Health Features

Eat Smart to Manage Your Weight

Any program for maintaining a healthy weight can come with a variety of moving parts. Physical activity, mental balance, good attitude and commitment all play a role in a positive outcome, but smart nutrition is just as important, says PALM Health chief medical officer Dr. Sita Kedia. To keep your weight on a healthy, even keel, your body needs a diet high in nutrients that are helpful and low in foods with less nutritional value.

“For most people, the main motivation to lose weight is a desire to feel better or have more energy,” Kedia says. “You might also be trying to reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes risk. In any case, you’re interested in feeling like your best self, and that’s where good nutrition can be helpful. By making good food choices, you are establishing a permanent foundation for better overall health, not just a platform for weight loss.”

Kedia says good weight-management nutrition should include macronutrients like proteins and healthy fats, plus micronutrients like vitamins and minerals that are necessary for mind and body wellness. A sensible nutrition plan also should focus more on balance than cutting out certain items altogether. “Fad diets often call for you to eliminate particular foods or food groups entirely,” she points out. “A plan that is too restrictive becomes difficult to maintain long-term. One of the key things we know about weight loss is that even if you are successful in the short term, it can be challenging to maintain results over the long haul. It makes more sense to take a balanced approach.”

Instead of thinking about food choices simply as a means toward losing weight, it’s best to make permanent lifestyle and mindset changes to promote nourishment that’s sustainable, Kedia says. When you are ready to consider a weight management plan, think first about your overall relationship with the things you eat. “Is your view of food about happiness, pleasure, stress or even guilt?” she asks. “Is it central to your social experiences, celebrating, or connecting with others? Try not to think of your food choices as dieting, because that imposes an immediate sense of restriction. Instead, reprogram your thoughts about food to be more positive. Consider the food you eat in a context of healthy, long-term meal planning.”

Then, consult with a health care professional who can help you reformat any unhealthy attitudes toward eating, Kedia advises. “A major factor to discuss with a doctor, dietitian or wellness coach is gut health,” she says. “Foods that nourish your microbiome—the microorganisms that exist in and on your body—can help with weight loss. The microbiome regulates how hungry you feel, affects metabolism, even impacts how you store fat. A good, healthy gut is an essential part of a balanced living program.”

It’s also helpful to think about food choices relative to your daily stress levels, Kedia says. “It’s all about planning,” she notes. “If you are expecting a long, difficult day tomorrow, think ahead and put a bag of healthful nuts or a low-sugar granola bar in your purse or office drawer. That way, if stress suddenly makes you feel like eating, you’re prepared.” And don’t forget to hydrate all day—water helps with satiety and is important in flushing toxins from the body.

If you’re interested in weight management through a plant-based diet, it’s a good idea to consult your health provider, Kedia says. “You can incorporate a plant-focused diet into a lifestyle to decrease cholesterol, insulin resistance and diabetes risk, but you should ask about potential iron, vitamin D, calcium, protein and essential healthy fat deficiencies,” she notes.

Kedia also recommends talking to a health professional about lifestyle changes, family history, medical conditions and foods to avoid in a healthy weight plan. “Inflammatory foods like added sugars and trans fats can contribute to a perpetual cycle of insulin resistance, weight gain and more inflammation,” she says. “Good nutrition can help break that cycle.”

smart eating tips for healthy weight management

  1. Add a variety of colorful produce to your plate. Oranges, tomatoes, fresh herbs and dark, leafy greens are great choices.
  2. Stir chopped vegetables like broccoli, peppers or onions into dishes like omelets and soups to boost color, flavor and nutrition.
  3. Steam vegetables for a healthy side dish, or saute them with a small amount of cooking spray.
  4. Factor fresh fruit into your diet. Branch out from apples and bananas, and try kiwi, mango or fresh pineapple.
  5. Experiment with a new fresh vegetable or fruit each week. Switching up your choices can help keep meals interesting.
  6. Low-fat and fat-free fruit yogurt is calcium-rich and can help satisfy a sweet tooth in place of dessert.
  7. Bake or grill lean meats like chicken instead of frying them.
  8. You don’t have to cut out comfort foods altogether, but limit them to once a week or even once a month. Eat smaller amounts, and try low-calorie versions.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More healthy eating resources:

  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • MyPlate Plan, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • My Food Diary, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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