Rather than falling into the “counting” trap—calories, fat grams, whatever—focus on what you can eat so that food becomes your friend, not the enemy. To get fit and fabulous in 2014, keep your eye on these nutrition numbers.
It’s no secret that fad diets and quick-fix weight loss aids don’t work. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) shows that people who successfully lose weight rely on long-term healthy eating and exercise habits to drop pounds and keep them off.
Falling into the “counting” trap—calories, fat grams, whatever—gets boring and takes all the joy out of eating, a recipe that often derails best intentions. Instead, focus on the positive—what you can eat—and food becomes your friend, not the enemy. To get fit and fabulous in 2014, focus on these nutrition numbers.
Eat more fruits and vegetables: There’s good reason this is the number one piece of solid nutrition advice. For starters, a mountain of evidence details fruit and vegetables’ roles in reducing chronic disease risk. In addition, plants offer a whole lot of nutrients for very few calories, an important principle for weight management. When a diet contains too many low-nutrient foods, calorie needs are met but nutrient needs aren’t, so the body asks for more, leading to overeating.
Eating 5 cups a day is easier than you might think. Here are simple daily choices you can make.
Breakfast: 1 cup berries or fresh chopped fruit and an 8-ounce glass of 100% juice = 2 cups
Lunch: 2 cups raw spinach in a salad with 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables = 3 cups
Snack: 1 cup raw veggies with dip, or a medium-sized apple = 1 cup
Dinner: 1 cup vegetable-based soup and 1 cup of cooked vegetables = 2 cups
25-38 grams fiber per day.
You know that fiber is good for GI and cardiovascular health. You may not know that it is also one of the most important nutrients for satiety, or feeling full long after a meal is over, a key tool to prevent overeating.
The average adult woman needs 25 grams fiber per day and the average man about 38 grams. Another way to calculate needs is 14 grams fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. To determine fiber needs for children, a good rule of thumb is to take their age and add five (e.g., an 8-year-old needs about 13 grams of fiber per day).
Plant foods—fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains—are the best fiber sources and should be eaten at every meal and snack of the day. Here’s how easy it is to get 25 grams per day.
Breakfast: one serving of oatmeal contains 7 grams fiber; 1 cup berries offers 3 grams = 10 grams total
Lunch: 1 cup leafy greens provides 1.5 grams fiber; 1/2 cup beans is 8 grams = 9.5 grams total
Snack: a medium-sized apple contains 4 grams fiber; 2 tablespoons peanut butter is 2 grams = 6 grams total
Dinner: 1 cup broccoli offers 2 grams fiber; 1 medium baked potato with the skin on is 4 grams = 6 grams total
15-20 grams protein at every meal.
Protein is the current darling of the nutrition world, and not just for its muscle-building benefits. Strong scientific evidence points to protein as a satiety superstar. Eating a protein-rich breakfast is particularly important for keeping hunger at bay and preventing overeating later in the day, a common downfall for many.
Here are some examples of how to get 15–20 grams of protein at each meal.
Breakfast: one 5.3-ounce container of real Greek yogurt contains 15 grams of protein; and 1 ounce (about 23) almonds provides 6 grams
Lunch: a 3-ounce serving of canned salmon provides 20 grams of protein
Dinner: 1/2 cup of firm tofu offers 20 grams of protein
8 glasses water per day.
Your body needs water for pretty much every bodily function, so staying properly hydrated keeps your metabolism running efficiently and your body burning calories. Eight glasses is a general guideline; some people may need more or less. It’s important to note that thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so if you stay hydrated you’re less likely to grab for food when your body is really asking for water.
Try these tips to stay properly hydrated.
If you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated, so make it a habit to continuously sip on water throughout the day.
Drink alcohol and caffeinated beverages in moderation; both are dehydrating.
Think food, not just liquids, to stay hydrated. Water-rich foods include fruits and vegetables; 100% fruit and vegetable juices, such as orange and grapefruit; smoothies; broth-, fruit- and vegetable-based soups; and herbal teas.
If you haven’t had too much in the way of numbers, here are a few more to keep in mind. They reflect common behaviors of those on the National Weight Control Registry who’ve successfully lost weight.
78% eat breakfast every day
62% watch less than ten hours of TV per week
90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day