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Small Changes in Your Diet Yield Major Health Rewards

July 2018

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Diet books line the shelves in local book stores and online websites. You may be confused about which foods are best and how much you should be eating for general health as well as a healthy weight. Small changes to the types of food, amounts, and variety in your diet can be the answer to a healthier body. Here are some quick diet changes you can easily make without feeling deprived:

  • Eat Slowly and Linger Over Your Meals. Enjoy conversation with family and friends and make it a point to sit down at the table for your meals instead of in front of the TV or on your cell phone or computer. A 2018 study in the British Medical Journal found that adults who ate quickly were 29% more likely to be overweight than those who ate at normal speed and 42% more likely to be overweight than slow eaters. Putting your fork down in between bites and having a nice social time with family can send signals from your stomach to your brain that you feel full. You will actually eat less when you eat slower which means fewer calories consumed.
  • Smaller Portions. Eat smaller portions at all meals and eat less when snacking as well. Use smaller plates for meals—switch out dinner plates for luncheon plates and smaller dishes for desserts. Fill your plate with less food means fewer calories and, when you are finished eating, your brain will register that the plate is empty and you will feel full. You actually will feel satisfied because you finished what was on your plate, even though it was a smaller plate.
  • Drink Before You Eat. Drink a glass of water before you sit down to a meal. The water allows your body to be hydrated but also fills you up. Drinking water before meals has been documented as one way to consume fewer calories which means more weight lost. Drinking more water keeps your fluid level up and will make you less hungry throughout the day.
  • Fill Up on Veggies, Grains and Fruit. Make sure you eat plenty of high fiber foods daily. Remember, half your plate should be fruits and vegetables and whole grains are necessary on a daily basis. A high fiber diet makes you feel full so you will eat less and consume fewer calories. Fiber also helps to move foods through the digestive track quicker and also helps with gut health. High fiber foods include whole grain cereals, legumes, seeds, and nuts, along with vegetables.
  • Protein at Breakfast Curbs the Appetite. Make sure you get sufficient protein at breakfast. We tend to eat cereals, fruit, and breads which are great for energy but protein helps slows down digestion and impacts those hunger hormones in a positive way. A number of studies have shown that getting enough protein in the morning reduces appetite and unwanted pounds. As digestion slows down, hunger decreases with more protein at the morning meal. Include high protein foods like eggs, Greek yogurt, beans and nut butter in your daily breakfasts.
  • Eat More Calories Early in the Day. Following many countries around the world, eating more at breakfast and lunch is healthier than the big, late night American dinner that is filled with highly saturated fats, meats and fried foods. Eat a larger portion of your calories for breakfast and lunch. Studies have shown more weight lost with fewer calories eaten at dinner time or later in the evening. Differences of hormone levels during the day could mean we burn more calories earlier in the day.

Try these suggestions and, remember, small changes can make a difference in your health and lasting weight-loss success.