On the Table

Dieting? How to keep weight off

January 15, 2013 


High-fluid, low-calorie foods include most fruits and non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli.


Forget fad diets. They don’t have staying power.

If you want to keep off the weight you lose this year, cut calories on a diet you can sustain indefinitely. After all, isn’t that how long you want the weight to stay off?

One approach: Dilute the calories. Raise the fluid content of your meals. Then, focus on moderating portion sizes, too, and you’ll cut your calorie intake enough to gradually lose weight.

Add regular physical activity to strengthen and tone your muscles as you lose weight over time.

Call it a dilution diet. Here’s what I mean:

Water is calorie free. Foods that have a high water content tend to be relatively low in calories compared to denser foods.

High-fluid, low-calorie foods include most fruits and non-starchy vegetables, such as apples, pears, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage and green beans.

The other feature these foods have in common is that they are high in fiber. When you eat them, you tend to fill up before taking in a lot of calories.

That’s why a dilution diet is more comfortable than many other types of weight-loss diets. There’s more chewing and more sense of fullness than you might find using drinkable meals or eating teeny tiny portions of lasagna or meatloaf.

You can control your weight this way forever, and hopefully you will.

To put this approach into practice, start with these steps:

• Make high-fluid foods the majority of your meals. Eat more soups. Load your plate with green salads and simple vegetable side dishes free of creamy sauces or gobs of butter.

• Snack on fresh fruit and serve fruit with meals and for dessert. Try warm, homemade applesauce, baked apples, orange quarters and mixed fruit salads.

Keep a large bowl of fresh fruit on hand at all times, and take a couple of pieces to school or work every day. Replenish your supply weekly.

• Be mindful of calorie-dense foods and keep the portion sizes very small. Eat half or one-third the amount you used to take of an entrée.

In other words, flip your plate. Make the salad and vegetable sides the main courses and the entrée the side.

And stick with it for the New Year and beyond.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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