Watch You Eat—Not Count Your Calories—To Find a Better Diet

It sure seems like everyone is trying to get into better shape, these days.  Sure, most of us could probably stand to lose a few pounds, but the key to good health is not necessarily losing weight: it is simply just eating right.  And the good news is that if simply eat the right foods, it seems like an excellent side effect will be losing weight.

According to a new study from Stanford University, low-carb dieting is not necessarily more effective than low-fat dieting; and vice versa.  Looking at it another way, the study suggests that focusing on the quality of food—and not necessarily its caloric content—will be more effective over the course of one year. Monitoring the weight loss of more than 600 people, the study asserts that eating foods that are whole and unprocessed will be better for you in the end.

New York-based dietitian Maya Feller comments on the study: “The takeaway is that the quality of what you eat is incredibly important. You may or may not need to eat an 1,800-calorie diet, but what you need is a diet that is based on whole and minimally processed foods without an excess of added sugars, salts and saturated fats.”

Basically, Feller counsels that limiting your calories is not necessarily the same thing as making smart nutrition choices.  For example, a 100-calorie package of cookies might be an easy way to manage your calories, but they are not contributing to your overall health. In fact, they might be doing worse for you than better.

She warns: “Yes, it’s 100 calories and if you’re on a calorie-counting diet it probably fits within your plan, however a 100-calorie pack of [cookies] is not really going to give you as much nutrition as having a piece of fish and some vegetables.”

For this Stanford University study, participants were given the nutrition information for 22 diet-specific small group meeting sessions led by proper health educators.  Over 12 months, the study focused each session on “ways to achieve the lowest fat or carbohydrate intake that could be maintained long-term and emphasized diet quality.”

Feller advises:  “I do think that consumers may be confused because for some people who don’t have a healthy relationship with food, counting calories gives them guidelines. It’s like really relearning a relationship to food.”

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