Weight Loss Program, Part 2: Create Your Healthy Eating Plan - Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Analyze the nutritional adequacy of your diet

The purpose of this web site activity is to analyze your current diet and compare it against your nutritional needs. You will go to The University of Illinois' Nutrition Analysis online program. You will insert one typical day of the types and amounts of foods you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, beverages, and snacks. You will then receive a nutritional breakdown of your diet for calories, fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You will see how your typical eating compares to your actual nutrient recommendations. This will give you an opportunity to identify areas where you can improve your diet and the areas you're doing well on.

If you need more help with the Nutrition Analysis Tool than you find in the steps below, please go to: http://www.nat.uiuc.edu/NAThelp.html.

Web Site Activity:

University of Illinois Nutrition Analysis Tool

  1. Click on the link above. Choose your age and gender from the dropdown menu. (Note: If you are pregnant, you should not be taking a weight loss course!).

  2. In the next box in step 2, enter one thing that you might eat or drink first thing in the morning. For example, you might enter "orange juice." Add your item and then click "add food." Chances are, you will get all different kinds of selections for the food you have entered. Simply check off the one that is most like what you ate, and then click "add selected food."
  3. Enter the amount and serving size of the food that you consumed. For example, you can enter "1" in the first box, and "1 cup" in the second box if you had one cup of orange juice. After you select the correct amount of the food you ate, click "add this amount." Note: You must put something in each box in order for the program to work.
  4. Continue by adding the rest of the foods, beverages, and snacks you eat in a typical day in the "add a new food box" and repeat step 3. Do this until you add all your foods and beverages. If you need to change any of your foods or amounts for some reason, click the radio button next to that food and click either "delete" or "change the amount."
  5. Finally, when you finish click "analyze foods." You will receive the total amounts of 21 nutrients you typically consume on an average day. It will also compare what you took in versus what your nutritional goals are based on your age and gender.
  6. If you find you're either exceeding your limit on nutrients you want to minimize (like saturated fat) or not meeting your needs for certain vitamins and minerals or nutrients you want to maximize, click on the drop down menu next to "suggest foods" for help and suggestions on how to improve your diet.

    For your information, the following symbols on the breakdown mean:

    • Cal - Calcium
    • Phos - Phosphorus
    • Nia - Niacin
    • Na - Sodium
    • Thia - Thiamine
    • SatF- Saturated Fat
    • Pot - Potassium
    • Ribo - Riboflavin
    • MonoF- Monounsaturated Fat
    • PolyF - Polyunsaturated Fat

Remember that the goals listed for some nutrients are maximums, while the goals for other nutrients are minimums. For instance, you would not want to exceed the fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol "goal" listed. But, you do want to take in at least the minimum amount of the goals listed for the vitamins and minerals.

Carbohydrates, fiber, and potassium have no specified values. You want carbohydrates to be right around 50% or more of your total calories (it does not have to be exact though). So check your carbohydrate calories against your total calories. It should be right about half. You should also strive for a minimum of 20-35 grams of fiber each day. Potassium is a nutrient that is kept at a very strict threshold within the body. Any significant increase or decrease in your blood potassium level can have a serious affect on your heart's rhythm. Therefore, potassium has no established recommendation, so never take a potassium supplement except under a doctor's supervision. Eating foods high in potassium, however, is encouraged, as the body can regulate the amounts of potassium it receives from food much better.

Based on the web site activity, answer the following questions for yourself.

  • Are there any nutrients that you're overdoing it on? For example, fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol?

  • Are there any nutrients you're not getting enough of? For example, vitamins, minerals, fiber.
  • How can you begin to decrease the nutrients you're getting too much of?
  • What can you add more of to your diet to be sure you get the nutrients you lack?

ACTIVITY 2: Calculate your calorie needs/create your Healthy Eating Plan

Exercise One: Calculate Your Calorie Needs

While it's not necessary to count calories to lose weight, it's still a good idea to know your numbers to have a general guideline to work within no matter what kind of weight loss plan you choose. The bottom line is that losing weight is about the amount of calories you eat compared to the amount of calories you burn. You must burn 3500 more calories than your body needs to lose one pound. For example, if your body requires 2200 calories a day to maintain your weight, you could choose to eat 1700 calories a day to lose one pound in a week. (Five Hundred calorie deficit per day x 7 days = 3500 calories = 1 pound.) Never lose more than 2 pounds a week. The faster you lose weight, the more likely your body is burning your muscle tissue for energy. Remember from Lesson 1 that muscle keeps your metabolism elevated - so do not, under any circumstances, lose your muscle! Furthermore, study after study shows that the more slowly you lose weight, the less likely you will be to gain it back. Another benefit of slow weight loss is that the weight you lose is mostly fat, not muscle and water. So aim for a slow, healthy weight loss.

Go to The Dallas Dietetic Association site to calculate your calorie needs. Be sure to insert your current weight, not your ideal weight.

You will get a general idea of how many calories you require to maintain your current weight. Of course, any amount you subtract from the number of calories needed to maintain your weight will cause weight loss. You need to determine just how much weight you want to lose and how fast. Here are some guidelines:

  • For ½ pound per week weight loss -------- subtract 250 calories a day

  • For 1 pound per week weight loss --------- subtract 500 calories a day
  • For 1-½ pounds per week weight loss ---- subtract 750 calories a day
  • For 2 pounds per week weight loss ------- subtract 1000 calories a day

Never go below 1200 calories a day!

Exercise Two: Choose a Healthy Eating Plan or Create Your Own

In this step, I've included my top two recommended eating plans for weight loss. You can choose to follow either one, a combination of both, or create your own. By this point, you know what your basic calorie needs are, what your nutrient needs are, and what composes a healthy diet. You've also determined what works and doesn't work for you in last week's exercise. Therefore, you are getting to be an expert yourself now. If you have something in mind that works better for you than what I've listed below, go for it! I like the plans below because they're flexible enough to include all the foods you like, and they encourage a healthy diet and gradual weight loss.

Plan number 1: The getting hungry/satisfied plan

This plan involves nothing more than becoming extremely cued into your body's signals. Most of us eat way beyond our body's first feelings of fullness to even being stuffed. Also, we often ignore our body's first signals of hunger until we are so famished that we gorge. This plan involves only two things:

  • Pay close attention this week to the signals your body sends. When you start to feel hungry, eat something. Do not wait until you are starving. Bring healthy snacks with you if necessary. When you feel the first sensations of satisfaction, stop eating. Do not eat until you are stuffed. Do not pay attention to the clock to dictate when mealtime or snack time arrives. Listen to your body.
  • Do your best to make wise food choices and follow the guidelines listed under "Some Strategies to Follow on a Healthy Weight Loss Diet" . A treat here and there if you are hungry is fine. Just be sure you're physically hungry and not "emotionally hungry" (more on that in Parts 4 and 5).

Plan number 2: The 250 to 500 calorie solution

This plan involves nothing more than these two things:

  • You must create a 250 to 500 calorie deficit each day from your calorie needs above. For instance, if you need 2000 calories a day to maintain your weight, you must either burn off 250 to 500 calories a day from exercise (more on that in Part 3), subtract 250 to 500 calories a day from your diet, or do a combination of both. For now, it's best to go with subtracting the calories from your diet. We'll learn more next week about calculating the amount of calories that exercise burns and how to begin incorporating exercise. You can track the number of calories you eat at: The Nutrition Analysis Tool site (see above).
  • Do your best to make wise food choices and follow the guidelines listed under "Some Strategies to Follow on a Healthy Weight Loss Diet" . Including a treat here and there is fine so long as you stay within your caloric deficit range each day, and choose healthy options the majority of the time.

For Further Reading:

  • Consumer Information Center - "The Food Guide Pyramid"
    Everything you need to know to eat according to The Food Pyramid guidelines.

  • The Physician and Sportsmedicine - "Foods That Fight Disease"
    Good information on phytochemicals, many examples of phytochemical-packed foods, and how they fight disease.
  • Nutrition Action Healthletter - 10 Tips for Staying Lean - Great suggestions on healthful and long-term steps to take to lose weight.