The choices are more numerous today and learning to choose correctly is very important, especially if you are overweight. Choose the right foods and you will automatically choose those which contain fewer calories. And if you consume fewer calories you will get skinny fast.
1. Dieting begins at the supermarket
The Mayo Clinic stresses that “dieting begins at the supermarket,” meaning that if you put the right foods in your shopping cart, you will almost certainly put the right nutrients into your system.
Impulse-buying leads to impulse snacking. If you do not buy chocolate-covered doughnuts, you will not find yourself eating three of them on your way to bed. And so you will not consume the calorie equivalent of a whole meal as a bedtime snack.
Faulty nutrition leads to soaring dental and medical bills, increased dependence on dietary supplements and reducing nostrums, and to lost teeth, reduced vitality, and increased girth. But think of how we all might eat! The ordinary supermarket is the most bountiful bazaar the world has ever known and offers all the ingredients of a nutritionally balanced diet.
Choose, for example, half a rockmelon instead of your usual mid-afternoon cake and biscuit snack. Even filled with a whole cup of ripe strawberries your choice contains fewer calories than eight potato chips. It is also high in fiber and sheer bulk, a combination that speeds digestion while reducing hunger pangs.
To appreciate fully the wisdom of such a choice requires some understanding of the complexities of human metabolism. But to make such a choice in your own supermarket requires nothing more than a familiarity with the following guidelines:
2. Fat makes you fat faster
Any given weight of fat contains more than twice the calories of the same amount of carbohydrate or protein, so the first principle of sound nutrition – and an obvious answer to the question of what to eat – is to consume far less fat. This includes polyunsaturated fats.
Any calorie (or calorie) counting chart will tell you what foods are high in fats and oils – pork and lamb, avocados, coconuts, sardines, and nuts, for example. And it will tell you which are low in fat – lean beef, skinless chicken, salad greens, most white fish, all fruits.
It is quite possible to cut down on fats by studying and memorizing such a chart. It is also time-consuming. A far easier way to cut down is to think in terms of the fats that are added to foods as they are prepared, rather than fats inherent in unprepared foodstuffs. Raw cabbage, for instance, contains only traces of oil, but coleslaw is almost 10 percent oil.
Three simple rules will help you to monitor fat-consumption:
- Never order anything deep-fried when you eat out. Nothing adds as dramatically to the calorie content of any meal as deep-frying, which can turn virtually calorie-free vegetables such as zucchini and onions into dieters’ nightmares.
- Fry at home if you must, but choose your oils. Remember that lard, bacon dripping, and salt pork are densest in kilojoules and that they are closely followed by the butter. Safflower oil, on the other hand, contains only one-fifth the saturated fat of butter and one-third the saturated fat of most kinds of margarine.
- Grill some of the things you usually deep-fry and steam some of the things you usually shallow-fry – fish, for example, and vegetables. You will find that foods prepared this way taste less like fat and more like themselves, having lost less of their natural color, nutritional value, and essential flavor.
Caution: DON’T go overboard and try to cut out ALL fats; they are an essential part of a balanced diet.
A typical Western diet contains about 40 percent fat (by weight). This is far above the ideal, which is about 25 percent. If this still sounds a lot, remember it includes fat you don’t actually see, like the fat in the meat. T-bone steak is 20 percent protein, 80 percent fat, for instance.
Then there are the fats in dairy products and those used in cooking, apart from any you add later. It is the overall fat intake that counts, not just the type of fat.
Polyunsaturates are still fats – and still fattening – though often favored by opponents of high cholesterol foods. It seems increasingly likely, however, that the cholesterol (fat) level in the blood, long thought to be a reflection of the cholesterol in the diet, is actually determined by the body’s own activities.
Whether you eat a dozen eggs a week or fewer than a dozen a year seems unlikely to change your blood cholesterol. In calculating fat intake, three eggs contain the same amount of fat as an 85 gram (3oz) hamburger patty.
The way to take the burden off the heart and hips is to cut down on ALL fatty foods and eat more fruit and vegetables and whole-grain products.
3. Rediscover potatoes
The potato is unquestionably the most maligned staple in the Western diet, the first item abandoned by the weight-watcher. In actuality, an entire baked potato contains only 60 calories and seasoned with nothing more than a bit of salt and coarse-ground black pepper it is one of the tastiest, most nourishing, and most filling of true low-calorie snacks.
It is the potato’s unhappy fate to be joined, in culinary tradition, with such high-calorie extras as butter, heavy cream, sour cream, and grated cheese.
Much the same effect can be obtained by substituting yogurt, or creamed cottage cheese, with perhaps a sprinkling of chopped chives or parsley for added flavor.
4. Know the high price of processing
Calories are frequently added with each additional step in the processing of food, which explains why there are 35 calories in a cup of fresh green beans but 45 in a cup of canned beans and 60 in the same amount of frozen beans.
The increase is even more dramatic in processed fruits, which often have three times as many calories when canned or frozen as when fresh. The same is true of breaded fish, vegetables in cream sauces, processed meats, and pre-sweetened fruit drinks.
The weight-conscious shopper should head for the fresh produce section of the supermarket. The correct substitute for a particular fruit or vegetable, when it is not available fresh, is another high-fiber, low-calorie food, not the same fruit canned or frozen.
5. Appreciate the value of air
There is more apparent bulk and less actual calorie-content in anything puffed. Puffed rice or puffed wheat cereal contains only 60 calories in an entire cup. A strong argument for eating cereal at breakfast is that it is an especially good source of fiber and bulk that happens to be low in calories.
6. Beware of silly savings of calories
Much of what you think you know about the nutritional value and calorie content of given foodstuffs is probably based on popular misinformation.
There are good reasons for substituting poultry and fish for red meat in one’s diet sometimes, for instance, but calorie saving is not one of them. A can of oil-packed tuna contains as many calories as a lean hamburger, and 225g of roast chicken contains more calories than either.
The same is true of many supposedly “dietetic” foods. True, 98 percent fat-free milk does contain fewer calories than whole milk, but the difference is only 20 calories per glass.
It helps to remember that the term “dietetic” was first used to describe sugar-free products developed for diabetics. Quite often “dietetic” foods are virtually identical in calorie-value to their normal counterparts.
7. Remember these dieting facts
Plenty of myths have grown up around dieting, but here are some truths:
You need protein at every meal, including breakfast.
The body does not conserve protein efficiently. Choose between meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and vegetables (such as beans). Because four out of five people eat a poorly balanced breakfast – if they eat breakfast at all – they deprive themselves of protein for up to 12 hours out of 24.
You need some carbohydrates – foods like bread and rice.
Carbohydrates (starch and sugar) are generally spurned by dieters, but such relatively low-calorie items as wholemeal bread are far less fattening than fat-saturated proteins like steak and sausages. Leafy vegetables contain two to five percent carbohydrate; root vegetables, peas, and beans have more; bread is 50 percent starch and sugar, and dry cereal 80 percent.
The body needs carbohydrates for two reasons:
- Muscles work more efficiently when they are burning carbohydrates.
- The brain burns nothing but carbohydrates.
The Canadian Army discovered by accident the harmful effects of a no-carbohydrate diet during World War II. Trying to find an emergency ration that would combine low bulk and high nutrition, they issued pemmican – dried beef fortified with suet – to a select group of troops, only to find that after three or four days the men could not function efficiently in the field and by day four were listless, dehydrated and often nauseated.
You are probably iron-deficient.
Particularly if you are a girl or woman between nine and 55. Females between those ages are generally at least one-third iron-deficient. Fortunately, it is easy to regulate the amount of iron in your diet because you can see it. Iron is a food colorant, visible in red meats (particularly organ meats), dark whole grains, prunes, raisins, molasses, and all green leafy vegetables.
Calories do count, but counting them is a waste of time.
Individual energy needs vary widely – sometimes 1500 calories per day. And calorie charts deal with averages – they tell you the calories in an average apple, not the one you happen to be eating.
Skipping meals is the worst way to lose weight.
The best way is to eat very small meals, with snacks between – so you are eating up to six times a day. You need not feel guilty about snacks but apportion your daily food allowance to include them, don’t eat them as extras. Medical evidence shows you will lose more weight that way than if you have two or three big meals a day.
Weight loss cannot always be weighed.
Particularly during the second and third weeks of any low-calorie diet the amount of water the body retains tends to exceed the amount of fatty tissue that is burned, and until the water is shed the loss does not register. Avoid the bathroom scales to start with.