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10 foods to avoid and 6 to make a healthy habit

July 21, 2011

COUNTING CALORIES IS OUT. So says The New York Times in a story about the new study from Harvard University. More than 120,000 people were followed for 12-20 years, the most comprehensive study to date, revealing a few key factors in weight-loss. Or rather, how to not gain weight over the years. It seems that many Americans in this study started out as healthy young adults but the extra pounds just crept up on them, year after year, until many were 20, 30, 40 pounds larger than before. As someone who has been “a little fat” to quote my favorite book heroine Bridget Jones, nearly all my life, I understand completely. So what to do?

Experts say that it’s not a matter of eating in moderation though. That mantra has proven false here. You can’t eat “just a little bit” of whatever you want and remain thin. Instead it appears that a few key food habits can make the difference between long-term weight-loss or an ever-expanding midsection.

10 foods to avoid

The foods that contributed to the greatest weight gain were not surprising. French fries led the list: Increased consumption of this food alone was linked to an average weight gain of 3.4 pounds in each four-year period. Other important contributors were potato chips (1.7 pounds), sugar-sweetened drinks (1 pound), red meats and processed meats (0.95 and 0.93 pound, respectively), other forms of potatoes (0.57 pound), sweets and desserts (0.41 pound), refined grains (0.39 pound), other fried foods (0.32 pound), 100-percent fruit juice (0.31 pound) and butter (0.3 pound).

6 foods to make a healthy habit

On the other side, experts found that those who ate the following maintained a healthy weight, for good.

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • whole grains (I know, you’ve seen this before but keep going)
  • nuts
  • peanut butter, specifically
  • yogurt

The last two have actually been mentioned in the post-baby weight-loss book that I’ve read but not followed (naturally), Body After Baby. But the point is, nuts and peanut butter specifically are full of “good fats” and more importantly, they’re filling. If you eat a piece of peanut butter toast as a mid-morning snack, you’re more likely to eat something sensible for lunch instead of leftover birthday cake (no matter how “healthy” it is.) And yogurt has special enzymes that actually help your body digest food in a healthier way.

But before you pack those lunchboxes with peanut butter and yogurt sandwiches, they also mentioned that exercise and limited TV were two other important factors in long-term health.

Got it and got it.

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