Dieting and Weight Loss Tips


Q: What are the facts about weight loss?

A: Being obese can have serious health consequences. These include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones, and some forms of cancer. Losing weight can help reduce these risks. Here are some general points to keep in mind:
Any claims that you can lose weight effortlessly are false. The only proven way to lose weight is either to reduce the number of calories you eat or to increase the number of calories you burn off through exercise. Most experts recommend a combination of both.
Very low-calorie diets are not without risk and should be pursued only under medical supervision. Unsupervised very low-calorie diets can deprive you of important nutrients and are potentially dangerous.
Fad diets rarely have any permanent effect. Sudden and radical changes in your eating patterns are difficult to sustain over time. In addition, so-called "crash" diets often send dieters into a cycle of quick weight loss, followed by a "rebound" weight gain once normal eating resumes, and even more difficulty reducing when the next diet is attempted.
To lose weight safely and keep it off requires long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.

Q: What are tips for getting more fiber in your diet?
A: To fit more fiber into your day:
Read food labels. The labels of almost all foods will tell you the amount of dietary fiber in each serving, as well as the Percent Daily Value (DV) based on a 2,000-calorie diet. For instance, if a half cup serving of a food provides 10 grams of dietary fiber, one serving provides 40 percent of the recommended DV. The food label can state that a product is "a good source" of fiber if it contributes 10 percent of the DV--2.5 grams of fiber per serving. The package can claim "high in," "rich in" or "excellent source of" fiber if the product provides 20 percent of the DV--5 grams per serving.
Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid as a guide. If you eat 2 to 4 servings of fruit, 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, and 6 to 11 servings of cereal and grain foods, as recommended by the pyramid, you should have no trouble getting 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.
Start the day with a whole-grain cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Top with wheat germ, raisins, bananas, or berries, all of which are good sources of fiber.
When appropriate, eat vegetables raw. Cooking vegetables may reduce fiber content by breaking down some fiber into its carbohydrate components. When you do cook vegetables, microwave or steam only until they are al dente--tender, but still firm to the bite.
Avoid peeling fruits and vegetables; eating the skin and membranes ensures that you get every bit of fiber. But rinse with warm water to remove surface dirt and bacteria before eating. Also, keep in mind that whole fruits and vegetables contain more fiber than juice, which lacks the skin and membranes.
Eat liberal amounts of foods that contain unprocessed grains in your diet: whole-wheat products such as bulgur, couscous or kasha and whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta.
Add beans to soups, stews and salads; a couple of times a week, substitute legume-based dishes (such as lentil soup, bean burritos, or rice and beans) for those made with meat.
Keep fresh and dried fruit on hand for snacks.

Q: What are some of the questionable weight loss products?
A: Some dieters peg their hopes on pills and capsules that promise to "burn," "block," "flush," or otherwise eliminate fat from the system. But science has yet to come up with a low-risk "magic bullet" for weight loss. Some pills may help control the appetite, but they can have serious side effects. (Amphetamines, for instance, are highly addictive and can have an adverse impact on the heart and central nervous system.) Other pills are utterly worthless. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a number of state Attorney General have successfully brought cases against marketers of pills claiming to absorb or burn fat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned 111 ingredients once found in over-the-counter diet products. None of these substances, which include alcohol, caffeine, dextrose, and guar gum, have proved effective in weight-loss or appetite suppression. Beware of the following products that are touted as weight-loss wonders:
Diet patches, which are worn on the skin, have not been proven to be safe or effective. The FDA has seized millions of these products from manufacturers and promoters.
"Fat blockers" purport to physically absorb fat and mechanically interfere with the fat a person eats.
"Starch blockers" promise to block or impede starch digestion. Not only is the claim unproven, but users have complained of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
"Magnet" diet pills allegedly "flush fat out of the body." The FTC has brought legal action against several marketers of these pills.
Glucomannan is advertised as the "Weight Loss Secret That's Been in the Orient for Over 500 Years." There is little evidence supporting this plant root's effectiveness as a weight-loss product.
Some bulk producers or fillers, such as fiber-based products, may absorb liquid and swell in the stomach, thereby reducing hunger. Some fillers, such as guar gum, can even prove harmful, causing obstructions in the intestines, stomach, or esophagus. The FDA has taken legal action against several promoters containing guar gum.
Spirulina, a species of blue-green algae, has not been proven effective for losing weight. Phony weight-loss devices range from those that are simply ineffective to those that are truly dangerous to your health. At minimum, they are a waste of your hard-earned money. Some of the fraudulent gadgets that have been marketed to hopeful dieters over the years include:
Electrical muscle stimulators have legitimate use in physical therapy treatment. But the FDA has taken a number of them off the market because they were promoted for weight loss and body toning. When used incorrectly, muscle stimulators can be dangerous, causing electrical shocks and burns.
"Appetite suppressing eyeglasses" are common eyeglasses with colored lenses that claim to project an image to the retina which dampens the desire to eat. There is no evidence these work.
"Magic weight-loss earrings" and devices custom-fitted to the purchaser's ear that purport to stimulate acupuncture points controlling hunger have not been proven effective.

Q: Do diet programs work?
A: Approximately 8 million Americans a year enroll in some kind of structured weight-loss program involving liquid diets, special diet regimens, or medical or other supervision. In 1991, about 8,500 commercial diet centers were in operation across the country, many of them owned by a half-dozen or so well-known national companies. Before you join such a program, you should know that according to published studies relatively few participants succeed in keeping off weight long-term. Recently, the FTC brought action against several companies challenging weight-loss and weight-maintenance claims. Unfortunately, some other companies continue to make overblown claims. The FTC stopped one company from claiming its diet program caused rapid weight loss through the use of tablets that would "burn fat" and a protein drink mix that would adjust metabolism. The FTC also took action against three major programs using doctor-supervised, very low-calorie liquid diets, and they agreed to stop making claims unless they could back them up with hard data. Before you sign up with a diet program, you might ask these questions:
What are the health risks?
What data can you show me that proves your program actually works?
Do customers keep off the weight after they leave the diet program? ?
What are the costs for membership, weekly fees, food, supplements, maintenance, and counseling? What's the payment schedule? Are any costs covered under health insurance? Do you give refunds if I drop out?
Do you have a maintenance program? Is it part of the package or does it cost extra?
What kind of professional supervision is provided? What are the credentials of these professionals?
What are the program's requirements? Are there special menus or foods, counseling visits, or exercise plans?

Q: What are some clues to weight loss fraud?
A: It is important for consumers to be wary of claims that sound too good to be true. When it comes to weight-loss schemes, consumers should be particularly skeptical of claims containing words and phrases like:
new discovery

Q: What are sensible weight maintenance tips?
Losing weight may not be effortless, but it doesn't have to be complicated. To achieve long-term results, it's best to avoid quick-fix schemes and complex regimens. Focus instead on making modest changes to your life's daily routine. A balanced, healthy diet and sensible, regular exercise are the keys to maintaining your ideal weight. Although nutrition science is constantly evolving, here are some generally-accepted guidelines for losing weight:
Consult with your doctor, a dietician, or other qualified health professional to determine your ideal healthy body weight.
Eat smaller portions and choose from a variety of foods.
Load up on foods naturally high in fiber: Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Limit portions of foods high in fat: dairy products like cheese, butter, and whole milk; red meat; cakes and pastries.
Exercise at least three times a week.

Q: What are some tips to reduce fat and cholesterol in my diet?
Steam, boil, bake, or microwave vegetables rather than frying.
Season vegetables with herbs and spices instead of fatty sauces, butter or margarine.
Try flavored vinegars or lemon juice on salads or use smaller servings of oil-based or low-fat salad dressings.
Try whole-grain flours to enhance flavors of baked goods made with less fat and fewer or no cholesterol-containing ingredients.
Replace whole milk with low-fat or skim milk in puddings, soups and baked products.
Substitute plain low-fat yogurt or blender-whipped low-fat cottage cheese for sour cream or mayonnaise.
Choose lean cuts of meat, and trim fat from meat and poultry before and after cooking. Remove skin from poultry before or after cooking.
Roast, bake, broil, or simmer meat, poultry and fish rather than frying.
Cook meat or poultry on a rack so the fat will drain off. Use a non-stick pan for cooking so added fat is unnecessary.
Chill meat and poultry broth until the fat becomes solid. Remove the fat before using the broth.
Limit egg yolks to one per serving when making scrambled eggs. Use additional egg whites for larger servings.
Try substituting egg whites in recipes calling for whole eggs. Use two egg whites in place of one whole egg in muffins, cookies and puddings.

Q: What are some tips in choosing a snack?
A: Today, it's easier than ever to find a version of your favorite brand or type of snack food that is lower in fat or sodium--or both--than the "regular" version. With a bit of comparison shopping, you'll find snack foods you can enjoy even if you are on a restricted diet because of high blood pressure or another medical problem. These are some of the descriptors to look for on the front of the package:
fat-free: less than 0.5 grams (g) of fat per serving
low-fat: 3 g or less per serving (if the serving size is 30 g or less or 2 tablespoons or less, no more than 3 g of fat per 50 g of the food)
light: one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the "regular" version
low-sodium: 140 milligrams (mg) or less per serving (if the serving size is 30 g or less or 2 tablespoons or less, no more than 140 mg of sodium per 50 g of the food)
lightly salted: at least 50 percent less sodium per serving than the "regular" version
reduced: when describing fat, sodium or calorie content, the food must have at least 25 percent less of these nutrients than the "regular" version.

Q: Are there nutritional differences between fresh foods and canned foods?
A: The heating process during canning destroys from one-third to one-half of vitamins A and C, riboflavin, and thiamin. For every year the food is stored, canned food loses an additional 5 to 20% of these vitamins. However, the amounts of other vitamins are only slightly lower in canned food than in fresh food. Most produce will begin to lose some of its nutrients when harvested. When produce is handled properly and canned quickly after harvest, it can be more nutritious than fresh produce sold in stores. When refrigerated, fresh produce will lose half or more of some of its vitamins within 1 to 2 weeks. If it's not kept chilled or preserved, nearly half of the vitamins may be lost within a few days of harvesting. For optimum nutrition, it is generally recommended that a person eat a variety of foods.

Q: Does freezing affect the level of nutrients contained in foods?
A: Fortunately, the freezing process itself does not reduce nutrients, and, for meat and poultry products, there is little change in protein value during freezing.

Q: Does pasteurization affect the nutritional value or flavor of foods?
A: Pasteurization can affect the nutrient composition and flavor of foods. In the case of milk, for example, the high- temperature-short-time treatments (HTST) cause less damage to the nutrient composition and sensory characteristics of foods than the low-temperature-long-time treatments (LTLT).


Browse By Category