JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- "Diet" is a four-letter word that most of us can live without. It is closely related to "can't" as in "can't have." Diet is a dreaded word that makes its way into our lives when we resolve to lose weight.
It's a resolution that often leads to us breaking that other resolution -- to quit swearing. Instead of concentrating on the foods we can't have, here's a baker's dozen of foods you can add to your grocery list and menu this year. Without counting calories or points or starving yourself, you can lose weight and still feel full.
"Every time you enter the kitchen is an opportunity to balance your weight and heal yourself through foods," said Jackie Shank, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist from St. Augustine. "You don't need to count calories if you are mindful of what you are eating."
Sure, that philosophy is easy if you are a trained nutritionist. What about the rest of us in the real world? Kathleen Daelemans is proof that a diet full of good-tasting food can also yield smaller dress sizes. Daelemans is a chef who got a job at Cafe Kula, a luxury health spa restaurant in Hawaii. The problem was she weighed 205 pounds and wore a size 22 dress -- not the look of a health spa chef.
Today, she's about half that size. She did it by devising a diet she could embrace. She didn't lose the weight overnight, and if you expect to drop five dress sizes by Valentine's Day, you're setting yourself up for failure, too.
"Come Jan. 15, a lot of people have thrown in the towel," Daelemans said between shooting her Food Network program, Cooking Thin with Kathleen Daelemans. "Set your focus on small and realistic goals. Keeping weight off for life is a matter of tiny behavior changes you can live with."
For example, when you crave a bag of potato chips -- ask yourself if there's a more healthy alternative? Fruit or carrots maybe? Or how about a handful of nuts or even a low-fat pretzel or popcorn?
She provides 200 recipes in her new book Cooking Thin with Kathleen Daelemans (Houghton Mifflin, $27).
Speaking of books, Shank recommends buying a vegetarian cookbook. You don't have to become a vegetarian this year, but adding new vegetable dishes to your cooking repertoire will make it more enjoyable to eat vegetables.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, bok choy and Swiss chard not only help fight cancer and heart disease, they bring different tastes to your plate as well, said Leslie Fink, a nutritionist with Weightwatchers.
She advises not boiling these leafy vegetables too long. Not only does it turn them into unappetizing mush, it also leeches out many nutrients. One way to retain those nutrients is to use them in soups.
Besides the leafy stuff, add sweet potatoes to the five servings of vegetables you should be consuming every day, suggests Donna Duarte, a member of our Smart Eating Q&A panel. Sweet potatoes are low in calories and a good source of fiber. Think about using sweet potatoes when your usual menu calls for white potatoes.
Fruit is another item to add to your grocery cart. They have fiber and provide sweetness. In Florida, we are tempted to have a diet high in citrus. Add apples, pears and blueberries to the mix. Blueberries help relax blood vessels, improving circulation, Duarte said.
Grains are another food to stock up on this year. They can be served as oatmeal or in breads. Look for seeds in the bread you buy, said Emily Sachar, site director of Ladies Home Journal Online (www.lhj.com), which has a recipe link to 10,000 recipes for those wanting to change the way they eat.
"If you feel like a bird when you eat the bread, you are doing good," she said.
The Web site also has a Diet Planner tool that allows you to chart what you eat in a food diary. It will tell you if you are getting too much protein or carbohydrates or if you need to add another sort of nutrient. She also recommends you top the leafy green vegetables you add to your salad with vinegar and lemon juice. Treat yourself to balsamic and flavored vinegars. Stay away from "non-clear" salad dressings.
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