Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Simple Rules for Eating Sugar & 6 Foods with Hidden Sugar

Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals like chocolate.

Sandra Boynton

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5 Simple Rules for Eating Sugar

Few topics boggle dieters and fitness enthusiasts the way sugar does. Is this simple carbohydrate the key to unlocking elite sports performance? Or is it the chains that drag our country deeper into the obesity epidemic? Annoyingly, the answer is both. But before you throw your hands up in frustration and grab yourself a Twinkie®, let's take a minute to talk about sugar. It's not as complex as it seems. In fact, with just a few guidelines, it's incredibly easy to use these simple carbohydrates for good instead of evil.

Upside-Down Cupcake

Rule #1: Just say "know."

Here's a grossly oversimplified look at how sugar, also known as simple carbohydrates, works. Just as with all carbs, you eat sugar and it's absorbed by your blood, where, if you have the right amount of it, the insulin in your system converts the sugar to energy. However, if you introduce too much sugar into your system, the insulin stores it as body fat. A little stored body fat is fine; the body likes some emergency fuel. However, if your blood sugar spikes too often and the insulin has to work too hard converting fat, this can lead to a variety of health issues, including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Broken Chocolate BarAs we'll discuss later, when your body obtains sugar from natural sources, like fruits and veggies, the process tends to be checked by fiber, which slows absorption. However, when you eat foods with added sugar, this can overwhelm the usual checks and balances, causing problems like those nasty blood sugar spikes. To make matters worse, consuming too much added sugar can cause a host of other problems, including tooth decay, increased triglycerides (or stored fat), and malnutrition (from overconsumption of foods filled with empty calories and deficient in nutrients).

If you wanted one overarching rule to work from, you might choose to avoid added sugars entirely. You'll get all the energy you need from foods with naturally occurring sugar. That said, there are times when refined sugar is okay or even beneficial. If you're able to build yourself a lifestyle completely free of added sugar, nice work. But for the rest of us, the trick is moderation.

Rule #2: Less is more.

Cup of Tea, Teaspoon, and Sugar CubeOne teaspoon of table sugar has 15 calories. Honestly, if you have a couple of cups of tea or coffee in the morning and you dump the proverbial spoonful of sugar in each, that's 30 calories. If the rest of your diet is tight and you're active, it won't matter. If you're trying to lose weight and eating at a severe deficit, you'll probably want to skip those few spoonfuls of sugar, because table sugar is nutritionally void and you want every calorie to count nutritionally. Other than that, though, life's short—enjoy your java.

Rule #3: High fructose corn syrup is the enemy . . .

In a recent study out of Princeton University, two groups of rats were fed a sucrose solution and a high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) solution. The rats that consumed the corn syrup got fatter. "Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity," said study leader Bart Hoebel, "but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests."

There are a few possible explanations for this. One is that the ratio of fructose to glucose in HFCS is slightly higher. Another is that in the HFCS manufacturing process, fructose molecules are free and unbound, making them easier to absorb. The fructose in table sugar is bonded to the glucose, which means it requires an extra step to be used.1

Rule #3.5: . . . and it's hiding behind every corner.

And you thought Invasion of the Body Snatchers was creepy . . . Avoiding the obvious sweetened foods like soda, cake, cookies, and pies is only half the battle. Manufacturers add HFCS (as well as other sugars) to a mind-boggling amount of foods because it adds flavor. If it's in a bottle, box, or can, read the ingredients. You'll find sweeteners in everything from ketchup to peanut butter to bread to salad dressing. With a little effort, you can usually find versions of the same food with no added sugars or HFCS that are more nutritious and taste just as good.

Rule #4: No, the sugar in fruit isn't bad for you.

OrangeWhen the low-carb "revolution" hit in the early aughts, fruit was demonized for its sugar content. This is, in a word, ridiculous. Yes, fruit is loaded with sugar, but it's also usually loaded with fiber, which slows sugar absorption, making it an ideal way to get your simple carbs without straining your little insulin buddies. Fruit is also loaded with easy-to-absorb vitamins and minerals. Most fruit is also filled with water, yet another benefit.

Even relatively low-fiber fruits like bananas offer far too many benefits to deny. Bananas, in particular, are rich in electrolytes, which are crucial to sports performance. As I always say, I defy you to introduce me to an overweight person whose biggest indulgence is fruit.

You can think of the ingredients in any Meal replacement shake the same way. Sure, there's a little sugar in there, but the protein and fiber slow absorption, and the massive amount of nutrients makes it all worthwhile.

Rule #5: Occasionally, a hit of straight sugar is a good thing.

Results and Recovery Formula™You're sitting around watching television. You haven't done much today. Your glycogen stores are up, and because you've eaten normally, your blood sugar level is balanced.

Conversely, you just blasted a killer workout. You've blown through your blood sugar and your glycogen, leaving you shaky and tired. Now, getting some sugar in there to recharge quickly wouldn't be such a bad idea. Furthermore, since it'll rush in so fast, it's a great opportunity to add some protein and micronutrients to that sugar blast, because they'll rush into where they're needed just as fast.

If you genuinely gave the workout your all and you're truly wiped out, you won't even come close to storing that sugar as fat.

So there you go. Not so tough, huh? With a little forethought and self-control, keeping an eye on your carbs can be, ahem, a piece of cake.

6 Foods With Hidden Sugar
ByBy Joe Wilkes

The average American eats approximately 1,500 pounds of food every year. Of that, 160 pounds are primarily sugar. Of course, sugar is delicious, and I know I'm happier for its existence, but of all the things we consume, it has the least nutritive value. In fact, except for the energy in its calories, there's not much to recommend about sugar. It's a prime source of empty calories, and for those of us who are trying to lose weight, sugar's the first thing we should start trimming from our diets. But here's the problem—despite our best intentions to remove excess sugar from our diet, the food industry has found more and more devious ways of slipping us the sweet stuff. Whether the food industry calls sugar by another name or adds it to foods we never thought would have needed it, our sweet tooth is constantly being bombarded. Fortunately, with stricter labeling laws, we have a fighting chance at cutting back on sugar.

Food Products with Hidden Sugar

Why does the food industry want to fill us so full of sugar?

It's basically the same as any other industry. For the oil industry to make more money, it needs us to use more of its product by driving more miles. The food industry needs us to use more of its product by eating more calories. The problem is that the American food industry is already producing around 3,900 calories per person per day, which is way more than we need. One solution to this surplus is to sell the food cheaply overseas, which the industry does. The other solution is for Americans to eat more calories. And sugar and its corn-sweetener brethren are great calorie delivery systems, as they pack a huge caloric punch without causing much satiety or feeling of fullness. Most people would probably stop eating steak after they reached 1,000 calories, because they'd be stuffed, but after you drank 1,000 calories from your Big Gulp®cup, there'd still be room for dinner. The other reason the industry pushes sugar so hard is that it's cheap to produce, and the cheaper the calorie, the larger the profit margin.

Sugar in labels—hiding in plain sight.

Nutrition LabelOne of the best ways to disguise the amount of sugar in a product is something the government already requires—printing the information in grams. Most Americans only have the foggiest idea of how much a gram is, because we're unaccustomed to the metric system. So when we pick up a can of soda that contains 40 grams of sugar, we pretty much shrug our shoulders and pop the top. And that attitude is all right with the soda industry! But what if the label said that it contained over 10 teaspoons of sugar? If you saw someone ladling 10 teaspoons of sugar into their morning coffee, you'd think they were crazy, but that's how much people consume in a typical 12-ounce can. A 64-ounce fountain drink you'd get at a movie theater or a convenience store contains more than 53 teaspoons of sugar—almost two cups! Naturally, people would probably think twice if the nutritional information on products was given in measurements that were meaningful to them. But until our heavily food industry–subsidized government decides to change its policy, it's a metric world, we just live in it. But we can take note that four grams equals one teaspoon. So when you check out the label, divide the grams of sugar by four, and that's how many teaspoons you're consuming.

Sugar, by any other name, would taste just as sweet.

Adding Sweetener to TeaAnother strategy the sugar pushers use to get us to consume more calories is to rename the offending ingredient. We know to stay away from sugar, but how about molasses, honey, sorghum, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, sucrose, galactose, maltose, or concentrated juices like grape or apple? Another path to profit that the food industry has discovered is that instead of harvesting relatively more expensive sugar cane and beets, they can produce sweeteners in a laboratory more cheaply and with just as many calories as beet and cane sugar. And with some sweeteners, especially the popular HCFS, it is believed that your body will be less likely to reach satiety than with sugar, so you can consume more. Mo' calories, mo' money. Another advantage to these doses of -oses is that, aside from the fact that many people won't guess they're just different forms of sugar, they can be spread out in the ingredient list required by law, so it won't be as obvious that what you're consuming is pretty much all sugar. When you look at a list of ingredients on a product, the manufacturer is required to list them in order of amount, from highest to lowest. So they can bury a quarter cup of fructose, a quarter cup of sucrose, a quarter cup of dextrose, and a quarter cup of corn syrup in the middle of the list, so you won't be as likely to notice that when you add them all up, the main ingredient in the product is sugar.

Hide and seek. You're it.

So, if you're like me, you may have sworn off soda except for special occasions, and turned the candy bowl into an unsalted-almond bowl. No more sugar, no more problems. Except for this problem—the food industry has cleverly snuck its sugars into products where we never would have thought to look for sugar. It's good for the manufacturer. It jacks up the calorie load, can enhance the product's appearance (high fructose corn syrup gives hamburger buns their golden glow), and can keep our sugar jones simmering at a low boil, in case we ever decide to go back to the real thing. Here are some types of products whose labels could bear more scrutiny.

  1. Spaghetti sauce. A half cup of store-bought sauce can contain as many as three teaspoons of corn syrup or sugar. While some of the naturally occurring sugar in tomatoes and other vegetables will show up on the nutrition label, most of the sugar is added. Look for brands that don't include sugar or its aliases or make your own from fresh or canned tomatoes.
  2. Ketchup. Ketchup can be 20 percent sugar or more. Not to mention that you'll get 7 percent of your daily sodium allowance in one tablespoon. Look for low-salt, no-sugar brands, or make your own, using pureed carrots to add flavor and texture to the tomatoes.
  3. Reduced-fat cookies. Most brands of cookies now offer a reduced-fat version of their product. Nabisco® even offers its own line of low-fat treats, Snackwell's®. But while you're patting yourself on the back for choosing the low-fat option, check the label. The sneaky food manufacturers did take out the fat, but they replaced it with, you guessed it, sugar. Many times, the reduced-fat cookie is only slightly less caloric than the one you want to eat. And because there's no fat to make you feel full, you'll be tempted to eat more "guilt-free" cookies. And just because there's less fat, it doesn't mean you'll be less fat. Fat doesn't make you fat. Calories make you fat.
  4. Low-fat salad dressing. As with low-fat cookies, manufacturers have taken the fat out of the dressing, but they've added extra salt and sugar to make up for it. Check the label to make sure you're not replacing heart-healthy olive oil with diabetes-causing sugar—because that's not really a "healthy choice." Your best bet? Make your own vinaigrettes using a small amount of olive oil, a tasty gourmet vinegar or fresh lemon juice, and some fresh herbs.
  5. Bread. Most processed breads can contain a good bit of sugar or corn syrup. As always, check the ingredient label, and consider getting your bread at a real bakery or a farmers' market—it's the best idea since, well, you know.
  6. Fast food. Needless to say, fast food is generally not good for you. But even if you're staying away from the sodas and the shakes, everything from the burgers to the fries to the salads is a potential place to hide sugar. Check out the ingredients carefully at your favorite restaurant. You may be getting more than you bargained for.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Learn how to properly time meals and workouts to build lean muscle and burn more calories.

Eating for Exercise

Learn how to properly time meals and workouts to build lean muscle and burn more calories.

We all know food is fuel, so it only makes sense that a proper fill-up is critical to a rewarding workout. Even if you're looking to lose weight, skimping on calories before exercise is not the path to success. Not only will it result in a lack of energy, but more muscle mass will actually be lost than created.

"Basic exercise does not burn all that many calories," says William D. Hart, PhD, assistant professor in the department of health sciences at Rogers State University in Claremore, Okla. "You cannot get rid of the three pieces of pumpkin pie at the gym tomorrow. But exercise adds muscle, so that over time your body naturally burns more calories per day."

For a healthy diet, Hart recommends following the United States Department of Agriculture My Pyramid guidelines, emphasizing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables while avoiding fried and fatty foods.

As for exercise, it's critical to combine weight training with high-intensity interval work during aerobic activities such as walking or jogging on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine.

Pre-Workout Meal Plan

While it's important to eat something before exercising, be careful to allow enough time for digestion. A good blood supply is required to process food, so conflicts can occur when the same blood is needed to bring nutrients to muscles during a workout. "Your goal is to make sure that the meal is essentially gone when you start the exercise," says Hart. "A good rule of thumb would be eating no closer than one and a half to two hours ahead of time."

Keep in mind that the amount of fat in the meal and the intensity of the exercise can also affect digestion time. The more fat, the longer it takes to be digested and the more time should be allowed. How taxing the workout is can change the amount of blood needed for the muscles. If the exercise is mild, eating closer to the start time is acceptable.

As to the type of food, Thomas A. Fox, an exercise physiologist and author of The System for Health and Weight Loss, recommends fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread. An ideal pre-workout meal consists of protein — 10 to 35 percent, carbohydrates — 45 to 65 percent, and fat — 20 to 35 percent.

And what about those who exercise in the morning vs. the evening? The timing really shouldn't affect the diet. Many people have a preference for foods appropriate to the time of day, but as long as the right amount and type of calories are ingested, the specific selection is not important.

Post-Workout Meal Plan

If the exercise has been intense, it's crucial to eat within an hour of the end of the workout in order to refuel the body's cells. "A decent-sized meal within that 60-minute post-workout period will greatly increase the ability to recover and help build lean muscle tissue," says Jonathan Mulholland, DC, a chiropractor, exercise scientist, and consultant for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. An ideal ratio is 4:1 carbohydrates to protein, with an easy option being a glass of chocolate skim milk.

For mild workouts, a light snack is sufficient to tide you over until the next meal. Another good idea is eating less but more frequently, since consuming more than can be digested and burned at one time translates to the extra food turning into fat.

Finally, no matter when or how vigorous the exercise, be sure to always eat breakfast. A variety of studies have shown people who ate the most in the morning are generally thinner and consumed fewer calories the rest of the day. Turns out, Mom was right all along.

Last Updated: 04/06/2009
This section created and produced exclusively by the editorial staff of © 2010; all rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Muscle vs. Fat: Ways to Gain Muscle

Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat?

Compact and efficient, muscle burns more calories and can bring faster diet results.

Like a lot of people, you might think that muscle weighs more than fat.

“When I hear this statement, I always think of the old riddle: Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks?” says Laura Stusek, MS, fitness coordinator for Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. “A pound is a pound!”

Muscle vs. Fat: Clearing Up the Misconception

Common sense tells us a pound of muscle and a pound of fat have to weigh the same, but they do differ in density. This means if you look at five pounds of muscle and five pounds of fat side by side, the fat takes up more volume, or space, than the muscle. That’s important when you’re on adiet and part of your goal is the lean look of muscle, not the flabby look of fat.

So why do people say muscle weighs more than fat?

“I find people make this statement when they put on weight,” says Stusek. “One person will say, ‘I gained three pounds and I’ve been working out.’ The good-friend response is, ‘It’s all muscle.’ And while this is a very comforting thing to hear, it’s just impossible to gain three pounds of muscle in a week. It is common for exercisers to lose fat and gain muscle without a change in body weight, so I understand why people often get frustrated."

Muscle vs. Fat: The Truth

The first step in a successful diet and exercise program is to banish the idea that muscle weighs more and is therefore bad. In fact, Stusek recommends tossing out the scale altogether.

“I try to get people to think about how they are feeling, how their clothes are fitting, and how their body has changed,” Stusek advises. “It’s a hard thing to do sometimes. The focus should not just be the number on the scale. If we only did things to make ourselves weigh less, we wouldn’t necessarily be healthier.”

Muscle vs. Fat: The Benefits of Muscle

In fact, not only should dieters stop thinking of muscle as the enemy, they should embrace it as their friend.

Muscle boosts a person’s metabolism, so a pound of muscle will burn more calories at rest than a pound of fat. What does this mean? Even when you’re not exercising — you could be sitting on the couch watching TV — you will be burning more calories just by having more muscle.

Muscle has other benefits, too. It’s critical in improving bone density and helps prevent the loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging, allowing people to stay active as they get older.

There’s no doubt cardio workouts such as jogging, cycling, and walking are important for calorie burning and good health. But strength training is vital, too. “Of course, we always think of lifting weights to put on muscle, and many fear they will become ‘bulky,’” says Stusek. “Women need to stop worrying about this.”

There are plenty of options to build muscle, ranging from free weights to resistance bands and even plain old soup cans. Stusek recommends enlisting the help of a personal trainer to design a balanced, full-body workout for the best results. “Or if you want to bulk up, lift heavy weights and do low repetitions,” she says. And two or three times a week, with at least one day off in between for muscle recovery, is sufficient.

Ultimately, building muscle mass is a good thing. So find some enjoyable exercises and get lifting.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Myths and Facts About Joint Pain What's really going on with your aches and pain

Myths and Facts About Joint Pain

What's really going on with your aches and pain

Medically reviewed by Ed Zimney, MD

Some days Leslie Gluck, 60, can't get out of bed. She has had rheumatoid arthritis for more than 20 years, and the pain can be almost unbearable. But in Southern California, where Leslie lives, the dry heat feels soothing to her swollen joints. Is it really soothing, or is that effect just in Leslie's mind? What are the real facts on what causes, cures, hinders, and helps arthritis and joint pain?

Joint pain myths and management

Joint Pain Myth No. 1: All joint pain is arthritis.
There are more than 50 types of arthritis, but having a swollen, achy joint does not mean you have one of them. "You need to be properly diagnosed and treated," says Elaine Husni, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Center Orthopedic and Rheumatologic Institute, at the Cleveland Clinic, "You may not even have arthritis, but rather a soft tissue injury or bursitis." Only a visit to a doctor will let you know for sure.

Joint Pain Myth No. 2: Popping knuckles causes arthritis.
Sure, we've all heard this one before. Mom always said, Stop cracking those knuckles or you'll end up giving yourself arthritis. But according to Mark A. McQuillan, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Divisions of General Medicine and Rheumatology, at the University of Michigan, popping of the knuckles is just a vacuum phenomenon. When you pull on your knuckles, a bit of excess nitrogen gas that was dissolved in your blood literally makes a popping noise. So no, you won't get arthritis from knuckle popping, though you may annoy those around you.

Joint Pain Fact: Dry, warm weather helps relieve joint pain.
According to Dr. McQuillan, arthritis patients feel an uncomfortable pressure in their joints on days of high humidity and low barometric pressure, especially just before a storm. A drier climate means a minimum of pressure. "Before you plan a major move, however, it's good to test out drier weather for a few weeks, to see if it works for you," says Dr. McQuillan.

Joint Pain Myth No. 3: Exercise can aggravate joint pain. Exercise is beneficial for everyone, with or without arthritis, says Dr. McQuillan. If you are in pain, forgo intense exercise and try some light stretching, or switch to workouts that are less taxing on the joints, such as the stationary bike or swimming. "The most important thing is just to get more movement in your life. Remember: Use it or lose it," says Dr. Husni. "The more exercise you do, the better your range of motion."

Joint Pain Fact: Diet can be a factor in preventing arthritis. Yes — and no. Maintaining a healthy weight can help ward off certain types of arthritis. "Keeping close to your ideal weight will be protective against osteoarthritis," says Dr. McQuillan, because obesity has been linked to osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. However, diet has not been proven to have a direct link to the cause or prevention of other forms of arthritis.

Joint Pain Myth No. 4: There's no way to prevent arthritis-caused joint damage.Arthritis medications — including COX-2 inhibitors, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-TNF compounds, corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) — canhelp reduce inflammation, relieve painful symptoms, and prevent joint damage. In patients who delay treatment, "we can see drastic erosions in joints in as little as three to six months, which don't grow back," says Dr. Husni. It's best to see your doctor to determine a treatment plan that can help you maintain your quality of life and better manage your condition.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Snack Food Hall of Shame Maintaining a healthy diet doesn't mean you have to give up delicious snacks, but watch what you reach for!

The Snack Food Hall of Shame

Maintaining a healthy diet doesn't mean you have to give up delicious snacks, but watch what you reach for!

When Snacks Attack

When Snacks Attack

If you buy a snack at a fast-food restaurant or other convenience outlet, beware. Most takeout foods are much higher in fat and calories than you might think. For instance, a Carrot Walnut Spice Muffin at Au Bon Pain packs in nearly one-third the calories you need in a day and half the fat. To avoid these calorie traps when you're on the go, take healthy low-fat snacks such as fruits and vegetables with you. If you've got a healthy snack in the car, you won't be as tempted to purchase one of these.

Au Bon Pain Carrot Walnut Spice Muffin

Au Bon Pain Carrot Walnut Spice Muffin

550 calories, 27 grams of fat

The Everyday Health Swap: You may be seduced by the sweet spice of this carrot muffin, but are the double-digit fat grams really worth it? Instead, try one of these alternatives:

Carrot Raisin Bread
99 calories, 3 grams of fat

Oatmeal Carrot Muffins
151 calories, 3 grams of fat

Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Chip Muffin

Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Chip Muffin

590 calories, 24 grams of fat

The Everyday Health Swap: You can have your cake and eat it too — if it's not high in fat! Indulge in these mouth-watering cupcakes or delicate souffl├ęs:

Chocolate-Cream Cheese Cupcakes
166 calories, 5 grams of fat

Chocolate Souffl├ęs
109 calories, 2 grams of fat

Mrs. Fields Semi-Sweet Chocolate & Walnuts Cookie

Mrs. Fields Semi-Sweet Chocolate & Walnuts Cookie

310 calories, 16 grams of fat

The Everyday Health Swap: Most of us love chocolate chip cookies, but none of us love extra calories! Try this lower-calorie recipe for a classic cookie:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
72 calories, 3 grams of fat

Krispy Kreme Glazed Creme Filled Doughnut

Krispy Kreme Glazed Creme Filled Doughnut

360 calories, 19 grams of fat

The Everyday Health Swap: You can chuck more than half of those fat grams and still indulge in a creamy, rich dessert.

186 calories, 8 grams of fat

Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo'd

Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo'd

860 calories, 21 grams of fat

The Everyday Health Swap: Frozen, creamy drinks can be tasty and low-fat!

Mango-Strawberry Smoothie
142 calories, 1 gram of fat

Root Beer Frosty
49 calories, no fat

Chocolate-Banana Sipper
122 calories, 1 gram of fat

Cinnabon Classic Roll

Cinnabon Classic Roll

730 calories, 24 grams of fat

The Everyday Health Swap: Serve these delicious desserts warm and enjoy without any guilt!

Apple Coffee Cake
196 calories, 8 grams of fat

Apple Cinnamon Cobbler
258 calories, 10 grams of fat

Starbucks Grande White Chocolate Mocha

Starbucks Grande White Chocolate Mocha

480 calories, 20 grams of fat (with whole milk)

The Everyday Health Swap: Pre-make a pitcher of this low-fat, low-calorie coffee drink so you can grab it on the go.

Iced Mocha
46 calories, 1 gram of fat

Friday, June 4, 2010

Is Your Family Hampering Your Weight Loss?

Is Your Family Hampering Your Weight Loss?

They say the kitchen is the heart of the house. To avoid heartbreak when you're on a weight-loss diet, you'll need to find ways to balance your goals with other family members' eating habits.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your husband, children, and any other loved ones living with you were super-excited about eating more veggies and whole grains? What if they thanked you profusely for saving money and boosting their health by never buying sodas, cakes, or potato chips again? While most family members want to be supportive of your weight-loss goals, they may be less than pleased to find out that changes in the kitchen to help with your diet affect them, too. Here’s how to get your family onboard, even if they’re not dieting.

The Family Kitchen: Enlist Support That Benefits Everyone

“Most of the time, family members are quite supportive, especially if the patient has a medical diagnosis,” says Cynthia Wu, PhD, RD, clinical dietitian at Ohio State University Medical Center. “If the family is not onboard with the dietary changes, it does pose significant challenges to your weight-loss effort.”

To demonstrate how family support will help everyone, share this research:

  • A husband’s support has been shown to help obese women with type 2 diabetes lose weight.
  • Family support has been proven to help people with heart disease make healthy changes.
  • A supportive family gets you moving if you need more physical activity.
  • If a family works on health improvement together, greater weight loss results.
  • Healthy meal planning is easier if your family is in favor of it.

“Convey the changes as a way of improving overall health for the family rather than merely a way for you to lose weight,” says Wu.

One way to get family members’ buy-in is to invite them to meet with any of your doctors, dietitians, or trainers, who can speak to them about why the changes you are making are important.

The Family Kitchen: Let Your Diet Improve Family Health

Many dieters have to become expert cooks and food managers out of necessity. Most of the changes you make to the kitchen — the heart of your home — will benefit everybody, even if they don’t realize it yet. Here are subtle strategies that will help your diet as they improve your family’s health:

  • Model correct food portion sizes. As you learn about healthy portion sizes, share this knowledge with your family as well, even when they are indulging in treats you are avoiding.
  • Gradually switch to healthier food choices. As you move towards a more varied diet with lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can lose weight and your family will be healthier.
  • Offer a “fun meal day” as a weekly compromise. Wu recommends at least one day a week when family can choose and prepare the meal or go out to a favorite restaurant. If it’s at home, just make sure you serve yourself a portion size that suits your weight-loss plan; at a restaurant, order a dish in keeping with your diet.

The Family Kitchen: Solutions for Diet Sabotage

One of the reasons family members react badly to diet changes is the fear of never having their favorite treats again. In the worst-case scenario, your loved ones may consciously or unconsciously sabotage your efforts by bringing foods that weaken your resolve into the house or asking you to cook and serve fattening favorites.

There are many ways to handle this, but Wu prefers a velvet-glove approach. “You may need to be a little creative in your tactics. You can make some ingredient changes to their favorite dishes,” says Wu.

Learning about healthy substitutions may make it possible to give them the comfort foods they crave with less fat, sugar, and salt. Examples of ingredient changes include:

  • Low-fat cheese instead of regular cheese to make macaroni and cheese
  • Non-fat yogurt instead of cream cheese to make cheesecake
  • Light butter instead of regular butter for any dishes
  • Applesauce instead of butter in some baked goods

“This way, they still get to enjoy their favorite foods, but a healthier version of them,” says Wu.

Of course, if sabotage extends to hurtful statements or insults, family therapy might be needed to get everyone on track. Remember, the changes you are making for your health are necessary. Your family’s support will be invaluable, even if it takes a little creativity to secure it.