Fed Up With Fad Diets?


Let's set the carb record straight. All fruits, vegetables, beans, grains/starchy vegetables, and dairy (yes, dairy) foods contain carbohydrates. These carbohydrates eventually break down or convert into, among other things, sugar, technically known as glucose, which is 4 calories per gram. A carb is a carb when it comes to calories, but not when it comes to nutritional value; a cookie and a carrot may both have carbs, but they obviously don't offer the same health and diet benefits. In other words, all carbs are not nutritionally equal. Some are much more healthy for you than others. Don't stop eating broccoli, carrots, and oranges. It's just crazy. When people eliminate fruits and vegetables from their diets, they miss out on vital nutrients: fiber, vitamins such as folate and vitamin C, and minerals such as potassium. Try to incorporate nutritious carbohydrates into your diet and to spot which carbs are nutritious — the good guys — and which ones are less nutritious.


Get this: Fiber is the only food component that the body doesn't digest. That means it contains no calories. Even so, eating foods rich in fiber makes you feel full. When you feel full, you eat less. Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and in starchy vegetables (like potatoes, but not potato chips or French fries). It would be silly to cut out fiber when you're trying to lose weight. Besides filling you up without making you fat, fiber is beneficial to your overall health: it aids in digestion, helps keep you "regular," contributes to the overall well-being of your digestive tract, and may reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as diverticulitis, heart disease, and certain cancers. Although meat can be tough and hard to chew, it contains no fiber. Nor do these foods contain much fiber: white-flour products (bagels, white bread, white-bread crackers, and most muffins), candy, soda, and all sweets.


Like carbs, sugar has gotten a bad rap recently. But also like carbs, that reputation is not entirely fair or correct. Not all sugars are bad for you. But do stick with the ones that occur naturally in food. Theses include sugar found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The unhealthy sugars are added or are concentrated sugars, such as those in candy, soft drinks, and sweets. Limit your intake of these: sucrose (table sugar), corn syrup, fructose, glucose, maltose, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, and molasses. Simple, isn't it?


Fats have what I think of as concentrated calories — they really pack' em in. For example, one cup of almonds is high in fat and has over 800 calories, whereas one cup of popcorn has no fat (if you skip the butter) and only 36 calories. The difference is even more pronounced when you compare fats and vegetables. You can eat three cups of cooked spinach for the same calories as one tablespoon of oil. You can pile on the veggies, feel full, and get some great nutrients all at once. Plus, you don't have to stare at a half-empty plate, an eater's nightmare.


Good old table salt is the common name for sodium chloride, which contains 40 percent sodium. Sodium is found in lots of foods. We do need some salt in our diet, but it's not a good idea to overdo it. Anyone who is watching his weight needs to be on the lookout for "water weight" gain, which is partly due to salt consumption.

The more a food is processed, the more sodium it usually contains. Some common foods that contain sodium are: table salt, bouillon cubes, baking soda, soy sauce, horseradish, MSG, pickles, sauerkraut, processed meats and cheeses, frozen dinners, packaged mixes, and salted snacks such as chips, nuts, and pretzels, and canned soups. Foods described as cured, pickled, corned, or smoked are high in sodium. To cut back and shake the salt habit, remember: the less processed the food, the less sodium it contains. Try to include fresh or frozen rather than canned veggies. Limit processed meats, cheeses, and frozen meals. Keep the salt shaker in the cabinet instead of out on the kitchen table. Flavor foods with spices and herbs. Go easy on condiments such as mustard, ketchup, and soy sauce. A shake, sprinkle, or taste here and there adds up quickly.