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Weight loss: Small changes to diet can have big impact

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Terra Hartman, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Published 11:58 a.m. CT Jan. 8, 2018

Question: I’m looking to kickstart the New Year by losing a few pounds. Do you have any tips for me?

Answer: Here are some tips to get you started on your weight-loss journey.

Studies show people who eat four or five smaller meals or snacks per day are better able to control their appetite and weight. Divide your daily calories into mini-meals or snacks, and consume most of them earlier in the day.

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Mindless eating occurs most frequently after dinner. Snacking in front of the TV is an easy way to sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Be choosy about your nighttime snacks.

Learn to recognize recommended portion sizes. Use a digital kitchen scale and measuring cups to weigh and measure your food. Eating from smaller plates can help you downsize your portions. This makes the amount of food you are eating look like more. Eating more slowly can help, too.

Try to include some protein at every meal. Protein is more satisfying than carbs or fats and will keep you feeling full longer. It also helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning. Focus on healthy proteins such as lean meat, seafood, eggs, yogurt, cheese, soy, nuts and beans.

Don’t skip breakfast. Not eating breakfast can make you very hungry later on, leading to too much nibbling and/or binge eating at lunch and dinner.

Bump up the amount of fiber, fruits and vegetables in your diet. Fiber aids digestion, prevents constipation and lowers cholesterol — and can help with weight loss. Women should get about 25 grams of fiber daily, while men need about 38 grams.

Good fiber sources include oatmeal, beans, whole-grain foods, nuts and most fruits and vegetables. If you eat more fruits and vegetables, you won’t feel as hungry. These nutrient-rich foods are high in fiber and water and can give you a feeling of fullness without adding many calories to your diet. 

Dining out can be challenging for someone watching his or her weight. However, most restaurants have their menus posted online, and many include nutritional information such as calories, fat, salt, etc. Make your food choices before leaving home. Be aware that some restaurant portions are two, three, even four times a “normal” or recommended portion size.

Ordering a children’s entree is a great way to cut calories and keep portion sizes reasonable. Or share a regular-size entrée with your dining companion or take half of your dinner home for another meal.

And finally, become a vigilant label reader at the grocery store. Compare product ingredients carefully. Before selecting a “fat-free” version of a product (example: fat-free ice cream), check the label to see if the amount of sugar has been increased to compensate for missing fat and flavor. The fat-free option may actually be higher in calories.

Unfortunately, there are no “secret” weight-loss tips to magically help you lose weight. But making small, incremental changes to improve your diet can have a positive effect on your weight by the end of 2018.

Terra Hartman, NP, is a nurse practitioner at the Two Rivers Aurora Health Center, 2219 Garfield St., Two Rivers. Her office can be reached at 920-793-2281.

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