Debbie Learn Alchon, MS, RD, associate director of Food & Nutrition Services at Christiana Care, shares positive, practical ways to change our eating habits for the better:
Q: I want to lose weight but don’t know how to get started. Any suggestions?
A: First, don’t think of weight loss as going on a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. Focus on your behavior, rather than the scales. Instead of saying “I will lose one pound a week,” come up with a defined goal, such as “I will walk the dog for 30 minutes every day,” or “I will pack my lunch the night before instead of eating fast food.”
Second, take an educated approach to eating. Learn to read labels in order to choose food that is low in fat, sugar and salt. Pay special attention to portion sizes and servings per bag on the food label so that you don’t accidentaly consume multiple portions in one sitting.
Third, become a picky eater. Unless it is a “wow” experience, don’t let it pass your lips. Decide that you just don’t eat or buy certain foods any more and stick to it. If it isn’t in the house, you can’t overeat it.
Lastly, keep a food-intake journal. It’s fun to do, and if you have to record it, you will be less likely to overeat. This increases your accountability and helps you learn where excess calories are coming from and when you are most vulnerable to overeating.
Q: They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I usually skip it. What’s the benefit of eating breakfast?
A: Our blood sugar goes down overnight, and eating in the morning helps us to “break” that “fast.” People who skip breakfast will consume more calories later in the day because they are ravenous and eat very quickly. They wind up consuming extra calories before the body can register that hunger has been satisfied.
Q: I’m always on the go and tend to eat whatever is handy. How can I make my diet healthier?
A: Plan ahead. You cannot wing it. You have to plan your meals and snacks while developing strategies for dealing with temptations, such as bringing a piece of fruit to work with you. Keep nutritious snacks at the ready.
Don’t buy potato chips and goodies if you can’t stop at a few. Instead, stock up on crispy, sweet baby carrots and crunchy shredded-wheat squares. Fresh vegetables and fruits such as apples with the skin on will boost your fiber intake and help you to feel full.
Q: I eat like a horse but would rather eat like a bird. How can I tame my appetite?
A: Control your portions. That can be as scientific as measuring your food or as simple as switching to smaller dishes and cutting your food into smaller pieces.
Drinking water or a cup of tea before meals will help you to feel full.
Prepare your plate and bring it to the table instead of eating family style from bowls on the table.
Eat slowly. Sit down at the table instead of standing at a counter. By taking your time, you will consume fewer calories before your body signals that you are full. And, don’t eat while engaging in other activities such as reading the paper or watching TV.
Eat mindfully, not mindlessly. Your whole family will benefit from a longer, more relaxed meal time. You will talk more—and eat less!
Q: I’ve read that soda is bad for me, but I enjoy it. How can I curb my soft-drink habit?
A: There is no nutritional benefit to sugared soda, which contains empty calories. Plus, people tend to lose track of how much soda they drink. If you love the bubbles, try seltzer or other flavored waters. If you miss the sweetness of soda, substitute a sugar-free beverage, such as Crystal Light. And don’t forget fat-free milk, which is nutritionally dense and high in protein.
And if you aren’t ready to give up soda completely, switch to diet soda— and limit yourself to one 8-ounce serving a day.
Get additional weight-loss help with Christiana Care Weight Management
Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Whether you need to lose a lot of weight or a little—or even if you just help maintaining your current weight—Christiana Care Weight Management offers a comprehensive range of services that can effectively meet your individual needs.