In 2011 Americans had more options to choose healthy foods than ever! Some top trends were spotted—some healthy, and some hype.
The Un-Diet: Everything in Moderation
Last year the trend was away from “dieting” to “eating in moderation”. Moderation formerly meant “occasionally”, which can be a set-up for failure. The kinds of foods you eat daily (your diet) gives you balance. A few French fries or a baked dessert daily means displacing fruits and vegetables and other healthy weight-wise foods. Make your usual “diet” a healthy one, and save moderation for special occasions like your birthday or anniversary…not daily.
Juice or Jive? Trendy.
Every year there’s a new ‘juice du jour’; in 2011 it was tart cherry juice, before that, Acai berry juice and MonaVie. Many carry claims for ‘miraculous’ weight loss, increased energy, enhanced immunity, potency, anti-aging, etc. It’s easy to slap a claim on a label, but none offer independent, peer-reviewed science proving disease prevention. Juice contains some vitamins and minerals, but calorically, drinking juice is equivalent to drinking soda... liquid calories. I’m certain by this time next year we’ll see a bunch of new juices on the market…claiming to produce ‘miraculous’ results. Not incidentally, they are pricey too!
Pasta & Potatoes: True!
If you’ve been avoiding ‘carbs’ because you think they’re ‘fattening’, the trend has turned. Potatoes are full of potassium and vitamin C, when they’re scrubbed and eaten baked or grilled (yes, grilled potatoes are fabulous!) As for pasta, the trend is toward 100% whole durum wheat…nutty and delicious. Portion size counts; the FDA considers ½ cup cooked whole-wheat pasta one serving of whole grain. Add lots of veggies, tomatoes, and beans (even canned beans).
Big Food & Mini Food: Trendy & True
The trend toward gargantuan selections at fast food franchises continues unabated, unfortunately. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report shows that in 1954, an average hamburger was 3.9 ounces; today they range between 4.4 - 12.6 ounces—a 223% increase! Mini-portions are great for having it ‘your way’ calorically. At some Burger King franchises choose ‘mini’s’ in beef and chicken. A Baby Fatburger has only 400 calories, compared to 850 for the Kingbuger. At Baskin-Robbins and Starbucks buy ‘mini-bite’ treats. Hey, too many minis make a maxi: keep desserts occasional (not daily…see above!), and savor the flavor.
Gluten-Free: Trendy (but True!)
Will going gluten-free make you lose weight? Will it make you a better athlete? Not necessarily for both! A true gluten allergy or intolerance means an inability to digest the protein molecule called gluten, found in wheat varieties, plus barley, rye, malts, triticale, and (possibly) oats. Gluten is used as an ingredient (thickener, texturizer) in virtually thousands of processed foods, so people who are gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease must be really careful and read the ingredient label (and work with a dietitian who specializes in gluten-free living). A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie and eating too many cookies or other gluten-free foods will pack on the pounds. You’ll have more energy and increase your performance by avoiding processed foods packed with sugar, fats, and preservatives.
: Trendy & True
Current research shows that as long as you’re not allergic to casein, (the protein in milk) you may be able to tolerate lactose, albeit in differing amounts. Production of lactase (necessary for milk digestion) in the intestine typically lessens as we age, but if you’ve avoided milk because you think you’re intolerant, it might be worth experimenting with very small amounts of low or nonfat milk. Low fat cheeses and yogurts (buy low-sugar, low-fat) are often well tolerated. Milk is a protein-rich beverage (8 gram per cup) with significant amounts of vitamin D and calcium too. There’s a trend toward soy, rice or almond milk, which may be vitamin-fortified but have much less protein than cow’s milk: some contain way too much added sugar but you can buy low-or-no sugar added.
Choose foods to feel energized and positive: your body thrives on regular activity, so get that engine burning. What you eat, how much you eat, and how active you are the three keys to successful weight management. Even healthy foods can make you fat, if you eat too much of them!
Registered and Licensed Dietitian Susan Burke March is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters, making healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual. Her latest project is her new eBook for convenient weight loss, The Common Cent$ Diet for Busy Girls, www.thecommoncentsdiet.com. Susan consults with individuals and companies to create personalized and practical weight management solutions. Email her at Susan@SusanBurkeMarch.com.