6010-3724505 admin@juzlab.net
0 Items
These 15 science-backed approaches to healthy eating have nothing to do with calories

These 15 science-backed approaches to healthy eating have nothing to do with calories

  • Calories don’t tell the full picture when it comes to healthy eating.
  • Instead of focusing on a single number, dietitians recommend considering a handful of characteristics about the foods and drinks you’re consuming.
  • Here are some of the simple tips they’ve outlined to help you clean up your eating habits.

Calories don’t tell the full picture when it comes to healthy eating. In fact, focusing exclusively on a food’s calorie count can be pretty misleading.

The most obvious problem with calories is that they don’t tell you how filling a food or drink will be, a factor called satiety that is key to preventing overeating.

Additionally, calorie counts don’t reveal whether your afternoon granola bar contains the right blend of protein and carbs to power you through a workout, or whether your morning cereal contains vitamins and minerals that are key to glowing skin and healthy hair.

Instead of relying on a single number, dietitians recommend considering the whole food or drink – including how much protein, fiber, and added sugar it contains, as well as much ingredients were processed before entering your body.

Here are some of the simple tips they’ve outlined to help us clean up our eating game.

Start eating more vegetables — especially greens.

Ruslan Mitin/Shutterstock

Author Michael Pollan may have condensed the best nutrition wisdom into one line when he wrote: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Dozens of scientific studies have tied diets high in vegetables – especially greens – to better health outcomes, including weight loss and a decreased risk of a handful of chronic diseases.

Veggies like watercress, spinach, chives, and collard greens all rank highly on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of “powerhouse foods.” So find a few you like and start adding them to your plate.

But don’t worry: Most research does not suggest a need to slash meat, dairy, or fish from your diet. In fact, the best results typically seem linked with diets that combine high amounts of vegetables with healthy sources of protein, which can include seafood, eggs, and meat. Eating plans like these include the popular Mediterranean diet and MIND diet.

Replace soda or sweet tea with water, unsweetened tea, or other sugar-free drinks.


Sweetened beverages like soda and juice can make up a surprising portion of the calories you consume each day, yet they don’t fill you up the same way solid food does.

As part of an eight-year study that included nearly 50,000 women, Harvard researchers tracked what happened when people either slashed their intake of sweetened drinks or started consuming more of them. Not surprisingly, the participants who raised their sugary-drink intake gained weight and increased their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the more sweet drinks women consumed, the more weight they gained and the more their disease risk went up.

Those who curbed their intake, on the other hand, did not see those negative results.

So the next time you’re looking for something other than water to drink, try seltzer or unsweetened tea. Even diet soda is probably a better choice. Every time you pick one of these over a sweetened beverage, you’ll also be cutting anywhere from 150 to 400 calories.

Pay attention to protein.


Protein is a key ingredient that helps fuel our muscles and keep us feeling full. It also slows the breakdown of carbs into sugar, thereby acting as a sort of buffer against sharp dips and spikes in insulin levels. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough protein in every meal.

Many Americans whose diets are based around meat actually get too much protein. But there’s some evidence that people who try to switch to a more plant-based diet can have a hard time getting enough.

To make sure your protein intake isn’t slouching, add items like eggs, beans, tofu, lentils, fish, and dairy products to vegetable- and whole-grain-based meals.

Balance what you’re eating with healthy movement.


If weight loss is part of your healthy-eating goals (though it certainly doesn’t have to be!) you should know that exercise is not a shortcut to weight loss. This is true for two reasons: first, when we amp up our activity levels, our hunger levels tend to increase as well. Second, it’s far easier to eat lots of calories in a single sitting than it is to burn them off in one gym session.

That said, regular movement of any kind is a key component of a healthy lifestyle – and it’s especially important if you’re looking to slim down and keep weight off for the long haul.

If you normally drive to work, try walking, biking, or taking public transit when possible. If you’re used to taking the elevator, hit the stairs next time. And make regular gym sessions part of your routine – but keep in mind that your appetite may increase a bit.

Trim the carbs, not the fat.

Pinterest / Hannah Hossack-Lodge / Domestic Gothess

Even if you’re eating whole grains instead of refined ones, you should keep in mind that some researchers believe they all end up getting processed the same way. That means cutting back on any kind of carbohydrate is likely a smart move. Try swapping flour-based noodles with spiralized carrot or zucchini noodles, for example.

Several studies suggest that curbing your carb intake is an easy way to help stabilize blood-sugar levels as well. Having steady blood-sugar levels – also known as tight glycemic control – has been linked with beneficial health outcomes including weight loss, better energy levels throughout the day, and a reduced risk of chronic disease.

“Tight glycemic control is necessary to maintain health and to prevent disease,” Ellen Blaak, a professor of fat metabolism and physiology at Maastricht University, wrote in a review of studies published in the journal Obesity Reviews. Her study found that poorly controlled blood-sugar levels were linked with higher likelihood of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Beware of items labeled “low-fat,” “light,” and “reduced fat.”

Gene Kim

Low-fat products sound great. Reduce your fat intake, get slim, right?

The majority of scientific research suggests it actually doesn’t work this way.

One reason for this is that many products labeled “low fat,” “light,” or “reduced fat” (a common label on foods like yogurt, ice cream, and peanut butter) are highly processed and engineered to taste like their original full-fat predecessors. To accomplish this, food manufacturers typically add extra sugar – and sugar, unlike fat, has been strongly implicated as a leading factor contributing to obesity and weight gain.

Welcome some healthy fats back into your diet.

Rob Ludacer

One reason many dieters curb their fat intake – besides the lingering influence of the low-fat dieting trend of the 1990s – is that it’s an easy way to cut calories. Fat is high in calories. Trim the fat, trim the calories.

But research is starting to show that eating fat does not necessarily lead us to put on pounds. Instead, it may help people lose weight, perhaps by making us feel full and curbing our sugar consumption. This appears to be especially true for fats from sources like nuts, olive oil, avocados, and fish.

“There is one thing we know about fats. Fat consumption does not cause weight gain. To the contrary, it might actually help us shed a few pounds,” Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, wrote in his book, “The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully.”

Here’s what that means for people who are counting calories: Fatty foods are higher in calories than their low-fat equivalents, so account for that and cut back on carbs and sugar instead.

If weight loss is a goal for you, set up healthy benchmarks.

Lisa Creech Bledsoe / Flickr

For sustainable weight loss, dietitians, exercise scientists, and nutritionists all recommend aiming to lose only one to three pounds per week – at the most.

Slimming down slowly instead of all at once gives you enough time to create healthy new eating and exercise patterns that you can maintain for life, according to Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and the cofounder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity.

“You’ve got to give yourself two, three, four years of consistent behavioral changes. That is hard work. You’re building new habits. And that takes time,” Bellatti told Business Insider last year.

Cut back on sugar.

BBQ sauce is surprisingly high in sugar.
Yelp/Travis S.

A growing body of evidence suggests that if there is a single villain in our diets when it comes to weight gain, it’s sugar.

The authors of a review of 50 studies on diet and weight gain published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found that, on average, the more refined carbohydrates (such as sugar) that someone ate, the more weight they tended to gain over the study period.

Similarly, the researchers behind a large review of 68 studies published in the British Medical Journal found that the more sugar someone consumed, the more they weighed.

So cut back on sweets and start paying attention to the sugar content on the labels of processed foods – especially in sauces, salad dressings, and dairy products.

Swap the white bread and rice in your meals for whole grains.


One of the least healthy components of most American diets appears to be refined carbohydrates, a category that includes white bread and white rice. Refined carbs can also be found in lots of other processed foods – they appear on nutrition labels as “refined flour” or just “flour.”

A 2012 study published in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found strong links between diets high in refined carbohydrates and weight gain. One reason for this may be that refined grains are processed quickly and turned into sugar in the body.

Whole grains, on the other hand, get digested slowly and fill you up for hours. The key difference is that whole grains still have their nutritious, fiber-rich outer shells, such as the germ and bran. Those parts get stripped off of refined carbs in a factory before you eat them.

Roxanne B. Sukol, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Enterprise, said people should think of refined carbohydrates simply as “stripped carbs” and avoid them whenever possible.

Try working out in the morning.


If you choose to incorporate regular workouts into your plan, research suggests that an early-morning workout on an empty stomach helps speed weight loss and boost energy levels by priming the body for an all-day fat burn.

Exercising first thing in the morning may push the body to tap into its fat reserves for fuel instead of simply “burning off” the most recent snack or meal.

Plus, working out early could mean you get more sunlight, which is key to properly setting your body’s internal circadian rhythm. In one study, people who basked in bright sunlight within two hours after waking were thinner and better able to manage their weight than those who didn’t get any natural light, regardless of what they ate throughout the day.

But the best fitness plan is one you can stick to consistently. If your morning motivation is too low to form a habit, working out after your workday is probably a better choice.

Watch out for trans fat.

Jennifer Pallian/Unsplash

Unlike plain old fat, trans fat is created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.

Trans fat has been strongly linked to heart disease, since consuming it appears to raise levels of so-called bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol.

The US Food and Drug Administration announced a plan to ban trans fats in 2015. According to a statement released by the FDA that year, “there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat.”

Although trans fats are now banned for most food in the US, they’re still present in a number of processed foods in other countries, including many premade or packaged cakes, cookies, chips, and pastries. Some breads also contain them, along with some of the oils used to fry french fries and other fast foods. To identify trans fat on a nutrition label, look for “partially hydrogenated oils” on the ingredient list.

In May, the World Health Organization called on governments worldwide to ban industrially produced trans fats within five years.

Learn the situations in which you tend to “fall off the wagon” — and prepare ahead of time.

Elena Veselova / Shutterstock

If you tend to stick to a healthy eating plan most of the time but you’re still having trouble losing weight, it might be worth thinking about the places or events that encourage you to veer away from nutritious choices.

Places like airports, drug stores, and even home-goods stores all sell food, but it’s usually not very healthy. Instead of shopping until you feel famished then buying whatever unhealthy items are available near the checkout stand, plan ahead and pack a nutritious snack.

Sliced apples and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, or Greek yogurt and nuts are all inexpensive and convenient options.

If traditional diets haven’t worked for you, consider intermittent fasting.

Melia Robinson

If you’re looking to lose weight and other diets have failed you, you might want to try an eating plan known as intermittent fasting – after checking with your doctor, of course.

There are several versions of this diet, but one of the most popular involves fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8. Most people opt for an eating window of 12 p.m. to 8 p.m , meaning that you essentially skip breakfast but eat whatever you want within the eight-hour “feeding” window.

Large studies have found intermittent fasting to be just as reliable for weight loss as traditional diets. And a few studies in animals suggest it could have other benefits too, such as reducing the risk for certain cancers and even prolonging life. But those studies need to be repeated in humans before any real conclusions can be drawn.

If you go out to eat, take half of your meal home in a to-go box.

Olive Garden/Facebook

The baseline portion sizes of our snacks and meals have ballooned over the past 40 years. The average size of many of our foods – including fast food, sit-down meals, and even items from the grocery store – has grown by as much as 138% since the 1970s, according to data from the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Nutrition, and the Journal of the American Medical Association

Even the plates and cups we serve meals on have gotten noticeably bigger.

So be mindful of portion sizes. If you’re eating out, consider taking anywhere from a third to half of your meal to go.

Curious Cook: The gluttony of health diets, part 2

Curious Cook: The gluttony of health diets, part 2

In Part 1, we discussed three categories of diet plans restricted by calorie, food group and time. Here are a few more diet fads.

A choice

People often perceive diets as something of a choice between health and enjoying food, though proponents of diet fads will always claim their fads are a wonderful mix of both. The truth is somewhere in between – and much depends on why you choose to diet. If the motivation is better health or weight loss, then you probably have plenty of choices. If diet change is required for some disease/condition, then the options are probably limited to what is medically prescribed.

Three square meals?

As an aside, the modern practice of eating three square meals a day started less than a century ago – the impetus was the US government promoting breakfast as the “most important meal of the day” around the 1920s, possibly following popular advice from Good Health magazine, which was then edited by Dr Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes. However, there is no biological necessity for humans to eat three meals a day – the Romans survived well with only one meal a day and so did many other civilisations on less than three meals a day.

There is therefore no compelling reason to start mornings with, for example, processed cereals – and even less sense in the over-consumption of sugary, deep-fried or processed foods during the day (all contributory factors of modern obesity and diabetic epidemics). But we have all been guilty of being silly with food – and this reflects in no small way the influence of our peers and the marketing prowess of the food industry.

And now, here are some more categories.

Category 4 – Supplementals

Some diets require utilisation of supplements – whether this is worthwhile is hugely linked to the reasons why the diet is chosen. If it is for specific reasons, for example high-fibre pills to promote intestinal function, then it may be helpful. The same applies if supplements are prescribed for medical reasons; eg. drugs to control cholesterol or blood pressure. Common also are compounds such as creatine, glutamine, etc, used to increase muscle bulk – these may work, though research on such compounds is often sponsored and therefore potentially biased.

However, many supplements are marketed purely to part fools from their money. These products are easy to identify, mainly from their lack of genuine scientific/health credentials and outrageous claims – such as cures for a variety of (usually serious) ailments, longevity aids, weight loss accelerants, etc. Some of these supplements are packaged as expensive drinks, pills, infusions, syrups, powders or as fresh, preserved or desiccated plants/herbs/fruits. It does not matter – the common factor is that benefits from such products usually range from small to zero and will usually be vastly overshadowed by the cost. In some cases, the result is a decrease in health – teas and pills claiming to “burn fat” and “promote weight loss effortlessly” encourage people to eat more, with the attendant consequences. In terms of effectiveness, ingesting weight loss pills is no different to wearing a new pair of sunglasses – both simply will not help if you choose to stuff your face with another dozen doughnuts.

Another weight loss supplement is anorectics, or appetite suppressants. They c

health diet

There is no biological necessity for humans to eat three meals a day. Photo: VisualHunt

laim to work by interfering with body hormones to reduce the sensation of hunger – most are based on green tea extracts, seaweed or a South African plant genus called hoodia. Non-pharmaceutical anorectics are seldom rigorously tested for efficacy (or safety) and medical anorectics have had a history of problems.

If anyone is considering the use of appetite suppressants, here is a free alternative: drink 500ml to 600ml of water a few minutes before any meal. The stomach distension due to the water will reduce appetite and cause one to eat less.

Category 5 – Combinational

Some plans recognise that dieting works better if the body is also active – this helps circulation, generate useful hormones, and promote overall physical well-being. So some diet plans specify the expenditure of a certain number of calories (or time) performing a series of daily exercises such as cycling, walking or running. The intensity of such exercises may also increase over time as the diet plan progresses.

A lot of evidence indicates that the combination of exercise and good dieting is the best way to maintain/improve health and alleviate certain ailments, provided the body is fit enough to undertake such physical activities.

Category 6 – Fanciful

There appears to be no limits to human imagination (or something less noble) when creating and marketing diet fads for gullible consumers. Top places for recent fanciful fads would probably include Clean Eating and the Alkaline Diet. Anyone following the Clean Eating fad would have voluntarily elected to become, in the words of a former female practitioner, a “gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan”.

This same lady stopped Clean Eating when her periods stopped, her hair fell out and her skin turned orange. So apart from having lots of pretty pictures of food to post on social media, there appears to be no benefit from such an unhealthy restrictive fad.

As for the Alkaline Diet, it always bemused me that lemons were included as “alkaline” food items – a clear indication of a poor grasp of elementary chemistry. This actually is probably the least disturbing aspect of the Alkaline Diet – if you are curious, the pseudo-scientific premise of this fad was explored in the article, “What lies in our diets – Part 2”.

Other absurd notions include the “detox” fads. Due to the regulatory functions of human organs, the body simply never needs “detoxing”. Any perceived benefits are incidental and due to food restrictions – it is seldom mentioned that persisting with such restrictions can also damage health.

The common element of fanciful diets is pseudo-science – the implausible made to sound plausible based on misinformation, anecdotes, ignorance and evasion/distortion of facts. As such, if one is rational, fanciful diets are easy to identify. So why are these diets often popular, even though they can be dangerous? It may be that in this post-truth age, many people are oblivious (or even hostile) to facts and science – and these people, like flat-earth believers, will constantly support and elevate fanciful notions (and diets) as long as the ideas fit within their limited belief systems.

Reality (simple version)

The current situation is that, unlike dog food, there are too many diet options available. So before embarking on any diet, it helps to understand WHY you want to diet. Some reasons may be:

• Weight loss

• Better health

• Intestinal problems

From the reasons, you should quantify the benefit expected; for example:

• Lose 5kg weight

• Lower blood pressure by 10%

• Eliminate constipation

If, for example, the primary target is weight loss, then you need to find a diet with elements of Category 1 diets. If you also want to lower blood pressure, then look for a diet with Category 1, 2 and 5 characteristics. If fixing constipation is also required, then your ideal diet may have elements of Category 1, 2, 4 and 5. (For Categories 1 and 2, refer to Part 1.)

Other considerations are time-scales when you want results, budget available, time and resource availability, food preferences, etc.

Reality (real version)

The harsh truth is, despite the many thousands of diet plans out there, chances of finding one that immediately suit even three simple targets as above are minimal. That is because many diets are created for specific or very general purposes (or purely for marketing) – they are not designed around your requirements. Or there might be a perfect diet but it is hidden and undiscoverable in the thousands of options. To be fair, most sensible diets will probably work eventually, but they may not fit your timescale, budget or resource availability.

Food as medicine

Although many dietary and health problems are caused by over-indulging in food, it is still a fact that the same problems can often also be solved by food (which would probably be a better solution than medications) – it just requires eating a little differently. Some people treat dieting itself as a lifestyle and adhere rigidly to various regimes, such as veganism – while this might be noble (or drastic), it does not suit everyone, including myself.

People have idiosyncratic reasons and separate targets – so knowing the underlying characteristics of diets helps one to realise no diet plan is a miracle formula. One suggestion is, if weight loss is a target, then it helps to find low-calorie foods which are enjoyable and eatable at all times.

Weight loss always require diets with Category 1 characteristics and munching low-calorie foods such as cucumbers, celery or endives can help alleviate those inevitable hungry twitches. And whenever possible, always include some physical activity in any diet.

If anyone is interested in the ease of devising a personal diet, an unambitious, self-created diet is outlined in the article, “The perils of dieting – Part 2”.

It is so laid-back (but personally effective) that I have been using it periodically for years, even when bingeing – the plan allows over-indulgence because, well, that is what I sometimes have to do.

Pin It on Pinterest