Jacqueline Gomes, RD, MBA
Registered DietitianFollow this author
The first sign of the winter thaw is your cue to spring into action to battle a bulging waistline. Forty percent of American adults don’t participate in any leisure-time physical activity; and for Hispanic adults, the number is even less. If you’ve been hibernating this winter and are noticing the extra pounds adding up, it’s time to spring into action!
Restricting junk foods, reducing portion sizes and increasing daily exercise are great ways to start. You can shed up to a half-pound per week by cutting just 250 calories per day from your normal diet. People who lose body fat gradually and sensibly have a better chance of keeping it off; and here’s the secret…no new fad diet required!
Start by choosing foods that help you feel your very best. Healthful eating means a variety of foods including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean meats, beans and legumes. Balancing calories with physical activity is an ideal way to include all your favorite foods — even the occasional treat!
1. Enjoy your food, but eat less: Switch out larger portions for smaller counterparts and always ask for the “kids’ size.” For example, if you enjoy a Coca-Cola, look for the 8-ounce glass bottle and you can still have your beverage of choice at only 100 calories. You can also enjoy a diet soda and still enjoy a refreshing break from those hot summer days for zero calories! There are great swaps you can make to keep the calorie count down. Foods and beverages with low and no-calorie sweeteners are one easy way to help you control calories and ultimately your weight.
2. Eat Breakfast…a healthy one: People who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight and can raise their metabolism by as much as 10 percent. The goal with breakfast is to incorporate more protein and less sugar. It is common in Hispanic cultures for breakfast to be made up of toast and/or pastries. Limit the sweets and instead try including a one-egg omelet with your toast or low-fat yogurt with fruit. In addition, select low-fat one-percent milk for your café con leche.
3. Slow Down: Sharing family meals is a cultural tradition. Savor this time and your meals, slow down your eating and you’ll be more likely to eat less while enjoying more stimulating conversation with loved ones.
4. Modify classics: As I learned to cook, I slimmed down many of my mother’s and grandmother’s traditional Spanish recipes so I would be able to enjoy them without the guilt. One of the easiest swaps I made was ditching the pork fat used as a flavor enhancer.
Tip: Prepare your favorite traditional dishes such as beans, lentils and rice without lard or other pork fat. You can achieve a delicious clean flavor with a Sofrito as your base for vegetables, soups, beans and chicken dishes. Your healthiest options for oil include canola and olive oil; use sparingly of course.
5. Fitness – Make it a family affair: According to the CDC*, only 14.4 percent of Hispanic adults meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, compared to 22.8 percent in non-Hispanic white adults. The goal is easier than you think - 150 minutes – or 2 hours and 30 minutes – per week.
Physical activity can improve health. People who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2-diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Physical activity can also help with weight control.2
No need to give up favorite foods or try new fad diets; begin making gradual changes to your lifestyle now and you’ll see results before you know it!