Focus on a Healthful Eating Pattern

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Take control of your weight by focusing on a healthful lifestyle and eating pattern instead of yo-yo dieting and skipping meals. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association followed more than 700 women for 12 years shows that you can predict weight gain later in life by the eating pattern that you follow. There is bad news for people who try to skip meals and eat little food, especially when they don’t select the right foods.

According to Paula A. Quatromoni, DSc, RD, researcher at Boston University School of Public Health, eating styles of women were classified into five basic patterns:

1) Heart-healthy eaters
2) Wine and moderate eaters
3) Light eaters
4) High-fat eaters
5) Empty-calorie eaters

The empty-calorie eaters tended to eat just that – empty-calorie, low-nutritional-value foods, which were heavy in animal fats and sweets. This group’s choices tended toward a doughnut for breakfast, fast-food meals for lunch and dinner and chocolates, chips and soft drinks in between meals. 41% of them became overweight. Members of this group were more likely to diet and smoke.

The light eaters made up more than 50% of the study group. They reported eating fewer calories than the other four eating patterns. However, this type of eater tended to be a yo-yo dieter and was prone to binging. They consumed more of their calories from fat. The author stated she would have liked to see them eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and make leaner choices for protein. 30% of this group ended up overweight.
The high-fat eaters did not restrict their calories or fat whatsoever. They chose foods that were high in fat. 28% of these participants were overweight at the end of the study.

The heart-healthy eaters were the most selective about their food choices and tended to stick to high-fiber, lowfat foods, forego red meat for chicken and fish and eat a vast array of fruits and vegetables. They also tried to include legumes. These women were more physically active and were among the least likely to gain weight later in life. Only 24% became overweight as compared to 29% of all study participants as a whole.

The moderate group gained the least amount of weight, but there were too few participants, according to the author, to see if this group really worked. This group fell somewhere between the empty-calorie and heart-healthy group and they drank wine on a regular basis.

This study shows that eating the right foods – fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and lean protein and dairy choices – instead of trying to diet by skipping meals and restricting calories is important for long-term weight management. Physical activity is also important as seen in the heart-healthy group.

At the American Heart Association’s 43rd Annual Conference in Miami in March of this year, Dr. Periera presented data from more than 2,000 White teenagers who had been followed for 15 years. He found that those who frequently ate fast food and watched more TV were more than three times as likely to end up obese as those who watched little TV and ate less fast food.

The typical fast-food meal is the antithesis of a healthful diet. It is high in hydrogenated or saturated fats, salt, sugar and refined grains and has little or no fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

For more information on this study, visit or and search on Quatromoni, the author’s name.

By Victoria Shanta, RD.

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