How to Control Weight by Choosing the Right Foods

Controlling cravings is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight. Sometimes hunger is a signal that the body needs fuel, but other times it can be triggered by emotional or psychological conditions like stress, anger, anxiety or depression.

The type of calories matters. Fat, protein, and carbohydrates all have their place in a healthful diet.

Eat the Right Foods

The foods you choose affect your weight as well as the balance of calories in and out. Research shows that certain food patterns-including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts, and healthful plant oils-may help control weight. At the same time, other foods-sugary drinks, refined grains, and processed meats, for example-may increase the risk of obesity and disease. When shopping, look for unprocessed foods and limit those high in fat (butter, margarine), salt, and sugar. Try to fill half your plate with vegetables and the other half with low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Choose water instead of sugary beverages. Eat fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Limit Added Sugars

A high intake of added sugars is linked with negative health outcomes, including obesity. Encourage patients to make simple swaps in their diets that will help them limit sugar and reduce their calorie intake.

Unlike naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and milk, added sugars are present in foods that have been processed or manufactured, such as sugary beverages (regular soft drinks, sweetened tea and coffee, energy drinks and fruit juice), candy, desserts and cookies. Patients can learn how to identify these foods by reading the ingredients on food labels. Sugars are listed under the “Total Carbohydrates” heading, but they also can be spotted by looking at the list of ingredients and noticing the word sugar or other words such as sucrose, dextrose, maltose, corn syrup, honey, maple and agave syrups and molasses.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends that Americans consume no more than 10% of their calories from added sugars, which is about 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

Eat Healthy Fats

Fat is an essential nutrient and should make up 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. It helps you feel satiated, provides energy and is required for normal body functions. The key is choosing the right fats. Healthy fats include unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These are found in foods like olive oil, avocados and nuts. They also provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are important for your health. Unhealthy fats include saturated and trans fats which are found in processed meats, fried foods, pies, cakes, biscuits and cookies. They also include butter, lard, tallow and suet. These should be limited or avoided if weight loss is the goal of your meal plan.

Each gram of fat has nine calories, so be mindful of how many you consume. If you’re unsure which fats are the best for you, talk to your WW coach or dietitian who can help you make the right choices.