What do you eat for a sustainable and healthy weight loss? We need to find out what is common among most of the weight loss diet plans and follow some basic science-based guidelines.
“Food, like your money, should be working for you” – Rita Deattrea Beckford, M.D.
Our weight loss goals lead us to many variations of diets – low-fat diets, low-carb diets, ketogenic diet, The Atkins diet, paleo diet, vegan diet, The Dukan diet, The Zone diet, so on and so forth. There is so much research going on for the past decade on obesity and its adverse effects on health, that literally every day there is some sensational news about health and weight loss.
One day, the egg is bad for you since it has a lot of fat, then you read that egg-white is good since only the yolk contains fat, later research says fat in your food does not affect cholesterol in your blood, so go ahead and eat fats. Each diet plan has its own theory and everything seems good enough except whatever you are currently eating! This post is not about favoring or criticizing any diet, but to find some common factors among those diets that can help us lose weight.
It is quite easy to get confused with all that diet hype about what leads to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Statistics are nice to know, but what we need is just an answer to one simple question:
What do you eat for a sustainable and healthy weight loss?
Fortunately, there are a few basic factors that all the diet plans agree upon, so let us concentrate on those:
Stop the sugar-mania if you want to lose weight
Try to minimize your intake of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates like sugar, white bread, white rice, cookies, biscuits, cakes and a whole lot of baked goods that use refined flour. Replace them with whole-grain alternatives like whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown/red rice (or any other unpolished rice) and wholemeal flour. They not only provide more nutrition and fiber, but they are also absorbed much slower by the body, creating lesser spikes in sugar levels. Try some of my brown/red rice recipes: Stir-fried red rice, Chicken fried rice, Asian stir-fried chicken. Or go for the coconut flavored riced cauliflower for a low carb option.
In his book “The Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss”, Dr.John Mansfield says that the only reason for today’s obesity problem is the consumption of high amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates rather than fats. He says they lead to over-consumption and weight gain in 4 ways:
- By reducing volume, it’s easier to eat more. For example, you can easily consume 4 teaspoons of sugar in a beverage but not 4 apples that have the same amount of carbohydrates.
- Refining dramatically increases the rate of absorption and the onrush of blood sugar to the pancreas and subsequent release of large quantities of insulin and the excess glucose is converted to fat deposits.
- Refined sugar is a common food allergen and being sensitive to a food cad lead to cravings for it which in turn leads to over-consumption.
- Refining of sugar and grains also causes other problems like deficiency of chromium and B-vitamins which are essential for body metabolism and heart health.
Avoid foods with “low-fat” labels
They most definitely have added salt, sugar or some man-made ingredient to compensate for the taste. For example, you’re better off using butter rather than margarine or other ‘low-fat spreads’, which contain a whole lot of additives (to mimic the taste of butter) that your body cannot process. Always use good quality fats like olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, fish and white meat.
Eat real food for sustainable weight loss
Try to consume food in its most natural form – avoid processed meat, ready-to-eat dishes, or the store-bought sauces and dressings. Make your own seasonings and dressings. It is well worth the time and effort. Always keep your kitchen well-equipped with dried spices and herbs, so that you don’t even have to try too hard to cook up a hearty meal. Once you have stock of simple homemade seasonings like spiced oils, dried herbs, herb butter, and the like, healthy cooking can become easy and enjoyable. Click here for meal prep tips for weight loss.
Increase the fiber and protein content of each meal
- Try sneaking in vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, and lentils wherever possible, for example, in pasta, stir-fries, casseroles, roasts, stews and curries. Legumes are a great source of protein, especially for vegetarians. They can also add volume and taste to your dishes, even those with meat or fish. For example, if you are cooking one cup of pasta, make it 3/4 cup pasta plus 1/4 cup beans, with some spinach, carrots and peas thrown in for a well-balanced meal.
- Adding more fiber to your meal is a surefire way to successfully lose weight. First, you are limiting the proportion of carbs and second you don’t feel hungry until the next meal, thus there’s no question of adhoc unhealthy snacking. Third, the nutritional value of your dish increases multifold when you add fibre like legumes or different types of vegetables. It is a win-win situation.
- Eggs are another easy way to immensely increase the nutritional value of a meal while trying to lose weight since they have so many nutrients packed within a small volume. Here are some easy egg recipes which you might like: Easy brown rice frittata, vegetable omelet with turmeric or stuffed eggs with chicken.
- Quinoa is yet another great source of protein, fiber and a multitude of vitamins and minerals. Add them to salads or as a substitute for rice or pasta for a low-carb option. Some easy quinoa recipes you can try are Cheesy quinoa patties, 3-bean spicy quinoa, lemon-garlic quinoa or creamy mushroom quinoa.
Stop deep-frying to make vegetables likable, even for kids
Deep-frying destroys most of the nutrients in vegetables, apart from jeopardizing your weight loss goals. Try roasting or baking as a healthy alternative. If you dislike any vegetable (or any food for that matter), it just means that you haven’t yet found a healthy, tasty way of cooking it. Use your creativity and don’t be scared to try new recipes.
Start with salad or soup
The high fiber of the soup or salad will satisfy your appetite, and prevent overeating. You also get added nutrients from the vegetables, so you don’t have to worry about eating a meat-heavy meal after that if you want to.
Limit your food choices
Research shows that the greater the variety of food choices the longer it takes to feel full, a phenomenon known as sensory-specific satiety. It’s the reason you always have room for dessert at a restaurant even when you’re full. “Even though you’ve had a savory meal and you can’t eat one more bite of steak, you’re still interested in the cheesecake because it’s sweet and that button hasn’t been worn out in your brain yet,” says Professor Herman Pontzer, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, as quoted in The New York Times.
So a buffet with a large spread can derail your weight loss plans, even if you exercise portion control. If you happen to be in such a situation, the smart way to eat is to fill yourself up with healthy stuff like salad first. And, eat slowly so that your brain gets enough time to recognize that you are full.
We often mistake our body’s thirst for hunger and eat, when all we need is a glass of water. Next time when you find yourself reaching out for that pack of snacks, try drinking some water instead. If you still feel hungry, then go for that snack. If not, you were just thirsty after all and saved yourself from getting those extra calories.
Rule out food sensitivities, yeast syndrome and hypothyroidism
Dr.John Mansfield says that these 3 factors have to be ruled out first because they can cause an adverse effect on your weight-regulating mechanism. Any attempts at weight loss would be futile if these conditions are not addressed. Check with a medical practitioner and ensure that one or more of these problems are not the cause for your weight gain before embarking on any weight-loss program.
The whole idea of eating good, healthy and balanced food is to feel full and satiated and feeling good about it, not about restricting your diet to such an extent that you start hating it. (Read more about this my earlier post “9 reasons why you’re not losing weight“) So whatever diet you follow, always try to find a tasty, healthy alternative to those “forbidden foods” that are devoid of nutrition and cause weight gain.
I would be happy to know if these tips appeal to you. Please leave a comment or share: