But eating "healthy" is not a guaranteed ticket to weight loss. We worry about those stubborn calories that can add up all too quickly, even when you're trying to eat the right things.
Dr. Caroline Cederquist, founding physician of the BistroMD weight-loss program, feels the same way. So when she offered to give Boomer Brief readers some free advice on how to make nutritious choices that can help peel away the pounds, we gladly accepted.
Lose Weight with Your Plate
By Caroline Cederquist, M.D.
Are you 50 pounds or more overweight? If so, you're in good company. About one-third of Baby Boomers are carrying 50+ extra pounds, which puts them in the "obese" category.
Most people hear "50 pounds" and think, "I'll never get there!" While this may be true, many of us are 10 to 15 pounds heavier than we should be. That's partially because, as we age, we tend to have less active lifestyles and it's easy to blame our weight gain on outside factors.
Has anybody else put on weight in the colder months or after the holidays? I sure have. Some shrug and say, "Oh, our bodies change as we get older and we've just put on age weight." But this weight gain is not just a cosmetic concern; it's a serious health issue.
To combat the annually increasing rate of obesity, our Department of Agriculture put on their thinking caps and created the USDA's My Plate. It shows a picture (as if on an actual meal plate) of what we should be eating to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet.
My Plate is designed to be easier for us to understand and follow than the food pyramid used in the past. And it is an applaud-worthy step in the right direction because eating a "healthy plate" as suggested by the USDA provides rounded nutrition. However, it doesn't cater to those of us who are overweight. It isn't designed to help us drop pounds to reduce health concerns like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol - diseases that are all too common among Boomers.
To shed those extra pounds while still eating a satisfying and healthy diet, you need a "weight-loss plate" like the one I developed working with BistroMD dietitians and experts. Although it has a look and feel similar to the USDA's My Plate, this weight-loss plan recommends meals made up of:
Fruit or healthy starches
Non-Starchy Vegetables for Your Arteries Sake
To encourage weight loss, reserve half your plate for non-starchy vegetables full of fiber and nutrition. Bring on the broccoli, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, squash, tomatoes, onions, asparagus and zucchini. While it may seem odd to fill half of your plate with these vegetables, picture your arteries becoming more flexible and it may be a bit easier to swallow.
Muscle On, Fat Off
Devote a quarter of your plate to protein. Choose chicken, turkey, fish, lean pork, lean beef or dairy products such as cottage cheese or eggs. These protein-packed foods help build muscle while taking off fat.
Starch Makes a Stark Difference
Put either fruit or a healthy starch in the remaining quarter of your plate. You can pick fruits like apples, berries, pineapple or melons. Or, if you prefer a healthy starch, try legumes (beans or peas), whole grain bread or brown rice.
Select a plate that's about 10 inches in diameter, and drink a glass of water with your food.
As the USDA has shown, what's on your plate can make a big difference in balancing your diet. But choosing nutritious foods in proportions designed to encourage weight loss could just improve your health as well as help you shed unwanted pounds.
Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., is the founding physician of BistroMD, a weight-loss program that provides nutritionally sound, low-calorie meals designed to taste great. She is a Board Certified Bariatric Physician, Board Certified Family Practice Physician and the Founder of the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center in Naples, Florida. Her scientific understanding of medical weight management through proper nutrition has allowed her to help patients all over the world achieve healthy weight loss.