to Choose the Best Diet
The word "diet" probably brings to mind meals of
lettuce and cottage cheese. By definition, "diet"
refers to what a person eats or drinks during the course of
a day. A diet that limits portions to a very small size or
that excludes certain foods entirely to promote weight loss
may not be effective over the long term. Rather, you are likely
to miss certain foods and find it difficult to follow this
type of diet for a long time. Instead, it is often helpful
to gradually change the types and amounts of food you eat
and maintain these changes for the rest of your life. The
ideal diet is one that takes into account your likes and dislikes
and includes a wide variety of foods with enough calories
and nutrients for good health.
How much you eat and what you eat play a major role in how
much you weigh. So, when planning your diet, you should consider:
What calorie level is appropriate? Is the diet you are considering
nutritionally balanced? Will the diet be practical and easy
to follow? Will you be able to maintain this eating plan for
the rest of your life? The following information will help
you answer these questions.
Most weight-loss diets provide 1,000 to 1,500 calories per
day. However, the number of calories that is right for you
depends on your weight and activity level. At these calorie
levels, diets are referred to as low-calorie diets. Self-help
diet books and clinical and non-clinical weight-loss programmes
often include low-calorie diet plans. The calorie level of
your diet should allow for a weight loss of no more than 1
pound per week (after the first week or two when weight loss
may be more rapid because of initial water loss). If you can
estimate how many calories you eat in a day, you can design
a diet plan that will help you lose no more than 1 pound per
week. You may need to work with a trained health professional,
such as a registered dietitian. Or, you can use a standardised
low-calorie diet plan with a fixed calorie level. The selected
calorie level, however, may not produce the recommended rate
of weight loss, and you may need to eat more or less.
Make sure that your diet contains all the essential nutrients
for good health. Using the Food Guide Pyramid and the Nutrition
Facts Label that is found on most processed food products
can help you choose a healthful diet. The Pyramid shows you
the kinds and amounts of food that you need each day for good
health. The Nutrition Facts Label will help you select foods
that meet your daily nutritional needs. A healthful diet should
Adequate vitamins and minerals. Eating a wide variety of foods
from all the food groups on the Food Guide Pyramid will help
you get the vitamins and minerals you need. If you eat less
than 1,200 calories per day, you may benefit from taking a
daily vitamin and mineral supplement.
At least 100 grams of carbohydrates per day are needed to
prevent fatigue and dangerous fluid imbalances. To make sure
you get enough carbohydrates, eat 6-11 servings (see Figure
2) from the Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group on the Food
Guide Pyramid every day.
Adequate fibre helps with proper bowel function. If you were
to eat 1 cup of bran cereal, 1/2 cup of carrots, 1/2 cup of
kidney beans, a medium-sized pear, and a medium-sized apple
together in 1 day, you would get about 30 grams of fibre.
No more than 30 percent of calories, on average, from fat
per day, with less than 10 percent of calories from saturated
fat (such as fat from meat, butter, and eggs). Limiting fat
to these levels reduces your risk for heart disease and may
help you lose weight. In addition, you should limit the amount
of cholesterol in your diet. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance
found in animal products such as meat and eggs. Your diet
should include no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol
per day (one egg contains about 215 milligrams of cholesterol,
and 3.5 ounces of cooked hamburger contain 100 milligrams
A fixed-menu diet provides a list of all the foods you will
eat. This kind of diet can be easy to follow because the foods
are selected for you. But, you get very few different food
choices which may make the diet boring and hard to follow
away from home. In addition, fixed-menu diets do not teach
the food selection skills necessary for keeping weight off.
If you start with a fixed-menu diet, you should switch eventually
to a plan that helps you learn to make meal choices on your
own, such as an exchange-type diet.
An exchange-type diet is a meal plan with a set number of
servings from each of several food groups. Within each group,
foods are about equal in calories and can be interchanged
as you wish. For example, the "starch" category
could include one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of oatmeal; each
is about equal in nutritional value and calories. If your
meal plan calls for two starch choices at breakfast, you could
choose to eat two slices of bread, or one slice of bread and
1/2 cup of oatmeal. With the exchange-type diet plans, you
have more day-to-day variety and you can easily follow the
diet away from home. The most important advantage is that
exchange-type diet plans teach the food selection skills you
need to keep your weight off.
These diets require you to buy prepackaged meals. Such meals
may help you learn appropriate portion sizes. However, they
can be costly. Before beginning this type of programme, find
out whether you will need to buy the meals and how much the
meals cost. You should also find out whether the program will
teach you how to select and prepare food, skills that are
needed to sustain weight loss.
Formula diets are weight-loss plans that replace one or more
meals with a liquid formula. Most formula diets are balanced
diets containing a mix of protein, carbohydrate, and usually
a small amount of fat. Formula diets are usually sold as liquid
or a powder to be mixed with liquid. Although formula diets
are easy to use and do promote short-term weight loss, most
people regain the weight as soon as they stop using the formula.
In addition, formula diets do not teach you how to make healthy
food choices, a necessary skill for keeping your weight off.
You should avoid any diet that suggests you eat a certain
nutrient, food, or combination of foods to promote easy weight
loss. Some of these diets may work in the short term because
they are low in calories. However, they are often not well
balanced and may cause nutrient deficiencies. In addition,
they do not teach eating habits that are important for long-term
Some programmes or books suggest monitoring fat only, calories
only, or a combination of the two, with the individual making
the choice of both the type and amount of food eaten. This
flexible type of approach works well for many people, and
teaches them how to control what they eat. One drawback of
flexible diets is that some don't consider the total diet.
For example, programmes that monitor fat only often allow
people to take in unlimited amounts of excess calories from
sugars, and therefore don't lead to weight loss.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005