Slimming tablets and a tape measure

What should I be eating?

If you want to lose weight, when it comes to what you eat there are three things you need to consider:

When you eat:

If you don't have a regular eating pattern, it has two effects: you are more likely to eat high-fat snacks in between meals and probably will find you eat more.

The more regular your eating becomes, the more your body will adjust. Skipping breakfast, for example, sends most of us diving for the biscuit tin at 11 o'clock, only to be left unsatisfied and craving lunch. If you make time for a proper breakfast, you can fill up on slow-releasing foods that will see you through the day.

Having a regular eating pattern is also useful because it means you can trust your body when it says it is hungry. You won't just be eating for the sake of it, you will be feeling hungry because you genuinely need fuel.

There is also an element of planning to this; you can prepare yourself for the meals. If you know you get a sugar dip around three, you can have a small bag of fruit in your bag. If you know you are having breakfast everyday, when you do the shopping you can buy different things to keep the meal varied. If you know you run late in the mornings, you can make a packed lunch the night before.

It is fairly difficult to change your body's eating patterns. Perhaps you normally never have breakfast; you will need to ease yourself into it and change your morning routine to ensure you have set time aside. It will take time to readjust but it will be worth it.

Balancing the food groups

To be healthy, our daily food needs to come from five different food groups:

Protein (15% of intake)
Fish, meat, soya alternatives, eggs, beans

Dairy (15% of intake)
Milk, yoghurt, cheese

Fats and Sugars (small amount)

Fruit and Vegetables (5 portions a day)

Carbohydrates and starchy foods (33% of intake)
Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta

Basically, when you eat look at your plate. There should be a large handful of carbohydrate, a smaller handful of protein, and one of two portions of different vegetables.

Then think about how this food was cooked. If it was fried or has lots of butter and cream in it, then you are going to exceed your fat allowance. Food naturally has fats, salts and sugars in it and the more we add them in our cooking, the higher we go over our limit. Grilling and steaming are very healthy ways to cook your food.

Also think about what you are drinking - most drinks with added sugar put about 12 teaspoons of sugar in a can. Similarly, ready-bought food like pasta sauces and soups have a lot of extra sugar and salt. Try to eat lean meat, like turkey and go for wholegrain starchy foods like pasta and rice, rather than the white flour kind. Wholegrain and wholemeal have a higher vitamin and mineral content and add fibre to your diet, aiding digestion.

When it comes to dairy foods, go for the low fat version. Low fat milk, reduced-fat cheese, crème fraiche instead of cream.

If you find it difficult to eat vegetables, there are lots of little ways you can incorporate them into your diet; sprinkle berries on your breakfast cereal, have a tangerine in the morning instead of the biscuit, freeze some homemade soups and have them as a starter before the main meal (this will also fill you up). If you make a pasta sauce, put loads of fresh vegetables in.

The best way to control what you are eating is to cook it yourself, avoiding ready-made or processed foods. It also means you can take your favourite dishes and swap the fatty ingredients or methods for something healthier. For example, I utterly adore chicken fajitas - which contain lots of carbs, sour cream, chicken and cheese. However, you can swap the sour cream for reduced-fat crème fraiche, or just cut it out, swap the chicken for turkey breast and buy wholemeal tortillas, and add fresh vegetables as well. Think about your favourite meal and try to get creative.

The NHS has some great pages on eating a balanced diet.

Reducing your calories

If you are overweight, that means that you have been taking in more calories than your body can burn of through daily activity, so the left over is turning into fat.

First, you need to work out how many calories you should be taking in: Calorie counter calculator

Then, spend a week keeping a food diary. Write down every single thing you consume each day, from drinks to salad dressing to pasta. Work out how many calories you are consuming, and so how much you need to cut down your food by.

Also try to see when and why you eat - if it is when you are bored, sad, busy, stressed out. Then you can do something to reduce those triggers or try to avoid food when you are in that state of mind.

A good way to make sure you are eating the right amounts, at least for the beginning, is to weigh your food. You will probably be surprised by how small food allowances can be.

Think about buying a small book that has the calorie content of different types of food, so you can quickly check if you need to. You can also find sites online where you can look up calorie and food content.

Further info

Obesity

Obesity is defined as when someone has too much body fat for their height and sex. Get more info

Other treatments

There are hundreds and hundreds of other weight loss treatments on the market, from pills to drinks to creams. Get more info


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