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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.

Make calories count with healthful strategies:

  • Follow the advice of MyPyramid, at a calorie level targeted for your weight loss. For a V2 to 1 pound a week drop, pick the MyPyramid plan to help you consume up to 250 to 300 calories a day less— without going below 1,600 calories a day (MyPyra-mid plans are set at twelve calorie levels; refer to chapter 10.) If you use an extra 150 calories a day with physical activity, you need to trim only 100 to 150 calories from your day's food choices!
  • Watch your portion sizes, and the amount you serve to others. Even calories in low-fat foods can tip your energy balance toward weight gain when portions are bigger than you need.
  • When you shop, cook, and eat out, cut back on fat in your food choices. Switching from high- to low-fat foods can make a difference if the calorie content is less. Read Nutrition Facts on food labels to find out.
  • Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Being high in fiber and usually low in calories, they can help satisfy you faster. Bonus: They may take more time to chew—so you eat less!
  • After eating enough nutrient-rich foods spend any extra calories with discretion, perhaps small amounts of foods with more fat and added sugars. If you're physically active, you have more discretionary calo-

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