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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Calorie-counts, activity matter in weight loss

For many people, losing weight will become a high priority come Jan. 1. According to a recent Calorie Control Council survey, 33 percent of Americans, or 71 million people, are on a diet - the highest number of dieters in the past 15 years.

With hundreds of quick-fix diets on the market, it is often hard to know what works and what does not. Most health professionals agree it is calories that count when it comes to weight loss.

"Consumers must be aware of the calories they are consuming and the calories they are expending," says Robin Steagall, a registered dietician and the council's nutrition communications manager. "By choosing lower-calorie foods and beverages and incorporating exercise into the daily lifestyle, weight loss and improved health can be maintained for life."

What trends will dieters and weight controllers face in 2007? The council is predicting the following top five dieting trends for the coming year:

  • Restaurants will serve more low-calorie and reduced-fat foods.

    A recent report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encouraged restaurants to market lower-calorie foods and increase awareness about the calories in foods at restaurants. In 2007, the restaurants industry will heed the advice of the FDA and begin to serve lower-calorie and reduced-fat options. New York City is leading the way and recently passed legislation that requires restaurants with standardized menus to clearly label the calorie content of each item.

  • Consumers will create personalized eating plans. Americans are beginning to realize it is not practical to cut out an entire food group or survive on a liquid diet for a long period of time. Instead, people will begin to ignore the fad diets and focus on sensible nutrition and controlling calories. To create low-calorie, customized meal plans, people will seek assistance through online dieting Web sites. These sites, such as the council's www.CaloriesCount.com, have become very popular.
  • Exercise will become part of the "everyday." As Americans get busier everyday, fitting exercise into a demanding schedule can be difficult. However, many people will begin to make small changes to incorporate fitness into the daily lifestyle. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking far away in the parking lot are simple ways to burn calories throughout the day. These small changes will make a big difference in the activity levels of busy people.
  • Healthy living will become a family matter. In 2007, major steps will be taken to diminish the growing rate of childhood obesity. Many families will choose to make proper nutrition and exercise a priority for the entire family. Thanks to government education efforts, more and more parents will teach children about the importance of eating right and exercising while acting as positive role models for their children.

    Overall, according to the Council, 2007 will be a year of positive change when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance. "By focusing on calories in and calories out and not being misled by the latest weight loss fad and instead adopting healthy long-term habits, the New Year can be happy and healthy," Steagall says.

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