Fit Foodie: Done With Diets

Welcome to Fit Foodie, one of our healthy-eating columns that will kick off each week. Here, we’ll bring you tips and recipes from nutritionists and dieticians in Washington. This week: diet-book author Katherine Tallmadge tells you to stop dieting and ea

“Diets don’t work,” says Katherine Tallmadge, author of the book Diet Simple and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Let me say it again: Diets don’t work.”

Diets are too restrictive, she says, and by definition, temporary. They set you up for failure.

Rather than focusing on eliminating foods such as sweets and bread, Tallmadge encourages clients to add a meal to their day: breakfast. “Most of the people who come to me for help are skipping breakfast. It’s the first question I ask and the first change they make,” she says.

A good, balanced breakfast can provide a host of health benefits. For one, studies show that people who eat in the morning end up consuming fewer calories during the day. It’s because you feel fuller longer, so you’re less likely to snack between meals. Eating first thing in the morning can also help you manage your weight, speeding up your metabolism and burning calories. And people who eat breakfast are able to focus better and have more energy than those who don’t. Guess Mom was right, huh?

“It’s also an organizational thing,” says Tallmadge. “Building in a time to eat breakfast sets you up for an orderly, successful day. If you start out feeling rushed, it can throw you off.”

A balanced breakfast, she says, consists of a protein, whole grains, a fruit or vegetable, and a heart-healthy fat. So you might try some eggs cooked in olive oil, lean Canadian bacon, and whole-grain toast topped with tomato and onion. Whole-grain pancakes with nuts and fruit work, too. You could even top it with some yogurt.

Of course, most people don’t have time to cook up bacon and pancakes on a hectic weekday morning, so try this: Keep a breakfast stash in your desk. Store a jar of peanut butter and some jelly or honey at the office, and at the beginning of each week, bring in a loaf of hearty whole-grain bread, a tub of yogurt, and five pieces of fresh fruit. Voilà—a complete and instant PB&J breakfast at your desk. It’ll keep you full until lunch, too.

If you have a breakfast meeting on the books, Tallmadge says it’s best to plan ahead. “Those meetings usually have the most unhealthy breakfast options: doughnuts, Danishes, giant bagels. Eat breakfast at home before work, then you can snack on a bowl of fresh fruit and sip a cup of coffee during the meeting.”

Oatmeal is one of the best breakfast foods out there, says Tallmadge, and it’s one even her most skeptical clients come to love. Here’s why: Her recipe includes enough natural sweetness and variety to make anyone an oatmeal convert. What’s better, it’s fast and easy to make.

Start-Your-Day-Right Oatmeal
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup soy or skim milk
1 ounce of your favorite nuts (Almonds are a good choice for curbing hunger because they’re high in protein.)
Teaspoon of brown sugar or honey
A handful of fresh or frozen berries, or other chopped fruit

Mix oats, milk, and nuts in a bowl, and cook in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove carefully, and add brown sugar or honey. Top with fruit and enjoy.

For a heartier twist, use steel-cut oats. The grains are sliced instead of rolled, so they’re coarser and have a nuttier flavor. They also take much longer to cook—between 30 and 40 minutes on the stovetop—but you can speed it up significantly by soaking them overnight. (Click here for good instructions.) By morning, you’re just 10 minutes away from oatmeal heaven.

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