Use a health-smart approach! The Dietary Guidelines advise: For those who need to lose weight, aim for slow, steady weight loss by decreasing calorie intake while maintaining an adequate nutrient intake and increasing physical activity.
The good news: eating for weight control and for good health are one and the same. A simple food plan with physical activity, based on MyPyramid, can accomplish both goals. Use it to tip your energy balance toward weight loss; at the same time, make the calories in your food choices count for good nutrition! Refer to chapter 10 for a healthful eating plan, created at a calorie level that can help you lose or maintain your healthy weight.
What's slow, steady weight loss? It's a safe rate of about V2 to 1 pound per week. Experts say that striving for a 250- to 300-calorie deficit per day can help you achieve that. Remember: One pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories worth of stored energy. For weight loss, you need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit for each pound you want to lose: cut back on what you eat, be more physically active—or better yet, do both!
To trim food energy intake, should you count calories? Maybe. But just eating smarter might be enough. Cut back to smaller portions. Eat fewer high-calorie foods. Make your calories count by choosing mostly lean and low-fat foods. Enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Counting calories to manage weight takes effort. If you choose to do this, start by knowing how many calories you need and eat them now. Get a calorie counter that lists calories in many foods, or try a computer program that makes the task easier.
Even when you're trying to lose, not every food you eat needs to be "low cal." Instead your total calorie intake needs to be less than what you use—over several days. If you eat some high-calorie foods, balance them with plenty of lower-calorie foods.
How many calories for weight loss? That depends on you—and how active you are. To get enough nutrients, you need enough nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruits, from the five food groups. And you need to tip your energy balance toward weight loss—easier if most food choices are lean and low-fat, or low in added sugars. Children and teens especially need adequate calories and nutrients for growth, as well as normal body function and physical activity.
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