If your mother told you “eat your vegetables” now is the time to really listen to her and if you have already been listening then she deserves a big “thank you” . More good news about plant foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, is that they are typically lower in calories and more filling than other foods that come from an animal. This is especially true if you are eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
Whole grains are typically low in calories and also very filling as well depending on their fiber content. A simple rule of thumb is this: the more processed the food, the higher the calories.
Another concept that is simple but not easy for many people to put into action is portion control. I was chatting with a friend of mine one day about the differences between American eating habits and those in his home country in Asia.
It should not be a big surprise that the subject of very large American portions came up — especially in restaurants. The consistent message is having more food means greater value and we seem to feel deprived if the portions appear too small. I asked him how this differs in his country of origin and he said “In our country, we are taught to eat until we are 80% full, here people eat until they are 110% full”.
For the wide majority of individuals, there is no question about where the next meal is going to come from. Another person I encountered was telling me that she had lost 60 pounds over the course of nine months. Always curious, I asked her how she had done this. I was fully expecting her to tell me about then latest fad diet but instead, she said “ I ate all the foods I usually do but cut everything by one-half”.
In other words, there is no real list of good foods or bad foods, but too much food can lead to no good. Of course, some foods are higher in nutrients that others but if we could retrain ourselves to eat a little bit less of the calorie rich foods and a little more of the nutrient rich, lower calorie foods, we could all feel a little more satisfied and be a lot healthier.
Kathryn Allen, MA, RD, CSO