Healthy food in the shape of a heart.

Whether the goal is to reduce blood pressure, improve energy or lose weight, changing how and what we eat can have a significant impact.  There are so many fad or gimmick diets designed to convince people that they can reach their goals with little or no effort.   In fact, Canadians spend over $7 billion on diet programs, books and pills each year and the weight loss sector has been growing at a steady 6 percent per year for the past 30 years.  With so many programs, what do you do?  Do you avoid carbs?  Avoid fat? Both?  Should you fast intermittently?  Eat like a caveman?  Eat more fish and olive oil?

The simple answer is that there isn’t one eating plan scientifically proven better than others for weight loss and while many programs demonstrate results in the short term, the real goal should be to maintain a healthy weight over a long period.

There are some strategies that have been proven to reduce and maintain weight without special foods, medications or supplements.  First of all, we can use technology to track what we eat and how much we exercise.  Many apps exist to show us how many calories we are consuming and can help us to make wise choices.  Similarly, we can track our steps and other exercises.  By setting daily or weekly goals, we can use technology to measure how we performing when it comes to how much we eat and exercise.

Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to what and where we eat.  This starts with planning- deciding what we will eat-ensuring more nutrient-rich and less processed foods.  At the meal, turn off electronics, enjoy the meal and the company.  Distracted driving puts everyone on the road at risk and distracted eating puts our waistlines at risk.  Often a person who eats in front of the screen will eat more quickly and this leads to overeating.

It is important that with any change, we maintain adequate nutrients.  For example, a plan that provides adequate protein from lean and easily digestible sources will help to maintain muscle mass and tone.  Similarly, removing unnecessary foods like processed foods and empty carbohydrates will contribute to overall health.

Possibly the most important changes are those that are smaller and easy to maintain.  While drastic changes might bring around profound change, they are hard to sustain leading to an endless cycle of weight loss and gain.  Take care of yourselves and each other.