© Katherine Poehlmann, PhD
“Going on a diet” has come to mean a short term intensive effort to lose weight instead of a serious commitment to a lifestyle change. Once you’ve made that decision, sticking to it is a lot easier if you become a compulsive label reader. Don’t depend on commercially prepared diet products.
What’s wrong with packaged diet products and convenience foods? For one thing, they are usually very high in sodium, especially the instant soup and noodle snacks in styrofoam cups to which you add boiling water.
The diet meal label may say “only 140 calories” but that’s because the portions are extremely small, usually about eight ounces. Some people are tempted to eat more than one “dinner” at a sitting, or snack on high carb “energy bars between meals. No wonder dieters become discouraged.
There is no need to starve yourself. Eat several small snack-type meals during the day and drink plenty of water so that you feel full and satisfied. The snacks should be fresh fruits, raw vegetables, whole grains, and protein in the form of meat, fish, and eggs. See the article “Healthy Snacks For Kids (and Dieters)” for specific suggestions.
While dieting and working toward the goal of adopting a healthy lifestyle, you will need to include 5 to 6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Three packaged diet meals per day will not give you this nutrition. Microwaving removes much of the nutrient value of vegetables.
No need to avoid restaurants. However, “Just Say No” to the inevitable bread basket that hits the table while you are scanning the menu. Better yet, patronize buffet restaurants that offer lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, and soups. You can put together a very full meal of nutritious food. For protein, look for baked chicken and fish and lean meat. Ignore the dessert station and do not choose anything breaded. Forego the pasta and white rice and baked potatoes, all high in carbohydrates. Choose oil and vinegar dressing for salads. Creamy dressings and condiments contain sugars and MSG.
The packaged diet meals that include a dessert or feature sweet sauces are working against your goal. They are appealing to and perpetuating the “sweet tooth” habit you are trying to break. So-called diet shakes and energy bars are bait in the same trap.
Avoid diet sodas. They contain potassium, which upsets your calcium balance. Drink fresh spring or filtered water or herbal tea instead.
Reduce artificial sweeteners. Instead, use whole organic sugar, pure honey, or organic maple syrup, but use these and artificial sweeteners very sparingly. Organic fruit should have enough natural sweetness to satisfy cravings. Try Stevia, a herbal sweetener.
Sprinkle cinnamon on multi-grain whole wheat bread for a filling, nutritious snack or as part of a good breakfast. Cinnamon is delicious on hot oatmeal instead of sugar.
Choose natural rather than processed cheeses. Always check the label for undesired additives like salt or sugar.
Many successful dieters follow a “no flour, no sugar” plan. This is simplicity itself, and makes decisions about what not to eat quite easy. Natural sugar contained in fruits and some vegetables are permitted.
Low carb dieters start with 25grams (25g) of carbohydrates (carbs) per day until reaching set point, then gradually increase to 70g of carbs per day. The daily allowance shown of 300g carbs is an antiquated total from the 1950’s. Carbs convert to sugar in the body, so dieters should severely limit carb intake.
Forget the processed diet foods and turn to the basics. Just because packaged foods are quick and easy to prepare, they should not be the mainstay of your diet plan. Once you get in the habit of keeping healthy snacks handy, you will not spend money on heat and serve “diet” foods that often have empty calories and don’t taste as good as the real thing.
Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available at Amazon.com and major bookstores, or click here to order now.
Click here for definitions of terms like “low fat” and “low sodium”.
For a related article, click here: “Reading Labels”