Women's Health: Lose Weight, Be Healthy (cont.)

Let's say you really like desserts and you want to learn how to incorporate desserts into your diet. In the questionnaire you find out one of my challenges is 'I have a sweet tooth, I love desserts.' Why not skip to Chapter 8 then, The Dish on Cheating.

We all know moderation is one of the three cardinal rules: moderation, variety and balance. This chapter we could have called The Dish on Moderation, but no one would have read it. Moderation is one of the most boring words in the English language, so we called this chapter The Dish on Cheating.

There we explore the science behind food cravings. We address how to incorporate splurge foods into your diet, and again, your splurge might be chocolate, another friend's might be tortilla chips. So we offer snacking secrets in how to enjoy splurge foods.

We also found that people who are a part of the National Weight Control Registry are folks who have lost weight and kept it off for significant number of years. And one thing they have in common is that they know how to splurge and when to splurge. That's why in The Dish we embrace these kinds of food but then teach you how to incorporate them.

ZELMAN: One size does not fit all. As individuals we need to evaluate what works for each one of us. Should we focus first on our weaknesses?

O'NEIL: Yes. Because many times when people go on a diet or decide to eat more healthfully, they remove their favorite foods, often the splurge foods. "I can't eat ice cream; I can never have potato chips and dip, and french fries." But that is unrealistic.

It's better to embrace your splurge foods and as I said, learn how to accept them, and add them to your diet. Even the new dietary guidelines and the new My Pyramid.gov allows for a certain number of calories per day called discretionary calories. The government always comes up with such sexy terms.

Again, these are the splurge calorie. I think that for instance, you can have 2,000 calories a day, which is sort of the reference diet, depending on how much exercise you do, and you can have between 200 and 250 splurge calories per day. I do want to mention we dedicated an entire chapter of the book to eating out. That really is a very important part of the modern woman's lifestyle.

MEMBER QUESTION: What would you say is the healthiest food?

O'NEIL: That's a very good question. One of the chapters in the book we called The Dish on Super Foods. We felt that a food belonged in this category if it met two requirements, either it was a terrific source for one particular nutrient, or it was a good source of a whole bunch of important nutrients, kind of like one-stop shopping for a variety of nutrients we need. Let me give some examples.

  • Orange juice that is fortified or enriched with calcium, we felt this belonged in the super foods category, because it's giving you the hundreds of compounds in orange juice and has a significant amount of calcium you need to good towards your daily needs.
  • Yogurt is another super food, because not only does it contain dairy nutrients, calcium and all of the other nutrients found in dairy, but it has something special that we call probiotic, and these are the friendly bacteria, if you will, that are in the cultures used to make yogurt.

Remember, no food is nutritious unless it's eaten, so if I told you, let's say you didn't like okra but I told you it was a very healthy food and you didn't eat it, it's not nutritious at all for you.

What I'm saying is we all need to be consuming more fruits and vegetables, make that a No. 1 priority. Think of the colors of the rainbow, and I'm not talking about M&Ms here. The deeper the color the better; it will tell you there's more of a concentration of plant nutrients.

The healthiest foods, I would say -- prioritize fruits and vegetables and then whole grains. We're hearing a lot about whole grains today. An interesting fact: There's more than just fiber in the whole grain, so when you chew whole grain bread you're not just getting fiber, you're getting the bran, the exterior part of the wheat kernel. Those are more plant nutrients and antioxidants.

ZELMAN: Are you a fan of fortified foods?

O'NEIL: Some fortified foods make perfect sense, like fortified milk. When oat bran hit the news as being good for our heart health and digestive health, and it is a terrific food, companies then came to the marketplace with oat bran donuts and oat bran beer and oat bran potato chips, so I think: consumers beware.


"The very phrase 'small changes' is so empowering!"

MEMBER QUESTION: Do you have fast-food suggestions for busy parents on the go?

O'NEIL: Yes, and that is such a common concern. In fact, there was a survey done by Harris Interactive, recently. They asked adults where they eat on the go, and 51% who have children eat on the go in the car. So 51% of adults with kids are eating in the car, and 37% without kids eat in the car. My advice: look for the healthier alternatives at fast-food places today.

I was in the car with my daughter Katie and her friend Jennie and we were driving to Florida. We stopped at Wendy's. They're 14 years old I was amazed that they both decided to get the fruit salad that is an option now -- not the french fries. Wow! They said, "Well, it's healthier." Sometimes kids know more because they're watching the commercials on TV and can educate the parents about fast food.

ZELMAN: Don't you think it is because you are a good role model?

O'NEIL: Actually, the decision came from Jennie, my daughter's friend and her parents are not in the health field. I know they have a very busy two-career household and eat out a lot.

As for convenience stores, even there we don't have the junk food excuse any more, because convenience stores have an amazing array of healthier snack options: orange juice, grapefruit juice, nonfat yogurt smoothies. Dannon makes one that fits in the cup holder in the car. There are little bags of almonds, peanuts, or nutrition bars in all kinds of flavors.

So living off the land -- in the car on the go -- there's more to choose from out there. Don't forget, you can stock a little cooler and have that in the car, running from here to there with the kids, doing errands. Things like little bags of baby carrots, grape tomatoes and water, 100% fruit juice. All these little portion-controlled packets or containers that are available today will not only have more healthier food in the car, but planning ahead will save you money, too.