Since beginning dietetics school, I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to confess their dietary sins to me. Acquaintances often greet me with, “I’ve been really, REALLY bad lately,” as though they expect me to judge or offer advice.
News flash: It happens to me too. Despite four years of nutrition education and five months of a dietetic internship under my belt, I struggle to eat well. I’m busy, it’s cold out, I’m tired…the reasons could go on forever.
When I see the number on the scale starting to creep up, I often track a few days of meals and snacks on MyFitnessPal (MFP). I find that it helps me to identify patterns of eating behavior that may be contributing to my gain. If I have objective data about my habits, it is easier to know what I need to change to reverse the gain and, more importantly, feel better (let’s be real—no one feels their healthiest after binge eating caramel cheddar popcorn).
Last month, MFP released data that sheds some light on habits that help promote weight loss. MFP staff examined the food and activity logs of its 4.2 million users, identifying 427,000 users who had set a weight loss goal and who had come within 5% of reaching that goal. Reading this report helped me to set some goals for my own eating habits, both for weight maintenance and overall health.
Here are four strategies that are working for the most successful MFP users:
1. The biggest losers eat more cauliflower and less potatoes.
Per 100 grams, potatoes have more than triple the calories of cauliflower (77 calories vs. 25 calories). Cauliflower is a nutrient dense, versatile veggie with endless preparation options. I love chopping it up in my food processor and creating faux rice or couscous. My family also loves cauliflower tortillas (recipe coming soon!).
2. MFP’s most successful users incorporate grains into their diets.
The MFP group with the most weight loss ate a whopping 29% more fiber than other users! Further, grain consumption in 2015 decreased 8.7% among MFP’s general user population, while it increased by 2% among the biggest loser group. Dietary fiber increases satiety, or feelings of fullness after eating. Women should aim for 25 grams per day from a variety of sources, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; men should shoot for 38 grams per day.
3. The biggest losers are pro-yo.
MFP users who lost the most weight increased their yogurt consumption by 11% in 2015, while MFPers with less significant weight loss decreased yogurt consumption by 11%. Notably, the success group ate 11% less meat and 13% fewer eggs than the previous year. 1 cup (8 oz) of plain 2% Greek yogurt provides 23 filling grams of protein, and just 170 calories. Pair it with a small serving of fresh fruit to add sweetness (and fiber!).
4. The study’s successes don’t fear fat.
Like fiber, quality fats--including olive oil and almonds—may promote satiety. The key word here is “quality.” Fat contains 9 calories per gram, compared to just 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate. There is simply not much room in the diet for unhealthy fats. Choose sources of fat that are abundant in vitamins and other nutrients, including avocados, tree nuts, fatty fish, and fatty fish, for weight loss and optimal heart health.
I will admit, I could certainly be better about eating more grains and less meat. What do you think? Are you incorporating any of these strategies in your diet?