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Food for Thought: Fight the Barriers to Healthy Dieting

When warm weather rolls around, most folks hope to fit into their bathing suits and summer clothes without embarrassment. If you want to lose weight at a healthy pace, you will have to start thinking about bathing suit season right now.

A healthy, sustainable rate of long-term weight loss is only 1 to 2 pounds per week. To achieve this rate, your meal plan and exercise should eliminate 500-1,000 calories daily.

Exercising or cutting that many calories may sound overwhelming - but My HealtheVet can help. It provides tools to conquer some of the common barriers to starting and maintaining healthy eating. Read on to learn more about the resources the VA and My HealtheVet have to keep you eating right.

Think It's Too Expensive to Enjoy Healthy Eating?

saladPrices of fresh foods and specialty health foods might make it seem cheaper to just stick to the local fast food chain for your meals. But discounted junk food is not a bargain in the long run.

The truth is, you can eat healthy foods and stay on a budget. It requires a bit more prep work than a drive-thru, but the health benefits are worth it. These items will help you stay trim and not break the bank:

  • Low-cost proteins - Canned tuna, eggs, and peanut butter pack an impressive amount of protein. If you replace some of your meat with inexpensive legumes such as lentils and beans, you'll also be adding a powerful source of fiber to your meal.

  • Whole grains - Look for whole-grain, enriched pastas, breads and cereals that are higher in fiber and lower in fattening sugars.

  • Frozen or seasonal produce - Frozen fruits and veggies are a low-cost alternative to fresh produce, yet they provide many of the same important vitamins and are low in calories. "You can skip cutting and washing so they are a great short cut - and frozen fruit is great in smoothies or stirred into low-fat or fat-free yogurt," says Claire Bell, an Outpatient Dietitian at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, Tampa, Fla. "Another good budget tip is to make sure you are buying fresh produce that is in season."

For more tips to help you eat healthy, visit My HealtheVet's Healthy Living portal on Healthy Eating

Is it too Hard to Keep Track of What You're Eating?

journalCounting calories sounds like a daunting task, but food journaling might be the single most important action you can take to achieve your nutrition and weight loss goals. It's not an overly detailed chronicle of each bite you take - just a record of what you've eaten and how much. Think of tracking your food in a journal as a part of your daily meal routine, just like cleaning up the dishes, and it will be habit in no time.

Without a food journal, you won't be able to track what you are actually consuming and if your meal plan is effective. My HealtheVet has an online Food Journal tool that will help you to achieve your nutrition goals.

"Calorie counting is an important part of understanding how food choices help or hinder progress towards the 500-1000 calorie deficit that is needed for weight loss. I really urge my patients with smart phones to access free applications that help with food and exercise tracking. This information at your fingertips can help guide smart choices," adds Bell. "Many programs provide restaurant information, too." Ms. Bell recommends Enomondo, Lose It, and My Fitness Pal as apps that can help you achieve your goals.

Think It's Too Confusing to Know Which Foods are Healthy?

Does it seem like you are hearing contradictory nutrition information on the news every day? People love headlines about how a "good" food is actually bad for you, or how a "bad" food is actually good, so sensational studies will often get more attention than serious nutrition research.

Luckily, My HealtheVet offers access to an extensive library of medical information through MedLine Plus. Check out the Food & Nutrition section for authoritative answers on what you should be eating - and how much. Access the library here: MedLine Plus Food & Nutrition

Are you are having trouble managing your weight on your own? Take advantage of the VA MOVE! weight management program. Veterans have no co-payment for a MOVE! consult. To learn more visit MOVE!

Learn More

A Healthier You
Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Choose My Plate
Daily nutrition guidelines from the USDA

VA Nutrition information
Learn about healthy kitchens from VA's own dietitians.


Updated/Reviewed: April 25, 2012