As I mentioned yesterday, for the past couple of weeks at WW, we’ve been focusing on healthy eating & lifestyle guidelines. One of the great things about WW, and one of the reasons it’s been around longer than I have, is that there are no gimmicks—no pills, no pre-packaged food you have to buy/eat, no menus forced upon you telling you when and what to eat. Of course, that means that the person who chooses WW as their support group for losing weight must have much more self-motivation than people who go on a plan that provides your menus/meals for you. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. Today, I want to give a broad overview of the healthy eating guidelines that are from both WW and the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
Fruits & Vegetables
Recommended daily: 5 to 9 servings (depending on your weight; the more you weigh, the more servings of fruit and veg you should eat). Health.gov puts it this way: “Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.” (We’ll look more in-depth as to what constitutes a “serving” as this varies from variety to variety.)
Recommended daily: 2 servings (3 if you are pregnant or nursing, over fifty years old, or more than 350 lbs). A serving of dairy is along the lines of 1 cup of milk (choose lower-fat to skim varieties), 1 cup low-fat/fat-free yogurt (watch this—most brands are packaging these in 6-ounce tubs now—also be aware of sugar content), 1.5 oz. of low-fat/reduced-fat/fat-free cheese, 2 oz. of low-fat or fat-free processed cheese (like the 2% American cheese slices at most grocery stores).
Recommended daily: At least 6 eight-ounce servings a day. Water is recommended, but any fluid counts (juices, coffee, tea, sodas, etc.). Try to limit your caffeine intake (caffeine is a diuretic which has a dehydrating effect on the body), and avoid beverages with sugar in them. Alcoholic beverages do not count. Yes, the guideline on this used to be 8 eight-ounce servings (64 ounces) every day, but there is no scientific data to back this up.
Recommended daily: 2 teaspoons of heart-healthy oils such as olive, canola, flaxseed, sunflower. Avoid saturated/trans fats. We need fat in our diets, and these oils contain nutrients that we also need, such as vitamin E.
Recommended daily: 1 to 2 servings per day. What constitutes a serving varies on the meat, and this is where most people get tripped up. A 10-ounce steak (one of the smallest sizes you can get at most restaurants) is actually about 3 to 3-1/2 servings of protein. A standard serving size of meat is about 3 to 4 ounces (or about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of traditional playing cards). Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds count in this category.
Recommended daily: Health.gov recommends 6 to 8 ounces per day of whole-grain foods. (WW doesn’t have a daily recommendation for consumption, just to “choose whole-grain products whenever possible.”) “Whole grain” is different than “multi-grain,” so be sure to check the labels. Try to choose products that have at least 3–4 grams of fiber per serving—that means you’re getting more complex carbs and fewer simple carbs (sugars). This category covers breads, cereals, rice, pasta, etc.
Sugar & Alcohol
Recommended daily: Limit intake. According to the WW guidelines, women should have no more than 1 serving of an alcoholic beverage per day (4 oz wine, 6–8 ounces of beer) and men should have no more than 2 servings. And I think we all know why we should limit/avoid sugar!
Recommended daily: At least 500 mg but no more than 2,000 mg per day (based on a 2,000 calorie diet). Actually, a good rule of thumb is to try to match the number of mg of sodium to your targeted calorie consumption. For example, if you’re trying to keep your calorie-count to about 1,500, shoot for consuming only 1,500 mg of sodium. Processed foods are horrible for containing massive amounts of sodium. Don’t be fooled by the “lower sodium” starburst on the front of the package. Read the label. Most canned soups contain about 800 to 900 mg of sodium per serving (with 2.5 servings per can of condensed soup). I’ll have a lot more to say about this topic when we get to it—I’ve become sodium sensitive in the past few years and have learned a lot about it!
Recommended daily: Between 30 and 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day “most” days of the week (aim for five days). This includes what we usually call “exercise” (walking, running, swimming, cycling, sports, classes, the gym, etc.) but also includes activities such as housework, yard work, dancing, or any physical activity which increases your pulse and breathing for a sustained period of time. You can do it all at once, or in several 10- to 15-minute bursts.
So, which shall we tackle first?