If you’re trying to lose weight, eating a healthy diet is critical to your success. Your body works best when it gets the calories and nutrients it needs. Your metabolism, which regulates how many calories you burn, plays an important role in helping you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. And if you want your body to burn mostly fat (rather than muscle, bone, and other tissue), eating a healthy diet and exercising will help your metabolism work like it should.
Fad diets and fasts tend to tout the benefits of cutting on or more types of foods from your diet. Atkins, for example, suggests that you cut carbohydrates from your diet completely for a few weeks, and juice cleanse diets recommend that you cut all fat. While many fad diets will lead to weight loss in the short term, the type of weight lost isn’t necessarily healthy. If you severely limit your calorie intake or the types of foods you eat, your body will try to compensate for what’s missing. It may need to use muscle tissue for fuel, and it may store any fat you do eat for future use. All these things can make it harder for you to lose weight now or keep it off in the future.
So what’s the ideal diet for weight loss? The simplest answer is that eating a balanced diet that includes all food groups is best. You need protein, fats, and carbohydrates to ensure your body runs efficiently. Here are some details about those three types of food.
Protein is vital for your health. Without protein, you will lose muscle, which will make you weaker and can lead to several health problems down the road. Your body needs protein for many functions. Your muscles, skin, organs, hormones, nerves, and almost every part of your body is made up of protein molecules called amino acids. Your body can make some amino acids, but you need to get others through your diet.
But how much protein do you need? And does it matter what form the protein comes in?
According to the dietary reference intake (DRI), your body needs .36 grams of protein every day for each pound you weigh. This is based on a sedentary lifestyle. If you exercise regularly, you should eat more protein. So, by this measure, a sedentary person who weighs 150 pounds should eat at least 54 grams of protein per day. However, this is a minimum amount that is not likely enough for most people. How much protein you need varies depending upon your age, your body composition, your weight loss goals, how much you exercise, and what your overall health is like.
The easiest way to ensure you get enough amino acids is to eat animal protein, like lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs. These proteins are similar to your own, which makes them effective at doing their job in your body. If you choose to eat a vegetarian or a vegan diet, you have to pay more attention to what you eat to ensure you get enough protein. Most vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, which are good sources of protein. But vegans have to get all their protein from vegetable sources. Nuts, legumes, and grains like quinoa are all good sources of vegetable protein.
Protein can help you lose weight
Since you need to burn more calories than you eat in order to lose weight, make sure you get enough protein in your diet if your goal is weight loss. Protein can increase your metabolic rate and reduce your appetite, which are both helpful for losing weight. If you’re dieting, aim to get between 25 and 30 percent of your calories from protein sources. If you’re on a 2000-calorie diet, you should try to eat 150 grams of protein per day (30% of your total caloric intake).
Protein can also help you keep weight off. It helps build and preserve muscle tissue, which can help raise your metabolic rate. It can also make you feel fuller longer, so you’ll be less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
Everyone needs fat in their diets, but it’s important to distinguish between types of fat and understand which are the healthy fats and which are the unhealthy fats.
Fat is important for your health. Here are some of the things fat does for your body:
- It gives you energy
- It provides essential fatty acids your body can’t produce on its own
- It helps make cell walls
- It helps absorb certain vitamins so your body can use them
- It protects your organs, like your heart
- It provides a layer of insulation in your body
If you’re trying to lose weight, talk to a nutritionist about how to limit your fat intake and how to ensure you get enough of the good fats in your diet.
The recommended daily allowance of calories from fat is between 20 and 35 percent for adults. In a 2000-calorie diet, that is between 44 and 77 grams of fat. Nutrition experts recommend that you eat the following types of fat:
- Monounsaturated fat should make up between 15 and 20 percent of your total caloric intake. Monounsaturated fat is your friend. It comes from plant sources, and it is usually liquid when at room temperature. Oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil are monounsaturated fats, as are nuts, nut butters, and seed butters (like peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower seed butter). Olives and avocados are also a good source of monounsaturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated fat should make up between 5 and 10 percent of your daily calorie total. Polyunsaturated fats also come from plants. Some good sources of polyunsaturated fats are soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, rapeseed oil, and safflower oil. You’ve probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats also polyunsaturated fat, and they are thought to help reduce inflammation and protect your heart. Some good natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, tuna, and anchovies.
- Saturated fat should be limited to less than 10 percent of your total calories, so less than 22 grams. Several foods are high in saturated fat, such as red meat, processed meats like hot dogs, high-fat dairy like cream and ice cream, butter and animal fat, baked goods like cake, cookies, and pastries (whether sweet or savory), coconut oil, and palm or palm kernel oil. If you have high LDL cholesterol, you should reduce your saturated fat consumption to less than 7 percent of your total calories.
- Trans fats are unnecessary and harmful, so you should aim to avoid them completely. This type of fat is always bad for you even in small amounts. Trans fats are manufactured fats that are formed when liquid fat is turned into solid fat. Some examples of trans fats are solid margarine, shortening, and many packaged baked goods. Any food that contains partially hydrogenated oil has trans fat, so when you read nutrition labels, look out for that ingredient.
- You should limit your cholesterol intake to less than 300mg per day. Cholesterol is only found in animal-based foods, like meat, dairy, and eggs. That also means you’ll find cholesterol in processed foods that use animal-based foods as ingredients. Baked goods and ice cream are often high in cholesterol. If you have healthy cholesterol levels, you should limit your daily intake of cholesterol to 300 mg. But if you have high cholesterol, you should aim to eat less than 200 mg of cholesterol every day.
Your body does need fat, but if you eat too much fat, you’re more likely to gain weight or to have trouble losing weight. It’s easy to misjudge how much fat you’re consuming if you don’t understand what a serving of fat looks like. For example, a serving of fat has only 45 calories and five grams of fat. But it’s easy too eat a lot of fat without realizing it. Here are some examples of a single serving of fat:
- One teaspoon of mayonnaise
- One tablespoon of cream cheese (or 2 tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese)
- One tablespoon of sunflower seeds
- Six almonds
- Two whole walnuts
- Eight olives
- Two tablespoons of half-and-half
- One tablespoon of ranch salad dressing
Here are some tips for reducing fat in your diet:
- When you choose dairy products, stick with fat-free or 1% fat options
- When it comes to salad dressing, go for those that are based in polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated fats; good examples are oil and vinegar or Italian dressings
- Eat hummus, Greek yogurt, or guacamole as a dip rather than sour cream or cream cheese options
- Consider putting 2% milk in your coffee rather than cream or half-and-half
- Remove visible fat from meat before you cook or eat it
- Avoid frying foods and go with baking, grilling, or broiling instead
- Use lemon or lime juice or herbs instead of sour cream, butter, or cheese for flavoring vegetables like potatoes
Just like you need fat and protein, you need carbohydrates (carbs) for good health. If you’re trying to lose weight, one of the best ways to do that is to cut your carbs. A question people frequently ask is how many carbs they should eat to lose weight, and which carbs should they eat for best results.
The recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates is between 45 and 65 percent of your daily calories. In a 2000-calorie diet, that’s between 225 and 325 grams of carbs. However, your body doesn’t need that many carbs, and if you reduce carbohydrate grams to between 50 and 150 grams, you’re likely to lose weight faster.
Not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbohydrates are an important part of your diet. They offer nutrients and fiber your body needs to function well. They’re also a good, quick source of energy. Simple carbohydrates on the other hand don’t offer many nutritional benefits and can hamper your weight loss goals. These carbs include processed sugar, white bread, white pasta, and white rice. So if you cut your carbs, make sure the carbs you are eating are mostly complex carbs, like whole grains.
When you cut carbs, you’ll have to replace them with healthy options, like low- to no-carb vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Several studies have shown that a low-carb diet can reduce your appetite, which in turn leads to consuming fewer calories and – as you’d expect – losing weight.
If you want to know what your ideal carb intake is, talk with a nutritionist or your doctor. Every body is different and has various nutritional needs. So just because your friend had great luck losing weight by eating a high fat, low-carb diet doesn’t mean you will. Like we mentioned earlier, you need to eat fats, carbs, and proteins for optimal health. How many grams of carbohydrates you need will depend on your age, overall health, weight, body composition, activity level, and metabolism.
Beaumont’s medical weight loss program
If you’re struggling to lose weight despite dieting and exercising, you might want to consider medical weight loss. Beaumont offers a medically supervised weight loss program dedicated to helping people lose weight quickly and safely. Call 800-633-7377 today to set up a consultation.