With so much conflicting information on the best way to lose weight, it can be difficult to know which advice to follow. You’ll be happy to know that when it comes to what to eat, there are two main things to consider – portion size and the types of food you are choosing.
Getting to grips with portion size
Evidence has shown us that when larger portion sizes are available, we tend to overeat. It’s not surprising that in recent decades, as portion sizes have increased, more of us have become overweight. Foods that are portion controlled can help to reduce the number of kilojoules you are consuming, promoting weight loss. Pre-portioned meals have been shown to have the added benefits of providing structure to your eating plan and offering the ease of not needing to make decisions about what to eat.
If you shift your focus to the type of foods that are naturally lower in kilojoules – such as fresh fruits and vegetables – and include these more often, you will find two benefits – you will feel more satisfied because they provide volume to your meals and you are also likely to experience improved feelings of wellbeing because you’ll be nourishing your body with healthier foods.
If you improve the quality of the protein and carbohydrate foods you are eating, and reduce the proportion of these foods on your plate by replacing them with vegetables, your serves will ideally look like this – roughly a quarter of your plate from protein, one quarter from grain foods and around half from non-starchy vegetables. Including a wide variety of foods across the 5 core food groups will ensure your body is getting a range of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, healthy fats and dietary fibre, and do you know what else – it will leave less room for the kilojoule-dense foods which are often heavy in sugar and unhealthy fats.
Let’s take a look at each of the 5 core food groups.
Broaden your variety of vegetables
Because non-starchy vegetables are generally low in kilojoules, they’re especially important in helping to maintain a healthy weight. Including plenty of vegetables, across a variety of different types and colours, will mean you’re getting a variety of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, all important for good health. A few of the starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas also provide your body with its preferred source of energy which is carbohydrate.
Over your week, aim to include dark green or cruciferous vegetables (think bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower), orange vegetables, salad vegetables and a smaller amount of the starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, sweet potato, taro, corn).
Fruits that are vitamin and fibre rich
Because of their low energy density, diets which include the ideal amount of fruit – so that’s 2 serves each day, can also help to maintain a healthy weight. Fruit is a good source of vitamins, including vitamin C and folate, as well as providing potassium, dietary fibre and carbohydrates in the form of natural sugars.
Throughout the week, include fruits in season in a range of colours, and know that edible skins are especially high in dietary fibre, but dietary fibre is also in the fruit flesh.
Embracing wholemeal and wholegrains
Eating mostly wholegrain cereal foods has been shown to help reduce excessive weight gain. The nutrients you’ll receive from this group of foods include carbohydrates, protein, dietary fibre and a wide range of vitamins and minerals including B-vitamins, vitamin E and iron. Wholemeal or wholegrain breads and cereals contain higher amounts of these nutrients than refined breads and cereals, but both types are counted in this group, and are both sources of carbohydrate.
Across your week, try to include different types of grains such as oats, rice, barley, rye and quinoa, just to name a few.
Incorporating the right balance of protein foods
The wide variety of foods in this group includes all kinds of lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and dried beans, peas and lentils. These foods are a good source of many nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and other minerals, plus B group vitamins. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal-based foods unless it has been added to fortify a plant-based product. Nuts and seeds can also provide valuable essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Fish and seafood are a valuable source of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, offering anti- inflammatory benefits.
Each week include about 2 serves of fish or seafood. Include small amounts of lean red meat and some poultry, plus don’t forget about the plant-based proteins – legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas are also a good source of protein, iron, zinc and carbohydrate.
The importance of milk, dairy and alternatives
Milk, yoghurt and cheeses are an excellent source of calcium, important for bone health – very few other foods contain as much of this important nutrient. Alternatives to milk, yoghurt and cheese can be used in place of dairy products, but choose varieties with added calcium, such as calcium-enriched soy or almond milk. Check the nutrition information panel on the label of these products to ensure they contain at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml.
Maintaining excellent hydration and fluid intake
Drinking enough fluid is also integral to a healthy diet, and water is the best choice because it has the added benefit of not containing any kilojoules.
So return to the basics of the 5 core food groups and why not rely on Jenny Craig to take the thinking out of meals and to provide portions that are just right for you.