Affinity Health Plan

  • The foods that help in gaining weight control

    May 26, 2015

    Two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. And of that percentage, more than a third, which is 78.6 million adults, are obese, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). America's weight issue goes far beyond slimming down for the summer.  It is now a serious national health issue.

    Since the early 1960s, Americans have been in a losing battle with weight. In 1962, the likelihood of being obese was 13.4 percent.  By 2010, it was 35.7 percent, according to Healthy Foodsthe National Institute of Health (NIH). Defining obesity is done by calculating the body mass index (BMI).  A BMI can range from being underweight at 18.5 and lower to being obese at 30.0 and higher.  Find yours here.

    While exercise plays a big part in weight control, the issue still revolves around what we eat. "We are in a climate where it is much easier to be overweight than to be fit," said registered dietitian and nutritionist Lenore Shamah, adding that in New York, "food is everywhere."

    NIH statistics show that more than 3 in every 4 Hispanics are either overweight or obese.  That number comprises 78.8 percent of the Hispanic adult population.  For blacks, it is no better at 76.7 percent; for whites, it is about 2 out of 3 or 66.7 percent.

     "We can blame this obesity epidemic on a diet of the oversized cheeseburger, pizza, tacos, burritos, energy drinks, sports drinks and supersized sodas," she said, noting that, "They have earned a special recognition for the expanding waistlines."  Some foods and drinks are loaded with as much as 1,000 calories, up to half of all the calories needed in a day.  Find a chart on intake here.

    As a result, American adults have eaten themselves into such illnesses as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancers.  More recently, doctors are seeing an uptick in cases of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is excessive fat and inflammation in the liver.  "Twenty years ago, it [fatty liver] was associated with people who were alcoholics, now we are seeing children with fatty livers," said Ms. Shamah.

    No single cure solves obesity or being overweight.  But a nutritious lifelong diet is central to weight control.  "It is not easy to make lifestyle changes," Ms. Shamah acknowledged.

     "Many people," she finds, "don't know what a good diet is."  As a result, adults are suffering from such shortages in such micronutrients as iron, vitamin A, iodine and vitamin D.

    "These nutrients are vital to the body," Ms. Shamah pointed out.  To get healthier, she recommends selecting different kinds of deep-colored fruits and vegetables because they contain nutrients and micronutrients.  "Look for a variety of colors when choosing fruits and veggies."

    As a dietitian with 10 years in the field, she tells those seeking to lose pounds to eat nutrient dense foods such as, poultry, sea food, non-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and moderate amounts of nuts.  "They offer vital nutrients, lean protein and fiber and help us consume fewer calories," she explained.  These foods leave people feeling fuller and are more satisfying.  In addition, portion control is of equal importance. 

    Ms. Shamah also warns clients to stay away from processed and high calorie foods as they have little nutritional value.  Limit refined grains, white bread, chips, cookies and candy and pastries as well as foods that are fried.  You may eat moderate amounts occasionally (on the holiday or a celebration) but most of our daily diet should be foods that promote good health and reduce our risk for chronic disease and obesity.

    Meals, Ms. Shamah said, should be like the ChooseMyPlate.gov plate.  "Half of your meal at lunch and at dinner should be non-starchy vegetables."  To combat overindulging, she recommends that people "eat mindfully," thinking about what is being put into your mouth.  At the same time, watch for behavioral triggers such as sweet treats within reach.  Instead, when a craving for something sweet hits, enjoy natures candy - fruit.

    As for drinks, nothing beats water.  "Drinking water with meals slows us down," Ms. Shamah said, explaining that with water, "we eat less."

    She recommends drinking plenty of calorie-free beverages; mostly water and seltzer ("Try the flavored ones").  The water also can come from fruits, vegetables, soups, coffee and tea.  Ban regular soda, sweetened iced tea and juices.  Limit diet drinks.  "What water does is actually remove toxins from our bodies, whereas soft drinks are putting toxins into our bodies," Ms. Shamah explained.  

    Once the weight is under control, she said that losing it is often not as hard as maintaining the weight loss.  To work on that Ms. Shamah recommends daily exercise, "Thirty minutes of anything that gets your heart rate up."  Also, weigh yourself daily.  If it goes up, she said, "Go back to eating the way you did when you were losing the weight."  In short, she adds, "follow the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of what we eat should be nutrient dense and not calorie dense."

    Ms. Lenore Shamah is a Registered Dietitian, a Certified Dietetic Nutritionist and a Member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds a Master of Science in Nutrition from Brooklyn College and works as a Nutritionist for the American Comprehensive Healthcare Medical Group and Diamond Medical Associates, Brooklyn, NY. The American Comprehensive Healthcare Medical Group provides services for the Affinity Health Plan.

     


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