Things I’ve learned working at a Weight Management Center

For the last year I’ve been working as an interventionist at Children’s Hospital’s Weight Management and Wellness Center. I work on a grant where I provide information about healthy weight loss to overweight teens and then do physical activity with them. It is amazing and I have learned so much. Having taught weight management skills I’ve realized that there are lots of little things that I’ve learned that I can share with anyone who is looking to improve their diet, regardles of whether or not they want to lose weight. Here are a few:

Healthy Plate

The idea behind the healthy plate is to divide your plate into three sections: 1/2 of the plate should be fruits and vegetables; 1/4 of the plate should be lean meats and protein; 1/4 of the plate should be starches (including potatoes and corn); and on the side there should be a serving of milk or yogurt. This can be applied to breakfast, lunch and dinner and helps to ensure that fruits and vegetables are incorporated into your diet while keeping other sources of nutrients in balance.

5/2/10 Guideline

The 5/2/10 Guideline is just that- a guideline. It is a helpful tool in making healthy food choices. The idea is that you want food that have the following characteristics per serving:

Less than 5 grams of fat

More than 2 grams of fiber

Less than 10 grams of sugar

You can see that a potato, based on this nutritional information, fits this guideline:

If you start to look, you may find that some “healthy” foods may fall slightly outside these parameters (milk is one often-cited example). Try not to engage in thinking that puts foods on a “good” or “bad” or “healthy” or “unhealthy” dichotomy. If something would fit within the guideline except that it has 11 grams of sugar (and is therefore not less than the 10 recommended by the guideline), I would still vote that this is probably a healthier option than some other foods and to eat it (as with anything else) in moderation.

Portion Size

Portion sizes have become very disorted. Use some of these helpful comparisons to keep in mind the serving sizes of average foods:

Dealing with Cravings

I am queen of craving cheese. I love it. I love it so much that my boyfriend calls Port Salut “Kat crack.” So what can I do when I have a craving?

1. I can avoid it. Use tools like distraction (wait 15 minutes to see if I’m hungry or eating based on emotion or boredom), deep breathing, chewing gum, or drinking water.

2. I can eat a small serving. In theory I could have a small serving instead of housing the entire block. I’m not sure I have that kind of self-control, so I could also try #3:

3. I can eat a substitute. A thick, creamy cheese is higher in fat and calories that reduced fat string cheese, for example. If you have a craving for chocolate try a cup of sugar-free hot chocolate or pudding.

What tips and tricks do you have for chosing healthy eating options?