There are dozens of diets available, and the information can be confusing. Here are some general guidelines to follow.
- Low-carb diets work, but they provide little fiber. The average American only eats 11 grams of fiber a day, and we’re supposed to eat 25-30 grams. The low-carb dieter probably eats much less than 11 grams. This diet can work well, but you may need to supplement with extra fiber.
- Low-fat works, and is healthy. In general, if you follow USDA food pyramid guidelines, you’ll be eating the right proportions. Fat has about 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates and protein have only 4 calories each. Also, low-fat dieters retain muscle mass better than low-carb dieters.
- Though protein seems good, be careful how you eat it: meat and dairy have lots of protein, but are usually high in fat. Some are low-fat. Learn to read labels, and don’t buy products that have more than 2 or 3 grams of fat per serving. Legumes (beans and peas) are high in protein and fiber. Just be sure they weren’t prepared “southern-style” – with a hunk of fat in the cooking pot.
- If you’d like calorie guidelines, most people lose weight steadily while eating 1000-1200 calories a day for women, 1200-1500 for men. If you work out for 30-60 minutes, add another 300 calories to your daily intake.
- Portion control is also important. Besides looking carefully at the kind of food you eat, make certain you don’t get too much of a good thing. Most brand-name healthy frozen meals have about 240 to 350 calories in them. If you wash the plastic containers they come in and save them, they can give you a good idea about how much of your home-made healthy foods you should dish out for your meals: just fill the container with your own food, and don’t eat more than what fits into it.
- Keeping a food journal is very helpful, and can be easily done on your smart phone. It tracks your daily calories and nutrition information, and can also track your exercise and weight. There are several available, but we like MyFitnessPal.