Dieting is especially popular the beginning of the year, probably due to New Year’s resolutions and the need to lose some of those extra pounds put on over the holidays. My personal strategy is an overall lifestyle change of healthy eating and exercise. It’s not an overnight fix, but more of a gradual process that will help you lose weight slowly and keep it off. However, if you prefer to follow a specific diet, there are some healthy options out there.
Recently, U.S. News & World Report evaluated and ranked 35 diets with input from a panel of health experts. To be top-rated, the diet had to be easy-to-follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss, and protective against diabetes and heart disease. The diets in the top five spots (not surprisingly) all make fruit and vegetables a large part of their meal plans! They are:
- #1 The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) Diet - The DASH diet was originally designed to fight high blood pressure. This is a nutritionally sound diet, making sure you’re getting your protein from lean sources and opting for heart healthy fats, in addition to adding plenty of fruit and veggies to each meal.
- #2 The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Change) Diet – The TLC diet is great for cardiovascular health as it cuts back on fats and increases fiber. You’ll find yourself eating more protein sources like fish and skinless poultry, while ramping up your intake of whole grains and fruit and veggies to get valuable fiber.
- #3 (tie) The Mayo Clinic Diet – The Mayo Clinic diet’s plan is for a lifelong approach to healthy eating. The goal of this plan is to break your bad eating habits and replace them with good ones. No foods groups are completely off limits, as you’re developing new, healthy eating habits for life and learning to make better choices. This diet is more in line with my own approach to “dieting.”
- #3 (tie) The Mediterranean Diet – The Mediterranean diet puts the emphasis on fruit, vegetables, lean proteins like fish and beans, whole grains, and olive oil. This is a heart healthy option for the food lover (think lots of flavorful herbs and spices).
- #3 (tie) The Weight Watchers Diet – Weight Watchers is probably the most well known of all diets ranked and scores high marks. The experts show it’s easy-to-follow, nutritious and includes plenty of fruit and veggies in the meal plans. An added bonus are the support groups.
Making half your plate fruit and vegetables is one way to follow any of the above diets. Then, complete your plate with a lean protein, a low-fat dairy option and a whole grain. If it sounds simple, it really is! I’ve selected two Fruit & Veggies–More Matters healthy plate recipes as examples that would fit any of these diets. The first is dinner entrée, Grilled Chicken Avocado and Quinoa Pilaf. Skinless, chicken breasts are a great source of lean protein and avocado is a wonderful heart healthy fat. Quinoa provides additional protein along with plenty of fiber. Red bell pepper, onion, garlic and lemon juice add more flavor to this recipe. Slice an orange for a sweet treat on the side.
Mango Berry Rotini Salad is perfect for lunch or as a side dish at your next family gathering. Sweet and savory flavors are blended together in this dish. Mango, raspberries and blueberries are combined with baby spinach and reduced fat feta cheese. Whole wheat pasta (to add extra fiber) provides the base of the salad and is mixed with the fruit and veggies. Finally, the salad is topped with a dressing of olive oil, raspberry vinegar, poppy seeds and a bit of salt/sugar.
Finally, in order to lose weight remember to add activity to your daily routine. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a great section about the importance of physical activity, including an area that lists the number of calories burned doing regular activities. Be patient, it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you lose weight the right way it will stay off for good!