Planning a healthy diet for weight loss is an important part of obesity treatment. The ideal diet is one that you can maintain with lifestyle changes that are individualized for your particular situation.
For weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Most experts recommend that you reduce the calories you intake by 500 per day, but still eat at least 1200 calories a day if you're a woman or 1500 if you're a man. This will allow for a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 kilograms (2.2 to 4.4 pounds) per month. The most you should lose in a week is 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). More than this and you'll be losing precious muscle, not fat.
There are so many diet plans to choose from that it can be hard to figure out what is best for you: low-carb, high-protein, low-fat, and combinations of these! However, there is not enough evidence to recommend any of these diets over a balanced one. It appears that over the long term, imbalanced diets offer no additional weight loss benefits and they may be harder to maintain. So eating a healthy, balanced diet appears to be the way to go.
Points to keep in mind when planning your diet:
- Canada's Food Guide is an excellent nutritional resource. For adults, it recommends servings from each of the following four food groups (the specific number of servings depends on your age and sex):
- 6 to 8 servings of grain products per day (emphasize whole grain)
- 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit per day
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat milk products per day
- 2 to 3 servings of low-fat meat and alternatives per day
- Choose complex carbohydrates more often and reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates (sugars) you eat. Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which are also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
- Increased fibre intake can help weight loss by reducing absorption of food and by aiding in digestion. A diet rich in fibre can help by making you feel fuller. It is recommended for adults to consume 21 g to 38 g of fibre daily.
- Drink more water and less pop, juice, and specialty coffees or teas, as they contain lots of calories.
- Replace some carbohydrate with protein to help you feel full longer.
- Always eat breakfast.
- Watch your portion sizes.
The ideal diet is one that you can maintain with lifestyle changes that are individualized for your particular situation. Work with your doctor or dietitian to develop a healthy weight loss diet that suits your needs.
Keep in mind that combining a reduced-calorie diet with physical activity improves your chances of keeping weight off more than if you just diet. Read "Physical activity and obesity" for more information.