We’ve all got our pet theories on how to lose unwanted pounds. Eat like a caveman. Eat like a monk. I prefer the “brush your teeth at night so you won’t eat a cookie” approach.
Some diet strategies work, at least for the short term. Others are deceptive and misleading, says the Federal Trade Commission. Which is why they are cracking down on unproven weight loss claims.
Case in point: Medifast — the company that sells low-calorie meal substitutes — has been charged by the FTC for making claims about their diet plan that are unsupported by reliable scientific evidence.
So what do well-controlled human studies tell us about the best ways to lose weight? Here are some proven ways to shed extra pounds adapted from a recent article in Environmental Nutrition newsletter:
Don’t believe in magic
There is no secret formula or food that will make weight fall off your body without effort. Be especially careful if a diet plan eliminates an entire food group, such as one devoid of all fruit or grains.
Pay attention to calories
They really do count. A proven strategy for weight loss is to eat small portions of high-calorie foods.
Spread calories over the day
Studies show that people who skip meals tend to eat more calories and have trouble losing weight. The goal for most people is three small meals a day.
Eat more high volume, low-calorie foods
A plateful of food does not have to be a plateful of calories. Two cups of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and cucumber, for example are full of nutrients and fiber for a mere 50 calories. The same amount of pasta or rice has fewer nutrients and 500 calories.
Focus on nutrient-rich foods
Several studies show that eating foods high in nutrients and low in calories (fruits and vegetables, anyone?) is an effective strategy for weight loss.
Move it, move it, move it
Research continues to show that exercise combined with a good diet plan can help us lose weight without starving. The goal? At least 30 minutes of activity most days plus at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening exercise.
Eat more fiber
It may be one of the most important hunger-controlling nutrients we know of, experts say. Where is fiber? Only in foods that begin life in the ground: fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and other plant-based foods.
Eat fewer SoFAS
That’s nutrition-eze for “Solid Fats and Added Sugars.” Solid fats can be identified on food labels by checking for “saturated” or “trans fats.” Sugar and syrup are examples of “added sugars.”
Don’t drink your calories
One 12-ounce soda adds 150 liquid calories. And these extra calories seem to slip in without the body being aware. Weight loss is easier when these extra calories are eliminated.
Learn portion control
And no, it’s not what is usually served in a restaurant. Eating half our usual intake is a proven way to eat half our usual calories and lose weight.
Create a plan based on scientific research
A good place to start is www.myplate.gov to access “SuperTracker.” It will show you a weight loss plan that works … for life.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at bquinnchomp.org.