Monday, January 16, 2012

Five Nutrition Mistakes to Avoid in 2012

By Janet Helm, MS, RD

Perhaps you’re inspired to make some personal changes in the new year. That’s great – as long as you have a plan in place to make it happen. Losing weight tends to top the resolution lists for lots of folks. If that’s your goal, just be sure to stack the deck in your favor so the changes you make stick and you achieve long-term success. Watch out for these five D’s that could derail your efforts.

1. Deprivation. Do not make a long list of foods that you swear you’ll never eat. Depriving yourself of favorite foods is not realistic. Plus, it will likely backfire. Trying to completely eliminate certain foods will only give these foods more power over you. Finding ways to fit them in means you’ll be more likely to stay in control when you do eat them. Think moderation, not elimination.

2. Delivery. You may be tempted to start a new diet program that relies on deliveries of prepackaged, calorie-controlled meals. That approach may work in the short term, but it’s not sustainable. Gaining greater confidence in the kitchen and learning how to create your own arsenal of delicious, healthy go-to meals is a much better alternative. Buy a new healthy cookbook for inspiration. Take a cooking class if you need it. Preparing your own meals at home – instead of opening a box or mixing up a shake – is your best long-term strategy.

3. Detox. If there’s one word I hope to see less of in 2012 it’s detox (along with its cousin “cleanse”). Increasingly, foods, beverages and weight loss regimens tempt dieters with promises of detoxification. In reality, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do to enhance your body’s natural ability to detox (so don’t insult your liver). Some people resort to strict detox diets to jump start their weight loss. While early success can be motivating, I think there are better ways to make a shift to healthier eating. If you feel like you need some type of dramatic transition after all of your holiday indulgences, try curtailing alcohol and sweets for two weeks. That may be enough of a motivating milestone to kick-start new healthier habits without going the detox or cleanse route. Then focus on drinking lots of water and eating plenty of whole foods rich in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

4. Don’t. Be wary of any plan that seems to be dominated by “don’ts.” Strict rules and restrictions are tough to follow in the long run. It’s also likely to be a dull and boring regimen. Run, don’t walk, away from regimented programs that require you to “don’t eat this” or “don’t combine this with that.” Think about all the wondrous foods you can enjoy, and what you should be adding, not subtracting.

5. Diet. Maybe the biggest D of all to watch out for is “diet.” Rather than declaring your devotion to a specific diet, focus on making some small changes to your daily routine. Studies have repeatedly shown that an approach that focuses on healthy habits, instead of restrictions, works better in the long run. A study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people who made one small, potentially permanent change (such as drinking one less sugary drink a day) lost about four times more weight during a four-month period, compared with those who followed a traditional calorie-restricted diet. Stringing together a series of small tweaks and building on your healthier habits works better than attempting a giant overhaul. It’s been said many times before, but it’s so true: The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.

Avoiding these five D’s will help you succeed and avoid another D – feeling defeated.

Have you made any of these nutrition mistakes? Are there any others you try to avoid? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking and Diet communities.

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