Nutritionists from the University of Maryland Medical Center regularly contribute a guest post to The Baltimore Sun's health blog Picture of Health (baltimoresun.com/pictureofhealth). The latest post is from Jessica DeCostole, a dietetic intern.
Summer is the season for shedding layers and showing a little more skin. It's also the time when many of us start to seek out quick weight loss strategies. Before you pick up that new diet book, read on for the dos and don'ts of summer weight loss.
Don't skip breakfast Seventy-eight percent of successful dieters eat breakfast, according to the National Weight Control Registry, a continuing study that follows 10,000 people who've lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for more than one year.
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Not hungry in the morning? Start eating something small such as a banana or a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter. After a couple of days, you should wake up with an appetite. And know this: People who eat a higher-protein breakfast take in fewer calories throughout the day than those who eat a low-protein breakfast, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Protein can include eggs, Canadian bacon, tofu, nuts, seeds and dairy.
Do snack throughout the day It's the portion size that matters, not necessarily how many times you eat each day that will determine the size of your waistline. If you just finished lunch an hour ago but aren't satisfied, don't deprive yourself. Grab a snack, but make sure it's between 200 and 300 calories and has a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates to keep you full. Some ideas: a handful of almonds or walnuts, an apple and a piece of low-fat string cheese, or some sliced peppers and yogurt.
Don't skip entire food groups Most diets that make big weight loss promises in a short period of time focus on cutting out food groups, such as carbohydrates. While this may give you the illusion that you are shedding weight quickly, it's the least effective way to keep pounds off for the long term. Many dieters who avoid entire food groups tend to overindulge in these foods once the diet is over, regaining their previous weight and then some. Instead, focus on including more foods in your diet rather than less. Choose foods that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats and protein to ensure a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Do fill up on fiber Recent research in the Journal of Nutrition suggests eating more fiber is a way to encourage weight loss. Over the course of the 2-year study, the researchers found that boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories resulted in about 4.5 pounds of weight lost. Why? Our bodies don't absorb insoluble fiber so it can fill you up without adding calories. The recommended daily dose of fiber is 25 to 35 grams — most Americans get about half that. To add more fiber, choose whole grains such as amaranth and barley, add flax seeds or bran to your whole-grain cereal, and toss berries, nuts and beans in your salad.
Don't turn to cleanses While you might see short-term weight loss results from a cleanse diet (typically an extremely low-protein, low-fat, low-calorie, all-liquid diet), once you start eating solid food again, you'll gain all the weight back. Plus, many health claims that cleanse companies make simply aren't true. For example, your gut does not need a rest from eating solid food. A healthy liver and kidneys do a great job of removing toxins from your body, so a cleanse is generally unnecessary. Instead, try making fruit and veggie smoothies with almond milk and silken tofu for a post-workout snack.
Do choose solid foods over liquid calories Consider this: A study at Perdue University looked at the effects of solid, semi-solid and liquid food on appetite. Participants consumed either a whole apple, applesauce or apple juice of equivalent caloric value. Researchers found that participants who had the beverage were ready for their next meal almost an hour earlier than those who ate the apple. Frequently drinking calorie-dense beverages could increase both your hunger and your calorie intake throughout the day. When thirsty, go for water first: add a squeeze of lemon or lime, try a sugar-free seltzer, or brewed unsweetened iced tea or iced coffee.
Don't forget to hydrate Studies from the Stanford Prevention Research Center suggest that water helps promote weight loss. Drinking at least four cups per day was linked to a 5-pound weight loss over the course of a year. Not sure if you are getting enough water? A good rule of thumb is that your urine should be very pale yellow or close to clear. When thinking about hydration, remember things that melt (ice cubes, frozen fruit bars, sorbet, Italian ices) all count toward your daily fluid intake. Broths, soups, stews, watermelon and other watery fruits, and vegetable juices also provide hydration and may help keep you full with fewer calories.
For more healthful eating and weight-loss tips, visit eatright.org.