Crash diets don’t work and science agrees. A study carried out by the medical journal BMJ in 2020 analysed 22,000 overweight or obese adults who were following one of fourteen popular weight loss programmes. The study grouped the programmes into three categories: low-carbohydrate, low-fat, and moderate-macronutrient.
The results were clear. While at the six-month mark, those following low fat or low carbohydrate diets had lost about ten pounds, six months later they had mostly regained the weight. Those following a macronutrient-based diet tended to lose less weight overall.
More and more experts agree that a moderate approach to a healthy lifestyle is the most sustainable one and that incorporating small changes into our lifestyle has the best long-term effect.
Last year, dietician Paula Mee told Feelgood that diets just don’t work.
“Severely restricting calories doesn’t work,” she says. “It results in compensatory changes to our physiology that increase the appetite and predispose people to regain the weight they lost.”
Here are the small changes you can make to improve the nutritional content of the food that you eat.
Eating a bowl of porridge in the morning will keep you fuller for longer. The soluble fibre found in oats has been proven to help lower cholesterol, is gentle on the tummy and is a tooth-friendly form of breakfast cereal.
If you have a craving for something savoury in the afternoon, go for some nuts. They contain heart-healthy, unsaturated fats, fibre and protein – just don’t overdo it. A small handful is enough for a snack and choose unsalted unroasted nuts for the healthiest option.
Dark chocolate is high in cocoa solids, well known for its mineral content. The cacao plant boasts high levels of minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc, as well as antioxidants, such as flavanols and polyphenols, that can also have health benefits. Because both dark and milk chocolate also contain cocoa butter and sugar — not so high on health benefits — it’s always worth choosing the highest percentage of cocoa available.
If you want to stay fuller for longer, reach for the wholegrain alternative to your bread every time. Brown bread is high fibre, meaning that you’ll be delivering slow-release energy to your body every time.
Often, fruit juice is missing the fibre that the fruit provides, so if you drink more than one glass of orange juice a day, for example, it might be worth substituting one of them for the whole fruit.
Choose lean meat where possible, and poach, grill or bake it where possible.
Shop-bought salad dressings can be full of additives and hidden sugars. Make your own vinaigrette by shaking three parts oil with one part acid (vinegar or lemon juice) and store in a jar in the fridge.
When consumed in moderation, coffee can have great health benefits, particularly in terms of liver health where studies have shown that moderate amounts of coffee can slow the progression of liver disease.
Try to incorporate fruit and vegetables into your sauces too. Favour tomato-based sauces over creamy ones.
Swap meat for fish once or twice a week and try to eat at least one portion of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines which will contribute to your heart health.