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Is Losing Weight Your New Year’s Resolution?

January 10, 2012

Washington Hospital Dietitian Offers Tips for Getting Back on Track with Healthy Eating

    Now that the holidays are over, you may be wondering how to get back on track with your eating. With all the extra food at work, parties, potlucks, and other holiday events, it’s hard not to overindulge.

    “Most people do overeat during the holidays and gain weight,” said Maggie Villagomez, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital. “A normal-sized person tends to gain one pound during the holiday season, while an overweight or obese person gains five pounds or more.”

    She said most people are in a state of panic that they have overeaten and are now faced with starting the new year off right.

    “People get caught up with resolutions and feeling that the new year is a time to start fresh and renew their commitment to a healthy lifestyle, but they don’t know where or how to begin,” Villagomez added. “It can be very overwhelming. All the diet and exercise plans in the media bombard them with the ‘magical answer’ and they feel they must choose one to be successful in their weight-loss goals.”

    Her number one tip for getting back on track is to forget about dieting and instead focus on adopting a healthier lifestyle that incorporates healthy eating and exercise. Often after the holidays, she sees people depriving themselves of food to get the weight off, but restricting yourself from certain foods or starving yourself will most likely result in failure, she said.

    “You don’t need a special diet to lose weight,” Villagomez explained. “The main ingredients for successful weight loss are physical activity, good common sense, and portion control. Moderation is the key, meaning you should eat a balanced diet the majority of the time with a few treats here and there. You need to commit to long-term changes, not quick fixes. The word ‘diet’ implies temporary changes and doesn’t include exercise.”

    Physical activity is a critical part of any weight-loss or maintenance plan. In addition to weight loss, exercise helps to lower the risk of chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease, provides energy, and aids in restful sleep, according to Villagomez. She recommends 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity activity for weight loss in adulthood.

Eating Right
    Villagomez said the focus should be on eating a balanced diet, which includes whole grains in the form of whole wheat breads, cereals, oats, barley, rice (brown or wild), quinoa, and corn; low-fat dairy products; lean meats; and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Healthy fats in the form of olive and canola oils should also be incorporated into the eating plan, with limited (not completely restricted) intake of processed convenience foods. Treats like snack foods or dessert items can easily fit into a meal plan in moderation, she added.

    Villagomez offered the following recipe to help you get back on track with healthy eating. This delicious and healthy meal was originally printed in Cooking Light magazine.

Greek Chicken and Barley Salad
(Makes 8 1-cup servings)

Salad:
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 cups cubed seeded cucumber
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cubed yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup reduced-fat feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, minced

Preparation:
1. Prepare the salad. Sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add 1 cup broth; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until done. Cool; shred chicken. Discard broth.
2. Bring 3 cups of broth to a boil in a large saucepan; add barley. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Cool. Combine chicken, barley, cucumber, and next 4 ingredients (through olives) in a large bowl.
3. To prepare dressing, combine 3 tablespoons oil, rind, and remaining ingredients; stir well. Add to the barley mixture and toss well. Cover and chill.