 2 servings of grain carbohydrates
- 1-2 servings of calcium-rich foods (typically fortified soy milk or almond milk or Greek yogurt)
- One serving of fat at each of my 3 meals (typically olive oil or avocado on salad, or nut butter as part of my meal, or nuts as part of a snack)
- 2 servings of high fiber, whole grains
It is incredibly easy to check off servings of foods from a daily checklist I set up, so tracking my eating habits takes very little effort. It’s also easy to set up balanced meals and snacks with this type of checklist, and to fall into a relatively disciplined eating schedule. Years ago I would carefully measure portions, but I can now use visual cues to figure out an appropriate serving size when I’m not home or being served at a food establishment or even eating at a friend’s house. I might also add that this type of eating outline lends itself to simple food preparation, using low calorie low fat condiments like herbs, or marinated vegetables or items like pickle relish, flavored vinegars or mustard. The diet framework can be tweaked, adding more or fewer servings, if I am using the outline for a man, athlete or child. It can also be a good fit for someone with diabetes or heart disease. And if you reference the MyPlate approach to eating, this checklist lends itself as a perfect companion to the plate set up – ½ plate filled with fruits and vegetables, ¼ plate a protein, ¼ grain and a small serving of dairy.
You can see that I’ve emphasized choosing the superstars as they’re called from the 6 food groups. Fruits and vegetables are all good choices with variety the key, allowing you delicious taste and a mixture of vitamins and anti-oxidants when you choose different ones daily. Corn, peas and potatoes actually fall under the “grain carbohydrate” group because of their calorie density. Other grain choices should be high fiber and/or whole grain. If you eat red meat, eat it infrequently and choose the leanest cuts. If you like chicken, choose skinless and remember white meat has less saturated fat. Otherwise, fish, eggs and egg white, soy, beans and legumes are all good selections. Include healthy fats, but use portion control, choosing those that are most heart-healthy. It's better to “add them yourself” rather than buy processed foods with fat already added. In most cases, the fat is saturated fat or trans fat, both of which are considered less healthy and associated with heart disease and other health risks.
This approach to dieting has little deprivation, and depending on how many total calories you consume daily, you can either lose pounds or maintain your weight. So give it a try….what do you have to lose except pounds or some unhealthy eating habits?
Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.
Published On: March 03, 2013