"So weight loss is based on the calorie equation of Calories Eaten vs. Calories Burned?"
"And that means by eating fewer calories, I can lose weight?"
"So all I have to do is eat radishes and rhubarb all day, every day, and I’ll lose weight, right?"
Technically, it could happen that way. But remember – these are called Healthy Diet Habits, which means the goal is to lose weight while giving your body the nutrients and goodies it needs. There’s a big difference between surviving and thriving, about the same difference as puttering along the highway and winning the Daytona 500.
Done right, a healthy normal-calorie diet can help you thrive, and still be easy and delicious at the same time. Making a habit of meeting your calorie goals every day while using our healthy meal planning tool will teach you how.
Some basic nutritional guidelines will help you plan a menu that works for your lifestyle, your tastes and your long-term health. If you stick with these major principles, you should do okay:
Not all foods are created equal. Some, like complex carbohydrates and leafy green veggies, pack power that transcends their calorie levels. Foods high in nutrients and disease-fighting materials are "high value" foods because they make the absolute most out of the calories they do have. Put some punch in your lunch by using these foods as often as possible.
Quick Note: Complex carbohydrates have suffered a bad reputation lately, being lumped in with sugary simple carbs that can speed weight gain and leave you tired. Complex carbs provide longer lasting fat-burning energy and plenty of fiber, which fights diseases and eases hunger. They’re usually found naturally (vegetables, whole grains, beans). Try to get 4-6 servings of complex carbs to start with and build up to 6-11 servings. It might not be as hard as you think; a whole wheat bagel, for example, is actually two servings.
Mixing up the menu has nutritional value, much like the benefits of balance. But it also has motivational value. New recipes, new foods, new flavors, new restaurants, new spices, and new combinations are fun ways to keep your diet fresh and exciting. It’s tough to get bored or burned out when you can eat something different all the time. Who says you have to eat grapefruit every day?
It’s true that canned or frozen veggies can have many of the same nutrients as fresh produce. But there’s something about the fresh stuff that brings out the flavor and gusto of food. Plus, by steadily gravitating toward fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and breads, you’re gravitating away from processed and canned foods, usually high in calories, fat and/or sodium.
Too much of anything – whether it’s chocolate, meat or carbs – can hurt. At the same time, not enough of anything can hurt too. Instead of depriving your body of key puzzle pieces, make an effort to add a little bit of everything to the mix. The SparkDiet breaks down your calorie goals among fat, carbs and protein and shows the breakdown on your food tracking page. If you spread your calories among the food groups, you should be able to meet these balanced goals.
Use this chart as a general guideline for a balanced diet:
Recommended WEEKLY Servings
Sample Serving Sizes
On the Right Track
Whole Wheat Grains, Pasta
1 slice 100% Whole grain bread, 1 oz. dry grain based cereal (Bran, shredded wheat), 1/2 cup cooked, cereal, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta
1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked, 3/4 cup vegetable juice
1 apple, orange, banana, 1/2 cup cooked, 3/4 cup juice
1 cup milk or yogurt, 1.5 oz. natural cheese, 2 oz. Processed cheese
2-3 oz. cooked lean meat, poultry or fish, 1 large egg, I cup cooked beans, 3 oz. tofu, 1 oz. Nuts, one 3 oz. "veggie burger"
8 oz. glass of water, (not including soda, coffee, tea, etc.)
Sweets, Desserts & Bad Fats
12 oz. soft drink, 1 sm. candy bar, 2 tbs. sugar or jam, 2 sm. cookies, 1/2 cup ice cream, 1 slice pie or cake, butter, cream cheese, shortening, lard, hydrogenated fat, sour cream, cream
1 tsp canola, olive, peanut oil; 1 tsp corn, safflower, soybean oil; 1 Tbs. salad dressing made with these oils
12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 10 oz. wine cooler, 1.5 liquor
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