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Get Realistic: Forget the Fad Diets

Nutrition experts are not surprised most people stray from unrealistic, quick-fix fad diets as quickly as they begin one.

“Fad diets often severely limit the foods we eat, knocking out entire food groups in the quest for the fastest results,” says Ruth Carey, MS, LD, a nutrition consultant in Portland, Ore., and immediate past chair of Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, a dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association. “That creates two problems. The first is it’s just not a realistic way to eat for the rest of your life. The second is you may be missing out on essential nutrients your body needs.”

High Protein Mania

The most recent fad diets to promise quick weight loss are the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets. Like other diets, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets cause weight loss quickly because of fluid losses and because they provide fewer calories than the body needs.

Weight loss experts recognize eating some protein and fat at a meal can help satisfy hunger and control blood sugar rise following a meal. However, successful long-term weight loss plans incorporate antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and fiber-rich whole grains, in addition to lean meats, poultry or fish and low-fat dairy products.

“Eventually, people on high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets realize they haven’t picked up realistic long-term eating habits for weight control and for life. Monitoring portion sizes of a wide variety of foods from all groups, for example, is a more realistic goal,” says Carey.

A Simple Solution

Research shows those successful at maintaining a healthy weight for the long-term establish realistic goals and enjoy a variety of foods. Doing that may be as simple as remembering the concept you (or your kids) learned in school — the Food Guide Pyramid.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (U.S.D.A.) Food Guide Pyramid illustrates that variety is important for good health, with each food group maintaining nutrients that are not available in other groups. When trying to lose weight, you should eat the lower end of the range for recommended servings.

Carey offers the following new food ideas based on the Food Guide Pyramid to get you started on a plan to eat better:

Meat Group (2-3 servings): Cutting back on calories and fat doesn’t mean you’re limited to chicken breast anymore. In fact, according to the U.S.D.A., pork tenderloin has the same amount of calories as skinless chicken breast and only one more gram of fat per serving.

Dairy Group (2-3 servings): Low-fat and fat-free milk products have all the same nutrients as whole milk, yet with less fat and calories. Try reduced-fat cheese or pudding made with fat-free milk.

Fruit (2-4 servings) and Vegetable (3-5 servings) Groups: Today’s supermarkets stock an array of exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world. Get your fill of nutrients and challenge your tastebuds by trying something different like papaya, star fruit, endive or jicama.

Grain Group (6-11 servings): With the increased popularity of ethnic foods, getting your grains is easier and more exciting than ever before. Try fun-shaped pastas like fusilli (twisted spaghetti) and farfalle (bow ties), or unique grains such as couscous or quinoa. To fill up on fewer calories, add high-fiber options like bran cereals or wild rice.

© 2001 Health Resources Publishing