Facts with Hope
FACT: Most people fail at restricting calories as a strategy for weight loss. Not only does calorie-counting require a lot of work, most don’t stick with it long enough to lose significant weight and keep it off.
HOPE: You can eat as much as you like of plant foods that are naturally high in fiber and low fat—and with better results. Researchers randomly assigned overweight adults to five different low-fat, low-glycemic-index, no calorie-counting diets that varied only in the amount of animal products they included. After six months, those on a vegan diet lost seven percent of their body weight, while the groups that ate plants plus dairy, fish or meat lost three to four percent of their body weight. Although both groups benefited from restriction of high-glycemic foods, researchers believe that the vegan group lost more weight because their diet contained less fat, which contains twice as many calories as carbohydrates or proteins.1
FACT: Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who regularly consumed a one-ounce daily serving of walnuts, almonds, cashews or other tree nuts had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the three-decade long study compared to those who did not eat nuts.2
HOPE: The study found that nut eaters enjoyed longer lifespans even if they did not exercise, avoided fruits and vegetables, and were overweight. Although not a magic bullet, nuts are nutritious foods filled with folate, potassium, fiber, good monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants. By replacing some empty calorie foods with a handful of nuts, you can reduce your risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and a number of other causes.
FACT: Eating dinner with the family (and without the TV on) is linked to lower body mass index (BMI). Researchers examined the everyday family dinner rituals of 190 families and found that families that frequently eat together – and stay seated at the table until everyone’s finished – had significantly lower BMIs for both adults and children compared to families who ate elsewhere. The researchers believe that the family dinners provide strong, positive socialization skills that possibly supplant the need to overeat. 3
HOPE: Dinner rituals are an easy way for you to fight obesity in your family—and make lasting positive memories. Start simply with one or two dinners each week that everyone can sit down together at the table to eat. Light a candle, hold hands during the blessing, raise your glasses in a toast, or take turns sharing the favorite part about the day. Chances are, family dinners will become the best part of the day!
FACT: Under the Affordable Care Act, restaurant chains with 20 or more locations nationally must post the calorie content of all regular drink and food items on their menu board or on printed menus. However, less than half of people eating out notice the calorie counts on menus, and those that do notice don’t use the information to impact what they order or how often they frequent the restaurant.4
HOPE: Many fast food and restaurant foods are high in fat and sodium and low in dietary fiber. However, healthy food choices, such as low-fat milk, apple slices, garden burgers, and salads, are increasingly available. You can lower your risk for obesity, hypertension, and other lifestyle-related diseases by paying attention to the labeling of fast food items—and using the calorie labeling to order fewer calories.
- Turner-McGrievy, B., Wingard, E., Davidson, C., Taylor, M., & Wilcox, S. (November 15, 2013). How plant-based do we need to be to achieve weight loss? Results of the new dietary interventions to enhance the treatments for weight loss (New DIETs) study. The Obesity Society Annual Meeting Oral Abstract. Retrieved from http://2013.obesityweek.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/FRI_TOS_Abstract_Book_FINAL.pdf
- Bao, Y., Han, J., Hu, F. B., Giovannucci, E. L., Stampfer, M. J., Willett, W. C., & Fuchs, C. S. (2013). Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. New England Journal of Medicine 369(21), 2001-2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1307352
- Wansink, B., & van Kleef, E. (October 1, 2013). Dinner rituals that correlate with child and adult BMI. Obesity, published online ahead of print October 1, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oby.20629
- Elbel, B., Mijanovich, T., Dixon, B., Abrams, C., Weitzman, B., Kersh, R., … Ogedegbe, G. (2013). Calorie labeling, fast food purchasing and restaurant visits. Obesity 21(11), 2172–2179. Http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oby.20550