By 2008, two-thirds of American adults were overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many overweight individuals struggle to determine the best way to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable manner. To complicate matters, grocery store shelves and magazine advertisements are full of diet foods, supplements and various pills and powders promising to help you lose weight. In truth, the healthiest way to lose weight is to follow sound nutrition and activity guidelines. A weight-loss meal plan does not have to be complicated, intimidating or expensive to be effective and nutritious.
Plan your meals around healthy choices from the basic food groups. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein, beans and nuts. These foods are low in saturated fat and high in nutrients, and many are low in calories as well, which will help you lower your daily caloric intake to lose weight. Try oatmeal with fruit and skim milk for breakfast, a sandwich on whole-grain bread with a large salad for lunch and fish or chicken with steamed veggies and brown rice for dinner.
Reduce your intake of junk foods like candy, cookies, chips, soda, sugary juices, pastries and high-calorie desserts. Since these foods are high in calories, cutting them out of your diet will drastically decrease your daily calories and move you further toward your weight-loss goal. Rather than snacking on these low-nutrient, high-calorie foods, try fresh fruit, raw veggies, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, almonds, low-fat string cheese or low-fat yogurt for healthy, lower-calorie snacks.
Go meatless twice a week or more. Meat is often high in saturated fat, which is bad for your heart and can sabotage your weight-loss diet. Instead of eating meat at every lunch and dinner, substitute high-fiber, low-fat, protein-rich beans and legumes in some of your weekly meals. Tasty examples include black beans in burritos, fat-free refried beans in tacos, lentils and split peas in soup and kidney beans in chili. Cutting out meat now and then will cut calories and fat while adding fiber and important nutrients.
Avoid high-calorie drinks. When dieting, water is your best beverage choice. You can reduce your calories substantially just by cutting down on juices, sports drinks, sweetened iced tea and blended coffee drinks.
Include exercise in your plan. For your diet plan to be successful, you must include frequent exercise. Pick something you enjoy and try to do it most days of the week, for 30 to 60 minutes or more. Cardiovascular exercise, such as skating, cross-country skiing, running, dancing, swimming, and cycling, burns lots of calories, helping you lose weight and keep it off.
A registered dietitian can provide you with additional information and recommendations regarding diet, weight loss and nutrition.
Check with your own physician before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen.