Beginning the New Year with a Healthy Food Plan

Danna F. Gillett  |  12/22/2011 2:07:17 AM

Image courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Now that a new year has begun, many family members make resolutions to lose weight. Within a few weeks, dieters give up and return to poor eating habits. Although most diets do result in some initial weight loss, the pounds soon return when the dieter resumes a normal diet. The best strategy to lose weight and improve health is to follow a sensible meal plan and to increase levels of physical activity.

When choosing a diet, avoid those which can be classified as a “fad diet.” These eating plans promise unrealistic results and are often impossible to stick to for a long period of time. Fad diets may include a promise of weight loss without physical activity or make claims that specific combinations of foods promote weight loss. Some diet plans require dieters to purchase pills, bars, or shakes. Others exclude certain food groups. Recently, low carbohydrate and low fat diets have been the most popular meal plans.

A healthier approach to lose weight and improve health is to choose a plan that is based on regular physical activity and a weight loss program that is balanced, healthy, and easy to follow. The plan should also encourage healthy weight loss behaviors that you can stick with long term.

Safe and effective weight loss programs should include:

  • Healthy eating plans that reduce calories without banning specific foods or food groups.
  • Tips to increase physical activity levels to moderate intensity.
  • Tips on revising recipes to lower fat and calories of your favorite foods.
  • Slow and steady weight loss of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. Weight loss may be faster during the beginning weeks of a program.
  • Plans to keep the weight off after you have lost it.
  • Older dieters or those with health problems such as diabetes or hypertension should consult their doctors before beginning any new diet plan.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a free, easy to use website that allows users to personalize an eating plan based on age, gender, weight, and physical activity level. The MyPlate website also offers tips for all Americans age two and older who want to improve their eating habits. For more information about nutrition and health, click here.

Danna Gillett is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Richland Parish and may be reached at 318-728-3216.
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