As the Lourdes Health System’s registered dietician specializing in weight management, and a bariatric dietician, Vitelese Hutton spends a lot of time focusing on diet and wellness. It’s a topic that’s fresh in everyone’s minds at the start of 2017, following a month of unhealthy eating and bad habits.
But if you ask Hutton about the trendy new weight loss fads on the market today, including juice cleanses, miracle supplements, and apps that track your every bite, she’s quick to bring you in touch with reality. In fact, Hutton is one of a handful of local experts who say the diet and wellness myths on the market can hurt your wellness goals in the long run.
“There’s no true diet that everyone should gravitate to for the new year,” she says. “Instead, you should try to develop healthy eating habits. Instead of saying ‘I’m starting a diet,’ say ‘I’m going to change my eating behaviors and habits for life.’”
Understanding calories and fat
“I get approached a lot about diet and what foods are good to help them lose weight,” Hutton says. “Healthy eating for life involves incorporating healthy eating habits every day, not a diet or a fad that you found online.”
Calories and fat seem like a health-conscious person’s worst enemies, but in reality they both are necessary to help lose weight and maintain a healthier body. There are many programs and apps out there that give people a low estimate of caloric intake as a way to lose weight, but experts agree that isn’t the best way to get healthy and stay healthy.
“There are a lot of factors that go into your caloric intake and these apps can really hurt those factors, especially if you become too focused on them and lose sight of your goals,” says C.J. Appenzeller, owner and head strength coach at ATS Strength. “The way something is cooked affects calories, how long that protein has been sitting in your fridge affects calories, how ripe your banana is affects its calories. So your estimations will always be off. [And] if you end up cutting calories too much your body will go into what we call ‘survival mode’ and you won’t lose any weight.”
While using fitness tech is a great way to stay accountable for yourself, so is watching your intake and making sure that you cover all the bases of wellness with each meal.
“You need to get healthier fats into your diet,” says Hutton, who sites omega-3 fatty acids as a fantastic way to regulate your metabolism.“You can always supplement the fats you normally use with healthier alternatives. Instead of using mayonnaise and butter use olive oils, avocados, olives.”
A healthy fat like fish oil—combined with probiotics—can be one of the many tools to help reduce inflammation in your body, which is vital to maintaining a healthy heart, says Advanced Cardiology of South Jersey’s Dr. Vic Bahal.
“When cholesterol becomes oxidized and inflamed that’s what causes heart disease,” explains Bahal. “Fish oil and probiotics both reduce inflammation, as do spices like cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper.”
And what about that age-old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Turns out, there is a lot of truth to it. “Breakfast gives you a jump start on getting sufficient protein or calories,” explains Hutton. “That doesn’t mean, however, that you should eat a lot just for breakfast. You don’t need to eat more than another meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. You need to focus more on a balanced meal.”
The perks of protein
When planning your weight loss future, protein is vital to weight loss and maintaining your health.
“Protein is the building block to muscles,” explains Appenzeller. “You cannot build muscle without an adequate amount of protein, and even if you don’t want to bulk up it is essential. It’s also the least likely amount of nutrient that will be stored as fat and will aid in recovery.”
Experts agree that you should incorporate one serving of protein into every meal, and the ways to do that are endless. “Lean meat is a great way to incorporate protein,” explains Hutton. “That includes poultry without the skin, lean cuts of beef, eggs and beans. Dairy products can also provide protein. Even when it comes to breakfast you can have a Greek yogurt, some nuts and fruit for a balanced, on-the-go meal that gives you the protein you need to start the day.”
Overdoing it on protein can, of course, be bad news. And if a food scale isn’t always on-hand, Appenzeller offers an easy solution for people out and about. “Simplify your serving size,” he says. “Focus on eating five servings of protein a day, based on your size. Protein servings for a man are different for a woman. Women should eat one fist-sized piece of protein per meal, men should eat protein the size of two fists.”
Rounding out your protein with health-conscious sides can make watching your diet easy and tasty. “Balance your meals to include protein, whole grains, vegetables and leafy salads. They help you feel more satisfied during your meal,” says Hutton.
Using vitamins responsibly
When planning your healthy future, vitamins can both help and hurt. When eating correctly and checking all the boxes of your daily dietary requirements, most vitamins aren’t even necessary. So don’t worry about stocking up on one of those big pill boxes any time soon.
“If you can get your energy from real food sources, then rely on real food first,” says Appenzeller. “If you can’t access real food then you can turn to supplements. But if you’re not getting efficient levels of vitamins then work with your trainer, talk to a professional and focus on how you can improve that through food as much as possible.”
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t monitor your intake of vitamins, however. In fact, some supplements can provide health benefits that you can’t get from a health-conscious diet.
“There are supplements that can help maintain your health that are hard to get in the healthiest diets,” says Bahal. “Nitric oxide maintains youthfulness by maintaining the elasticity in your body and is hard to find in useful levels in the diet. Alpha-lipoic acid helps reduce inflammation and has powerful antioxidant properties. No matter what, you want to confer with an expert to make sure supplements don’t interfere with your diet or medications.”
Be it vitamins, proteins or fats, a successful start to any wellness routine requires just that: a successful start. “Instead of getting this huge workout and diet rolling in the new year, prepare yourself slowly. Make one small change at a time, try to lock that change in, and then build onto something new,” says Appenzeller. “You have to go slowly and trust the process.”
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 10 (December, 2016).
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