healthy diets

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healthy diets

Things haven't changed that much - the word "diet" sells, and people are quick to jump on the latest diet craze. Some make more sense than others, and all ofMen's and Women's Diets them will work in the short term to produce weight loss, as long as the calories are low enough, that is the plain truth. Many of the popular diets don't provide healthy eating guidelines since the goal of many weight loss diets are short term and don't focus on developing lifelong habits, but there are some eating styles that fit very well into a healthy, well balanced approach to eating and to weight control.

Review of healthy dietsFirst of all, diets that are very high in protein or fat and very low in carbohydrate do not meet long term healthy eating guidelines at all.
Diets such as the Atkins Diet and Sugar Busters fit into this category. Diets that are very high in animal protein or fat, or those that exclude or severely limit entire groups of foods are not practical and may even be harmful. These kind of diets are popular because they are extreme and are much different from the way most people typically eat, so this can trick you into thinking that eliminating certain foods is the cure for obesity.  But as we have learned from research in diet and nutrition, the diet that helps people maintain a healthy body weight is one that is low in fat and high in carbohydrate, and contains high quality, nutrient dense foods like vegetables and fruits, and whole grains. "High" in carbohydrate doesn't mean that you eat a lot of carbohydrates, it means that you eat the amount of food that is right for your body size, and that about 50% of that right amount of food would be in the form of carbohydrates. With that in mind, let's look at a few different eating styles and see how these fit into a healthy eating plan.

The Mediterranean Diet
Benefits from the Mediterranean Diet PlanThis particular eating style has become very popular because of its potential health benefits - it's associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. The eating style consists of an emphasis on whole grain carbohydrates (pasta, rice, cereals rather than refined sugar and processed carbohydrates like baked goods, snacks, etc.), plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil as the main source of fat, fish and poultry in moderation, and a limited amount of red meat.

This eating style comes closest to matching what many consider healthy eating guidelines including the USDA Food Guide Pyramid, which is pretty good, too. The main difference between diet plans we recommend and the Mediterranean Diet is that weight reduction diets should be a little more limited in the amount of total fat, 25-30% of calories, even though the same types of fats are encouraged  (monounsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil). This helps to control the calories for weight loss. An advantage to following a Mediterranean style of eating is that the foods are mostly fun and tasty to eat, and there is a great deal of variety . Traditional foods of Spain, Italy, Greece, Crete, the south of France and parts of the Middle East fall into this style of eating so you can really find a lot of great restaurants and recipes that you can use on this eating plan.

I know, many of you will say that you find it difficult not to overeat on pasta and rice dishes and you are right - the biggest challenge to applying this eating style (or any other) is keeping the portions within your calorie level so that weight loss can occur. A typical serving of pasta in a restaurant is 2 cups - that is 4 servings of  carbohydrates so it adds up quickly! Even the good diets have to be controlled in portion size.

Benefits of The Food Pyramid Diet PlanThe USDA Food Guide Pyramid - Balanced Diets
While this is not a glamorous name for an eating style, the plan makes a lot of good nutritional sense, and it is based upon improving people's health. In this plan, there is once again an emphasis on eating whole grains, cereals, pastas and rice, getting a reasonable supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, using fats and oils in small amounts, and eating a balance of dairy products and meats. This plan fits well into a healthy eating plan, although we recommend a greater emphasis on eating monounsaturated fats and really limiting saturated fat in the form of dairy products and meat. We also recommend being more specific in terms of choosing only lean sources of animal foods, and limiting the calories for weight loss. Nutrition labels in the U.S. use the Food Guide Pyramid in their labeling to show the relative contribution that food makes to your daily allowance of certain nutrients.  An advantage of this plan is that it emphasizes a variety and balance to your diet, moderation rather than complete elimination of fat, sweets, and alcohol, and the foods are easy to come by and not unusual.

A Vegetarian Eating Style
We What's missing in a Vegetarian Diet Plan..have developed specific eating guidelines for people who wish to follow vegetarian or vegan eating plans. Obviously, this calls for some modification in the food choices by eliminating meat and poultry, and in some cases, eliminating eggs, dairy products, and any animal foods. To do this while on a weight reduction plan requires some changes in the protein content, so it's not a good idea to simply eliminate the animal foods without balancing the other foods to make up for the loss of protein. Vegetarian diets are associated with a reduced risk in heart disease and other diseases, and are generally very high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and anti-oxidants. However, I have seen plenty of people who follow a vegetarian diet, but are not making the most nutritional food choices. For example, those who eliminate meat and replace it with high fat dairy products are making a big mistake. Their diets become higher in saturated fat and cholesterol and more unhealthful! Likewise, some vegetarians pay no attention to the quality or quantity of baked goods, refined and processed foods, and their diets are no more healthy than a non-vegetarian. The key to eating healthfully on a vegetarian diet is to choose a lot of colorful vegetables and fruits, and to make sure that plenty of beans and  whole grains are included. In addition, dairy products, if eaten, should be the low fat variety!

Asian Diets
Asian Diets Low In FatThe eating style of Asian cultures fit into healthy eating guidelines pretty well, but Asian diets include a wide range of cultural differences, so you may have to modify some of the traditional cooking methods and ingredients to make it work. Although the diet of Asian cultures is typically low in fat and high in unrefined carbohydrate, there are some differences. The Asian diet contains very little dairy products, even low-fat or non-fat choices, so other sources of calcium should be included. For example, in some cultures, it is typical to eat the small bones of very small fish, and this can be a source of calcium atypical in the Western diet. Likewise, many of the Asian diets use a variety of dark green vegetables not typical in the Western grocery stores, another important source of vitamins and minerals. In some cases, unhealthy fats are used in cooking - tropical oils like coconut milk or oil, and animal fats. If you choose such recipes, modify the fats - use canola oil, and lower fat versions of these traditional recipes. The rice traditionally eaten in Asian cultures was not the common white variety we eat now. Use brown rice, or other higher fiber rice and pastas whenever possible. Lastly, the Asian diets contains a lot of really interesting, flavorful ingredients that are not typical or available in some markets, so it can be a more challenging way to eat and to cook!

A well planned weight loss diet gives you the flexibility to adapt to any food situation and serves as a very good basis for eating foods from any culture. With the right diet plan, the same rules to eating well can be applied to any eating style, you just need to make the appropriate modifications. An obvious example is that when ordering food in a Chinese restaurant, sweet and sour pork, deep fried wonton appetizers, and fried noodles are certainly Asian fare, but do not meet healthy diet guidelines because of the high fat content. A steamed vegetable dish, with steamed rice rather than fried noodles, wonton soup, or a stir-fry dish that doesn't contain deep fried meat or fish are much better choices. Enjoy the wonderful variety of great tasting foods from other countries. You don't have to eat a boring diet in order to lose fat and maintain a healthy eating style!

When it comes to weight control, it's not just about limiting calories. Learning how to eat the right amount of foods is critical, but learning how to make the best eating choices in any situation is what will make your diet really "doable" so that you don't go nuts counting calories, fat, or any other nutrient. My simple eating guidelines or Plan-A-Meal tool can really help you balance your food choices so that you get good nutrition and good weight loss at the same time.

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