Food Choices for Weight Management

Weight management is a seemingly easy equation: calories in should be the same as calories out. As many individuals know though, there is much more that goes into eating a healthy, balanced diet and the unlimited amount of nutrition information available in today’s media outlets can make things quite confusing. Where we once ate food for survival, food is often now used for celebrations, coping, stress management, boredom and emotional eating. Combine this with our increased portion sizes, marketing schemes and array of processed and fast food options and it can make weight management difficult for much of our population.

So how do we pick out the truth about what’s right for our bodies from fiction? The best thing you can do is stick to the basics:

Choose Whole Foods
In every corner of the grocery store there are more and more processed food items. These include chips, cookies, baked goods, sugary cereals, granola bars and more. If they are making up large portions of the grocery store, how do we simplify and make our food choices healthier and simpler? A good rule of thumb is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store where you will find fresh produce, fresh meat and dairy. To supplement you can buy foods from the aisles, but is important to check the label. When choosing other products, try to buy them in their most natural forms, or even better – make them yourself! You can also find less processed items at your local farmer’s market or become a member of your local CSA.

Use the Plate Method
Calorie counting and measuring foods can prove to be quite tedious and is not always easy to do in social situations. To make meal planning and eating out easier, try incorporating the plate method to ensure that you have a healthy balance each time you eat. The plate method, as shown below, includes making ½ your plate fruits and vegetables, ¼ of your plate lean meat, ¼ of your plate starch and a small amount of dairy on the side.  This will ensure the best balance of nutrients.

Each food group provides different nutrients and benefits to your body to help you feel energized and satisfied throughout the day. When we eat following the plate method, we do not cut out any food groups or deprive ourselves, but instead eat everything in moderation to make sure that our body functions properly while incorporating some of our favorite foods.

Listen to your body
While it is important to keep track of what you eat, it is also equally important to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signals to prevent overeating. Eating mindlessly can reduce satisfaction at meals since you aren’t paying attention to the taste of the foods that you are eating and this therefore increases the chance of overeating. Focusing on your food, eating slowly and stopping when you feel satisfied and not too full can make all the difference in managing a healthy weight. When we eat fast and don’t concentrate on the food before us, we are more likely to overeat which can cause slow and steady weight gain over time.

Notice that there is no mention of superfoods or specific types of foods that help with weight. Overall, weight management includes eating a healthy, balanced diet and listening to your hunger and fullness signals. Incorporating exercise is also a big component and can help any individual reach their health and fitness goals.

Resources
Weight Management and Calories. (2015, September 2). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories

About Allison Marco
Allison Marco is a Registered Dietitian licensed in both Washington, DC and Maryland. Prior to coming to American University, she had both counseling and food service roles at Georgetown University working with students, faculty and staff with a range of needs including food allergies, general healthy eating, sports nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, eating disorders and more. She specializes in intuitive and mindful eating and helping clients have a healthier relationship with food.

To learn more about American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education, request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.