Monday, August 1, 2011

Eat MORE…. of healthy foods

As a dietitian at a health club, I find that most of my clients say they eat “healthy”, but just eat too much. So, as a result, I often focus on portion size, but also place a huge emphasis on eating lots of vegetables, as well as eating the recommended amount of servings for low-fat dairy, whole-grains, and nuts/seeds/beans/lean protein/seafood. I also always emphasize the importance of exercise, getting enough sleep, and I focus on overall wellness (not smoking, limiting alcohol, reducing stress, etc.). Luckily, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health backs up my nutrition and wellness philosophy and suggests that what you eat is more important than how much you eat, and having good wellness habitats can keep you trim.
The study found that encouraging people to “eat less and exercise more” tends to lead to eating smaller quantities of calorically dense and nutrient poor foods, even if you exercise.  The study followed 120,877 non-obese women and men (at baseline) for 20 years and evaluated lifestyle factors and weight change every four years. For the average person in the study, about one pound was gained each year.

The foods that caused the most weight gain over each 4 year period were:
·        French Fries (2 lbs)
·        Potato Chips (1.69 lbs)
·        Potatoes (1.28 lbs)
·        Sugar-sweetened beverages (1 lb)
·        Red meat (.95 lbs)
·        Processed meat (.93 lbs)
·        Sweets and desserts (.41 lbs)

Foods that caused the most weight loss were:
·        Yogurt (-0.82 lbs)
·        Nuts (-0.57 lbs)
·        Fruits (-0.49 lbs)
·        Whole Grains (-.37 lbs)
·        Vegetables (-0.22 lbs)

Other lifestyle factors affecting weight:
·        Physical Activity (-1.76 lb across quintiles)
·        Alcohol (+0.41 lbs per drink/day)
·        Smoking (+5.41 lbs for new quitters, 0.14 lbs for former smokers)
·        Sleep (more weight gain with <6 or >8 hours of sleep)
·        TV watching (+0.31 lb per hour/day)

The take home message here is to follow all the recommendations everyone knows and loves: Eat healthy foods (more veggies, whole grains, nuts, fruit, yogurt) and don’t eat junk (French fries, chips, sugary drinks & foods, red & processed meats, etc), exercise, limit alcohol, don’t smoke, limit screen time, and get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. If you do all of this, chances are, you will not have too much trouble maintaining your weight.

D. Mozaffarian et al. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 364, June 23, 2011. Available at:

1 comment:

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Healthy Foods to Eat