An easy diet that works

Many people are trying to lose weight while improving the quality of their diet for better health too. There are many individuals who want to lose weight - there are also those who want to gain weight. The weight loss and weight gain part is actually the easy part - in the short run, just change the quantities of food that you eat and this will happen, no matter what types of foods you eat (that's why there are so many weight loss diets - from cabbage soup to beer and steak diets). It's the healthy eating part that is challenging and has the most long lasting effects. It takes some effort and time to plan and balance your nutrition, and it takes some knowledge about what foods to choose. Last and perhaps most important, it takes a commitment on your part to make your health a greater priority than the day to day obstacles that keep you from eating well and exercising.

Make It Easy on Yourself
A good diet should be a blueprint for a lifetime of better eating, not just a short term plan to reach your weight goal. It works for weight control because the calories have been planned out for you to either gain, lose or maintain your weight. Realize that following your eating guidelines consistently will help you achieve your goal. But recognize that it may be a major overhaul of your current eating practices. Making that many changes all at once can be hard! Are there some simple rules that you can follow when you don't feel like keeping track of different foods, planning meals, or you just don't have time to buy the right foods?

You can make it easy on yourself by breaking down the task of eating well into smaller "pieces". There really are a few key habits that have been shown to be most effective in long term weight control and improved nutritional intake.

The Big 3
Three very important diet habits related to maintaining healthy body weight and improving nutritional intake are:

1. Choosing lower fat foods. People who eat lower fat, higher carbohydrate diets tend to have lower body mass indexes. There are a few reasons why those who consistently eat a lower fat diet are able to maintain healthier body weights and don't tend to gain weight over time. High fat foods are "calorically dense". Because a lot of calories are packed into smaller volumes of food, it is much easier to overeat on a high fat diet and to underestimate the actual calories that have been eaten. I'm sure that you've heard of, or even know people who have lost weight on high fat diets (lots of meat, dairy products, etc.) This is because the "diet" is restricted in calories too, so the quantities of these foods are controlled to cause weight loss. In addition, high fat foods have a lot of taste appeal, making it much easier to eat more simply because it is pleasurable. In the real world of people just choosing foods without limiting calories or amounts of food, a low fat diet has been found to be most effective in maintaining good body weight.

For those of you who are trying to gain weight: Increasing fat intake is a short cut to gaining weight, but not for gaining muscle! The same healthy eating guidelines apply to those who wish to gain muscle mass - overeating high fat foods is not the answer!

So, if you have a day or even a week in which you are just not up to following a structured eating plan, you can still make progress by just following the specific goals and strategies for keeping fat intake within reason.

2. Eating more vegetables. Yes, here it is again - the golden rule of nutrition! Vegetables are quite high in nutrition and low in calories and most of us don't eat enough of them. Yet, the habit of increasing intake of vegetables was found in scientific studies of food habits in large study populations to be a major factor in maintaining healthy body weight. Those who eat a vegetarian diet tend to have the lowest body mass index, as a group. For weight loss, they help to provide lots of essential vitamins and minerals even when total food intake is low, and this can really help keep you well and keep your energy level high even during weight loss. For weight gain, they provide essential nutrients for energy metabolism, so that the body cell can build muscle through exercise.

Not your favorite food? Try an exchange diet. These diets allow you to substitute particular foods for choices you prefer. Even if you hate many vegetable chances are you don't hate all of them or you can at least tolerate some more than others!

3. Reading food labels Another study found that people who took the time to read nutrition labels of foods reported improved nutritional habits. Remember this rule: Look for packaged meals that contain 15 grams of fat or less per meal, and look for packaged "side dish" or desserts that contain about 5 grams of fat or less per serving so that you don't get too much fat at one time. Other things to look for on a label: total calories per serving, sodium, cholesterol, fiber, and look at the individual ingredients for types of fats, sugar content, and needless chemicals.

Everyone has obstacles to achieving goals, but not everyone allows them to become an excuse to quit their diet or exercise routine. If you are having a hard time following your plan, or you know you are going to have a challenging week ahead, instead of dumping your diet, choose one of the three things you can do to stay on track and you'll continue to make progress.