basic guidelines for healthy eating and for weight loss focus on
what you should eat from each food group to get the right balance of
good nutrition and energy. But what about all those extras? Many
“fun” foods and beverages fall outside your eating guidelines.
However, there are ways to fit some of these foods into your plan
without hindering your progress.
doesn’t matter whether you are trying to lose weight, or you are
already at a weight you want to maintain, eating a lot of extras –
high fat snacks, desserts high in sugar and fat, alcohol beverages,
will add up to poor nutritional habits. The difference is that on a
weight loss plan, you have a limited number of calories to work with
if you want to lose weight. Since a good weight reduction plan
reduces calorie intake by only about 500 to 750 Calories per day,
choosing to eat a piece of cake, or a chocolate sundae, or a fast
food hamburger will bring your calories right back up to the level
where you won’t lose any weight at all. The same goes for a few
extra snacks here and there – they can quickly add up. It
doesn’t seem like much, but if you choose an extra treat every
day, no weight loss will occur and you are back to square one. It
really doesn’t take much!
how can you fit in some of your favorite fun foods? In some cases,
you can make an occasional substitution for some of the foods listed
on your eating guidelines. Usually, it’s a matter of trading out
the grains/breads and fats for an occasional dessert or glass of
wine. I don’t suggest
that this be done too often or it can lead to poor nutritional
intake, and you might miss out on a proper intake of vitamins and
minerals, so I want to suggest some guidelines here. Your calorie
level also must be considered. If your eating guidelines give you
1600 Calories or less for weight loss, then doing a lot of
substituting desserts and alcohol for basic foods is not a good idea
because your intake of even the healthy foods is reduced to cause
weight loss. If you start subtracting grains or other foods from
this plan and replace those calories with high fat, high sugar
choices, it can have more of a negative impact on your nutritional
intake. On the other hand, if your calorie level is at 2,000
Calories or more, you have a little more play in your diet, because
your basic nutrition needs are more than met by your plan, so you
can do a little substituting now and then.
often can you substitute those fun foods on a weight loss plan will
depend upon how you handle it, but a good rule to try to follow is
to do this no more than once a week if you are on less than 2000
Calories a day. For example, choose a weekly dessert that you really
like – a piece of cake, a dish of ice cream, etc. and eat a little
less of the other foods in your plan to make up for the difference
in calories. In most cases, subtract two grain servings and two or
three fat servings. This gives you some freedom to have some sweet
or higher fat dessert or snack without throwing you off your plan.
the case of wine or other alcohol beverages, generally I would
subtract one grain and one fat serving to make up the difference in
calories. None of these foods are even trades for nutritional
quality, but it gives you some ways to fit in the occasional treat,
and realistically, you should be able to do this, even while on a
weight loss plan.
can see why you need to set limits on doing this – it’s not a
good idea for anyone to trade foods high in nutritional quality for
“empty” calorie foods, but it is especially important not to do
this frequently when your calorie intake is already below what you
need to maintain your weight.
following a traditional weight loss plan, people are taught that
they are now “on a diet.” Many times diets have tricks as part
of the plan – having to eat certain foods at specific times, or
eliminating certain food groups. It’s a good idea to get away from
that thinking because your eating plan is really designed to guide
you in making good eating decisions for life. You can’t really get
away from following this plan, even when you reach your weight goal,
because it is simply a good healthy eating guide you should follow
beyond weight control.
some of your favorite desserts or other foods is part of life, and
when you do, you should not think of it as having gone “off”
your diet, in fact it really can be part of your diet plan. The
difference is that you can choose to add in an occasional treat by
planning for it. That way, you are controlling the choice, rather
than allowing temptation to get the best of you. When you plan for a
treat, it becomes part of your diet, your choice instead of your
mistake. This is an important distinction in thinking, and it can
really help you stay focused on your goals.
Calories, Extra Exercise
are a couple other options to trading calories and food choices for
treats. One is to consider the treat you choose as an “extra”,
over and above your food plan. Realize that too many extras will
simply slow or perhaps completely hinder your weight loss, so if
your goal is to lose weight that week, keep the extras to less than
once a week!
other option is to burn off the extra calories by increasing your
physical activity. Take an extra walk, or add an extra exercise
session in to make up the difference. Realize that some treats take
a lot of exercise to burn off! (Is the treat worth the extra work?)
Because typical treats are highly caloric (full of fat, sugar, or
alcohol), you may even have to increase your physical activity over
the whole week to make up the difference. This is where people can
get into trouble, by trying to play “catch-up” on their calorie
intake…..skipping whole meals or fasting, or having to exercise
too much because of eating too many extras!
summary, you can fit in an occasional treat (once a week is a good
rule of thumb) by planning for it, by trading a few calories now and
then (not too much), or by increasing your physical activity. The
important thing is to make that choice for yourself and to make it
part of your plan.