Avoid the Ghost of Christmas Fat
The holidays are here, and it is easy to overindulge in tasty but often less-than- healthy foods. It is possible, however, to use careful eating strategies and still enjoy your meal. One weight loss strategy that has proven success is the Energy Density System. Energy density refers to the number of calories or energy per gram of food. The approach of this method is to choose low energy-dense foods, which are high in water and low in fat. Energy density equals calories divided by gram weight. The following information explains how to use the system.
- Fat contains 9 calories per gram of weight, and should be limited where possible. Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram of weight. Water has no calories. Therefore, the strategy is to add water to the foods with protein and carbohydrates. Fiber has no calories and adds to the feeling of fullness and should be incorporated in your diet. Alcohol, on the other hand, contains 7 calories per gram.
- Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, which also help reduce blood cholesterol.
- Foods with high amounts of water include fruits, vegetables, soups and cooked whole grains.
- Wise, low-fat choices include lean meats, dried beans/lentils and low-fat dairy products.
- Appropriate portion size is important. This is a critical skill that can sometimes be surprising. Do you know what a ½ cup portion size looks like on your plate? It is good to get out your measuring cups to understand this. Also, keep plate and cup size in mind. In recent years, plate sizes have increased from 7 inches in diameter to 9 inches, and now to 11 inches.
- The following is an example of adapting a chef salad recipe (lettuce, ham, shredded cheddar cheese, celery, onion, eggs and dressing) to decrease the calorie density and aid in weight loss/maintenance. Rather than using 1 cup of regular ham, use lean ham, Canadian bacon or turkey slices. Replace 1 cup of shredded cheese with low-fat cheese. To increase water, add 2 tomatoes, 1 cup broccoli and 1 cup mushrooms. Replace the ranch dressing with low-fat dressing.
- Economical meals can also be prepared using this Low Energy Dense method. Take advantage of fresh produce when it is in season. Use frozen or canned vegetables when they are not in season. Use legumes and beans as the main dish for your meals.
- Combining this method with 30-60 minutes of physical activity each day will result in a healthy lifestyle geared to maintaining a healthy weight.
To help you get started, you can access 200 heart healthy recipes on the American Heart Association Web site: http://www.deliciousdecisions.org.
By: Nerda Christensen - Dec. 15, 2006