RISMEDIA, February 7, 2009-(MCT)-Along with the new year comes loads of diet books promising fantastic results if you follow their plan. This year, “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson has published his diet memoir “Slash Sugar, Cut Cholestorol, and Get a Jump on Your Best Health Ever,” as has “Today Show” nutrition expert Joy Bauer, who’s book is titled “Joy’s Life Diet: Four Steps to Thin Forever.”
The books offer two distinct philosophies on weight loss. Jackson includes general dieting advice that focuses on attitude, while Bauer’s book offers a specific, six-week meal plan that adheres to strict rules such as no starch before or after dinner.
To help decipher the effectiveness of these types of diet plans, registered dietitians Judy Heidenthal and Brooke Mercedes of Virginia offer their advice.
Q: What do you think about Randy Jackson’s advice to snack when you need to, and give in to your cravings once in a while?
Heidenthal: I absolutely agree with that. I think that we need to eat when we’re hungry. You’re probably going to eat more if you feel like you’re deprived. And snacking is OK, as long as they’re healthy snacks.
Mercedes: I am a strong believer that everyone should get a free day. I don’t think you should snack when you want to, because it can get out of control. But give in to cravings once a week.
Q: Randy says that you should not change your lifestyle to focus around healthy eating, instead you should examine where healthy eating and exercise fit into the lifestyle you’ve already established. What do you think about this?
Heidenthal: It’s a little contradictory, because he’s saying you don’t have to change your life, but you do have to plan. But I think what’s he’s trying to say is that it doesn’t have to be a major life change. I think overall that’s a positive attitude.
Mercedes: I thought that was a good comment. You want something that fits your lifestyle. If you’re getting into major changes, you’re not as likely to stick with it. It should feel easy.
Q: Joy’s book is more strict and planned out than Randy’s. Do you think that is more, or less, helpful?
Heidenthal: Everybody is different, some people in my practice really love those boundaries and the structure. They can’t seem to control the portions, because they don’t listen to the internal cues. For those people, Joy’s book could help. But I think Randy’s book would really benefit more people, because it goes into behaviors that we all need to work on.
Mercedes: It depends on who you’re working with. If you’re someone who has a little more time, and not as many people to worry about, Joy’s plan may work better. If I were trying to follow this, it would be really hard. It seems very hard to use this plan to cook for a family.
Q: What do you think about Joy’s “no starch during or after dinner” rule?
Heidenthal: I don’t agree with that philosophy. You could be missing out on an opportunity to get whole grains at dinner, which need all need more of. And there’s a big difference between eating Italian bread or a high fiber whole grain bread. It’s good for people to know that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, all foods can be consumed in moderation, with the healthiest eaten more often.
Mercedes: Most people exercise before or after dinner, and starches are your energy source. If you eliminate them, you’re setting yourself up to get tired very quickly.
Q: Randy says to focus on portion size instead of calories, but Joy’s diet is all about calories. Which is more effective?
Heidenthal: For most people, it should be a combination of these two methods. Some people really need that structure. I think that Joy’s book is more for short-term, Randy’s is better advice for the long-haul. Joy focuses so much on calories, but there are healthy foods that are high in calories, such as nuts, that are recommended in moderate amounts on a daily basis.
Mercedes: I like to give calories as an option, and then I like to teach people how to make the most of those calories. It’s best to be a combination of both. Keeping track of calories also helps with figuring out portion sizes.
Q: What nutrition tips would you like people to think about that weren’t included in either book?
Heidenthal: I encourage patients to educate themselves about nutrition, rather than rely on other people who aren’t professionals. They should know what foods are healthiest and have them on hand to eat more often. On most days, in most meals, I think it’s important to think about what your body needs, rather than what tastes best. The websites eatright.org and mypyramid.gov are both good to give you scientifically-based nutrition information. And if people like to cook, the magazine Cooking Light has some great nutrition articles written by registered dietitians. They include recipes that we like, like macaroni and cheese, but they use healthier ingredients, and most of them still taste great.
Mercedes: You need to eat every three to four hours. There should be no meal skipping. That gets your metabolism up so you can burn more calories. And your drinks can add up significantly. Here’s a good guideline: when you look at what’s on your plate, one half should be nonstarch veggies, and the other half should be divided into meat and starches. When you’re eating, start with your vegetables, then eat the meat and finish with starch so you’re not so hungry by the end.
© 2009, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).
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