Healthy Food Choices for Healthy Weights
Healthy weight is about balancing food intake and physical activity. Registered Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists know that steady weight loss based on life-long lifestyle change is more likely to last than dramatic weight loss based on short-lived fad diets. To maintain or achieve a healthy body weight, the best path is through lifelong smart food choices paired with consistent activity.
Below you will find basic information and links to explore in the areas of:
- A healthy weight is a healthy you – exploring BMI
- Back to basics with healthy food choices
- Tips for eating out
- Fad diets
- Healthy weights for kids and teens
A Healthy Weight is a Healthy You
What is a healthy body weight? Health professionals often use Body Mass Index as one way of determining healthy body weight ranges that are generally associated with the lowest risk of major chronic diseases or conditions.
What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?
Your BMI is calculated using your height and weight and is a fairly reliable indicator of body fat for most adults. Athletes, the elderly, and pregnant women are exceptions to this.
BMI is only one of many factors that you and your health care provider should use in evaluating your overall health status.
Calculate your BMI here
What does BMI mean to your health?
People with very low or very high BMI tend to have the greatest health risks. Even so, BMI is only one screening tool. To assess your overall health risk, physical activity other lifestyle factors (such as smoking or alcohol consumption) and diet also need to be considered.
If your BMI falls into the range of overweight or obese, you may be at a higher risk heart attack, stroke, diabetes, among other chronic diseases.
Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference
If your doctor says your BMI is in the overweight range and you have other risk factors (e.g. high blood pressure), your health care professionals may suggest you make changes to your lifestyle. You may be told to lose weight, change your diet and get more exercise.
The good news is that lifestyle changes will help lower your blood pressure no matter what happens with your weight, which means your overall health will improve.
To start making healthy choices, begin by eating smaller food portions and increasing your activity level. For more advice on healthy food choices and healthy weights, talk to a Registered Dietitian or a Registered Nutritionist.
Looking for more? Check out these sources for reliable nutrition information about healthy weights and lifestyles:
- Assess yourself at Dietitians of Canada or eaTracker
- Quick Tips: Fitting Physical Activity Into Your Day, MyHealth.Alberta.ca
- Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide
- Healthy Eating Starts Here, Alberta Health Services
Healthy Food Choices: Back to Basics
Maintaining a healthy weight over the long term can seem like a challenge. If you’ve found yourself regaining weight you’ve lost, it’s probably time to get back to the basics of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle for the long haul.
Remember that even if you don’t hit that “ideal” weight you were looking for, making long term healthy eating and active lifestyle choices will help lower your health risk.
To obtain or maintain a healthy weight, it’s all about energy balance—energy in versus energy out. You should balance what you eat with your activity level so that you are expending more energy than you are consuming.
To be the healthiest you, try these tips:
- Focus most food choices on vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low fat milk and alternatives and lean meats/fish/poultry or vegetable proteins such as beans and lentils.
- When grocery shopping, focus on the outside sections with the freshest, least processed foods rather than the inside aisles. The produce section contains fresh fruits and vegetables, the bakery is where you get your whole grains, the meat department offers fresh meats, poultry and fish, and you’ll find milk, cheese, and eggs in the dairy section. By staying away from the inner aisles you avoid packaged foods that are often higher in sodium, sugar and trans and saturated fats. Be proactive and keep those items out of your pantry so they can’t tempt you later.
- Use a smaller plate or bowl to eat from. You will serve yourself less food and therefore you will probably eat less.
- Try leaving food on your plate at the end of each meal. Leaving a bit of food on your plate each time teaches you to listen to your body rather than focusing the amount of food you see on the plate.
- Drink water rather than calorific pop, juice and energy drinks. Sweetened drinks can add a lot of unnecessary (and often forgotten) calories. Switching to water can save you hundreds of calories each day.
- Move more. It’s not just about going to the gym, or walking every day. Try parking a block away from the office and walking in, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and getting up from your desk every 20 minutes to stretch or do a few jumping jacks.
We’ve provided you with even more reliable nutrition information below:
- Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide
- Healthy Eating Starts Here, Alberta Health Services
- Healthy Eating, MyHealth.Alberta.ca
- Weight and Weight Management Services, Alberta Health Services
- Weight Management FAQs, Eat Right Ontario
- Guidelines for choosing a weight loss program, Dietitians of Canada
- Safe use of weight loss products, Health Canada
Healthy Food Choices for Eating Out
In today’s busy world, many Albertans find themselves eating at fast food restaurants and consuming more calories than is necessary. Balancing a hectic lifestyle with healthy food choices can be particularly challenging. Registered Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists can provide you with practical and individualized tips to help you make sensible food choices when eating out or dining on the run.
Consider these tips when eating out:
- Eat fast food less often. Fast food is usually high in everything our bodies don’t need: saturated and trans fat, sugar and salt. These undesirable nutrients usually come in large quantities at inexpensive prices—making it easier to choose a portion that’s larger than necessary. When you do hit a fast food joint, try ordering just the burger with a milk, or order a kid-sized meal which will have smaller portions. Or try some of the alternatives restaurants now offer: a salad, vegetables or apples rather than fries.
- Choose appetizer or lunch size portions rather than dinner size. Restaurants usually provide more than an adequate serving size and when we see it, we eat it. Having a smaller portion means you will eat less.
- Share the main course with someone else, or split the meal in two and take the second half home for tomorrow’s lunch.
Check out these websites for more info on snacking and eating out:
Be Cautious of Fad Diets
We’ve all heard of them or seen them online—they promise extreme results over short periods of time (15 pounds in 2 weeks!) with minimal work on your part, sometimes with the help of a “miracle” food or nutrient. These diets are tempting, and although they may provide short term results for some, they often lead to disappointing long term results and can even be dangerous.
Be cautious of diet plans or products that claim results with unlimited quantities or restrictions, rapid weight loss, rigid menus, food combining, or with no exercise necessary.
If you want to maintain a healthy weight, including building muscle and losing fat, the best path is a lifelong combination of eating smarter and moving more.
Registered Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists are the reliable food and nutrition experts who translate nutrition science into practical advice, helping you sort out fact from fiction. If you want professional help with weight loss, consult a professional. A Registered Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist can help you find a realistic, flexible eating style that helps you feel your best.
We’ve put together more information on healthy eating below:
Healthy Weights for Kids and Teens
According to the Government of Canada, over-consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is linked to childhood obesity in our country. With excessive weight gain, children are at risk of developing a range of health problems in childhood and adulthood, including hypertension and diabetes, emotional health issues (such as depression and low self-esteem) and social health issues (feeling judged or bullied).
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, speak to your health care professional to get the facts and information on healthy weights for kids.
As with adults, body weight is also a sensitive issue for kids. Set a healthy example for healthy food choices and physical activity by eating well and getting active with your kids.
As a parent, you can take a primary role in making healthy food choices easy for your children by providing healthy food in a supportive home environment. Stock your pantry and fridge/freezer with only the healthy options like vegetables and fruits, whole grains, unsweetened milk and alternatives, and meats and alternatives (including fatty fish and legumes/pulses). Support healthy change in your family by encouraging children to participate in the grocery shopping and the preparation of regular, healthy meals and snacks. Spend time together being active—like riding bikes together or going for a walk after dinner.
If you have spoken to your health care provider and are taking steps at home but still need help, ask for a referral to a Registered Dietitian or a Registered Nutritionist specializing in pediatric weight management.
More trustworthy information about healthy eating for kids and teens can be found at these sources: