If you’re like most people, there’s a good chance you’ve tried to lose weight recently. Maybe you shed a few pounds but then the weight crept back and you returned to eating and activity habits that are tough to change.
Now, with Autumn here and new back-to-school routines, it's a great time to try again. Getting to or staying a healthy weight is one of the most important lifestyle actions you can take to lower risk for many cancers, including colorectal, postmenopausal breast, and liver.
But from low-fat and low-carb to intermittent fasting and juicing, it’s enough to make a healthy dieter’s head spin. So what diet is the best for weight loss? We’re here to help.
Popular diets that rely on gimmicks may show quick results, but research shows they probably won’t help you achieve long term-sustained weight loss. Before you commit to any one plan or program, set yourself up for success by choosing one that helps you check all these boxes:
☑ Focus on plant foods.
Make health-promoting foods, especially vegetables, beans, fruit and whole grains the center of your eating plan. Fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy can play a supporting role. Research shows that dietary patterns – what you eat day in and day out – are what affect your health long term. Some examples of dietary patterns that promote health and can support weight loss include Mediterranean and DASH.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, fish and poultry, with limited red and processed meats. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, originally developed to help lower blood pressure, promotes eating plenty of plant foods with reduced fat dairy and lean meats, and limiting sugary drinks and other rich, sweet foods.
☑ Set achievable goals.
Making wholesale overnight lifestyle changes is not a typical path to success. Set priorities for what changes you want and then take steps to get there. If you want to cut sugar and include more whole grains, here’s an example of a goal that has specific action within a certain time frame that can be a realistic change.
Goal: This week, on at least 3 mornings, I will replace frosted toaster pastries with whole-wheat toast. Butter lightly or try a little peanut butter.
☑ Learn new skills.
Once you’ve set your goals, you can practice new skills. You may improve your cooking or you may learn how to choose healthier prepared foods. For many Americans, learning portion size, swapping out sugary drinks, and replacing highly processed foods with less refined foods are key strategies for healthier eating.
☑ Set up for success.
Create a home that helps you choose healthier foods - for example - put a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, keep higher calorie snacks in the back of the cupboard, and put a veggie platter on the top shelf of your fridge. Try smaller plates for meals and keep serving bowls off the table to avoid mindlessly taking second helpings – except for vegetables.
Aim high as you set goals, learn new skills and make changes to your diet. But here’s what’s most important: find what works for you now and is realistic to maintain.
Choose plant foods you enjoy and set goals that reflect changes you want to make. Learn skills that support your goals and that make eating healthful food easier. If you’ve tried kale every which way and just don’t like it, move on. There are plenty of healthy, tasty veggies out there.
Ready to get started? Sign up now for AICR’s free online New American Plate Challenge – it’s fun, flexible and checks all those boxes - starting September 25.