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June 1, 2010

Diet Mistakes to Avoid

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Summer is here and it's time to shed some clothes.  As you think about wearing less, you probably dream about dropping some weight to look and feel better during the warmer months. Before you make any drastic changes in your diet and exercise routines, consider these classic diet blunders that could actually prevent you from paring down.

The Mistake : You don't eat enough. 

You must eat to lose weight. It sounds counterproductive, but it's true. Here's why. Eating revs up your calorie-burning capacity, and when you drastically reduce your calorie consumption, your metabolism slows, and weight loss is difficult. 

In addition, as the body senses that it's being starved, it turns to lean tissue, such as muscle, for fuel. Problem is, lean tissue burns more calories than fat, so you want to keep the muscle you have, and make more to rev up your metabolic engine.  

The Fix : Don't eat any less than 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day, depending on your age, gender, and activity level. See MyPyramid for a personalized eating plan. Spread your calories throughout the day to keep calorie-burning on an even keel.

The Mistake : You don't eat enough fiber.  

When combined with adequate fluid, such as water, milk, and juice, fiber helps to keep you fuller for longer. Refined grains, such as white bread, crackers, and pretzels, are low in fiber. Your fiber intake may be too low when you don't eat enough fruits, vegetables, and legumes, too. 

The Fix : To achieve the suggested 25 grams-a-day quota of fiber, choose whole grain cereal and milk for breakfast or as a snack.  Munch on popcorn instead of snack chips and pretzels. Make sandwiches with whole grain breads and swap whole wheat pasta for regular. Include legumes, such as chickpeas, in soups, salads, and stews.  And, be sure to include fruits and vegetables in your daily eating plan.

The Mistake : Inadequate calcium consumption.

Calcium is no magic weight-loss nutrient. However, research suggests that weight loss may be easier when women include adequate calcium in their eating plan.

The Fix : You need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily; 1,200 milligrams a day if you're over age 50.  Three glasses of any type of Hood Milk  supplies about 900 milligrams of calcium. The same amount of Simply Smart Milk  offers 1,150 milligrams of calcium.  A cup of plain yogurt contains about 400 milligrams of calcium, and 1 1/2 ounces of hard cheese has 300. 

The Mistake : Not enough exercise, or not the right type.

Chances are, you're in an exercise rut. Doing the same form of physical activity over and over burns some calories, but your body gets accustomed to that exercise with time, and you burn less.  Perhaps you don't get much physical activity, which is key to losing weight and keeping it off. In both cases, change is in order!

The Fix : If you haven't worked out for a while, ask your doctor if it's OK to start walking, and work up to 30 minutes, with a goal  of two-and-a-half hours of moderate aerobic activity on most days of the week. If you are active already, consider making a change. "Confusing" your muscles helps you burn more calories.  Add weight training to your regimen, take up biking, or start swimming to shed more weight.


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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