Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP has counseled thousands of his patients on healthy, sustainable weight loss. Now he's compiled his best tips and recipes into a six-week plan for you to learn how to eat great food that just happens to be great for you - and if losing weight is your goal, you can do that, too.
Get the prescription for better health as well as healthy weight loss, including:
Whether you are using The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan or just want to read up on eating healthy, these essays will help you understand the overall How and Why of eating healthy in the real world. Each Monday Dr. Harlan will explain another element of eating healthy in simple, easy-to-understand terms that you can apply to your real life. Just read these in order and you'll know how - and why - to eat healthy.
1. What is a healthy breakfast?
Why skipping meals is bad for you, breakfast is good for you, and guidelines on what a good breakfast should be.
2. What is a healthy lunch?
There's so much good to be said for how much you can change your health by making your own lunch. Here's why - and what you should eat.
3. What is a healthy dinner?
When I was growing up we had the typical diner Blue Plate Special of "a meat and two veg." This isn't too far from what makes sense for a healthy dinner. We know that combining protein with carbs helps you to feel satisfied for longer after a meal. One problem many people have is that they don't know what to actually put on their plate.
4. How much should I weigh?
Folks can often be pretty unrealistic about their health and their weight. Usually people are shocked when I tell them what an ideal weight would be for them. Here's what you need to know about what a healthy weight would be for you.
5. How many calories should
I be eating?
Eating healthy or losing weight is based on knowing the right number of calories for you.
6. What is the best way
to lose weight?
There has been so much debate about what is the best way to lose weight that it's no wonder that folks are confused. High fat? Low fat? No carbs? Some carbs? Good fat? Bad carbs? Low protein? Just what is right?
7. How can I keep my weight
loss goal in mind and stay motivated?
There are a lot of fantastic reasons to make a change in what and how you eat. Everyone has their motivation. What's yours?
8. What is a healthy weekly weight
People can often be pretty unrealistic about their health and their weight. Usually people are shocked when I tell them what an ideal weight would be for them. While shock is their first reaction, folks usually say something like "Oh, I'll do that, it's easy for me to lose 50 pounds and you'll see when I come back in three months."
9. How to set weight loss goals
and make them happen
When I talk to patients about a goal weight they are shocked when I tell them what an ideal weight should be for them. While shock is their first reaction, folks usually say something like "Oh, I'll do that, it's easy for me to lose 50 pounds and you'll see when I come back in three months."
10. How to keep a food diary,
and why it is essential to successful weight loss
Keeping a food diary has long been the cornerstone of many successful weight loss programs because it lets you know just how many calories you are eating. I also believe that it's a great tool for you to identify where you can improve the quality of the calories that you are eating.
11. Are all fats bad for you?
So many "diet" books focus only on the macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates and protein and over the last three decades there have been dozens of competing theories, and over time the message has become: "All fat is bad." This couldn't be further from the truth.
12. Are saturated fats
are bad for you?
So we know now that saturated fat is one of the culprits increasing the risk of not just heart disease and stroke but also some cancers. Unfortunately, people have gotten the idea that all fat is evil.
13. Are unsaturated fats good
It's taken over two decades of controversy, but the research has clearly proven just how good fat is for you. As with everything you choose to eat, it is the quality of the fats that's important. We've come to know that unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated fats like Omega 3 fats, actually help prevent disease.
14. Are carbohydrates
bad for you?
The best research that we have says that you can lose weight by eating a low carbohydrate diet. Such diets may be slightly more effective than a Mediterranean style diet as far as weight loss is concerned. There is some difference between the two diets as far as the effect they have on blood sugar and cholesterol, but all in all eating fewer calories has been shown to help you lose weight no matter how you do it.
15. Is fiber good
We know that fiber can help prevent some cancers, reduce your cholesterol, help you avoid problems with heart disease and help diabetics control their blood sugar. Almost every week I read another positive study on how great high fiber foods are for your health.
16. How to read nutrition/food
One of the reasons that I started writing about food was because there wasn't much information available. At the time the government didn't require that manufacturers list nutrition information on their packages, but with all this extra information it helps if you know how to use the Nutrition Facts box.
17. How to plan your weekly
So far we've gone over getting your day structured for eating breakfast and lunch as well as what makes sense for dinner. All of this takes some planning on your part and I believe that this is the most important part of eating healthy. The better you plan, the better chance that you will stick to eating healthy.
18. Why should I eat less salt?
We eat too much salt. It might be hard to believe, but the average person eats over 6,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium every day. That works out to about 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, which is about 2 1/2 times the recommended amount of 2,400 mg per day.
19. What do the sodium
(salt) numbers mean on food labels?
The government created rules back in the 1980s for nutrition information labeling on packaged foods. Before the regulations were passed, the only information required was a listing of the ingredients in the package, in order from the largest amount to the smallest amount. Other than that, we were pretty much on our own....
20. What is the Mediterranean
Over the last three decades a lot has been written about how the French ate a diet high in fat and didn't have the problems with obesity that America has developed. The so-called French Paradox has been the foundation of a great deal of research, and that reasearch extended well beyond France to almost every country surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.
21. Why are vegetables
good for you?
Getting more veggies in your diet is one of the basics of the Mediterranean Diet. The best part is that it's the one thing you can't get too much of. (You'll never hear your doctor say, "Hmm, my lab tests show that you've been getting too many carrots.")
22. Why are
fruit and nuts good for you?
Nuts are great for you. While they do have a lot of calories, these are the best quality calories because they are high in monounsaturated fat. Nuts have been shown to be very satisfying and this makes them a great choice for snacking. Instead of potato chips or crackers, have nuts. There's great research that shows you won't gain weight eating the nuts while eating potato chips is clearly linked with disease.
23. Why are cereals and whole grains good for you?
The research about increasing whole grains and cereals in your diet proves an amazing range of benefits. It is likely that this is the result of an increased fiber intake for those adding more whole grains to their diet. In one study men who ate more fiber had a far lower risk of weight gain: up to 48% lower for the highest intake of fiber. For women, the effect was not as dramatic, but those eating the most fiber still had a decreased risk of weight gain of 19%.
24. What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
The word legume refers not only to the species of plants, but also to any fruit that grows seeds lined up in a pod. (I find it interesting that peas and black beans are actually considered to be fruit.) Also known as Pulses, legumes include beans, soybeans, lentils, peas, peanuts, snap beans and edible pods.
25. Why is eating fish good for you?
It's so simple, really, but this is probably the most powerful change that you can make in your diet. Much of the research on the benefits of fish stem from research on Inuit natives and their high consumption of salmon with a correspondingly low rate of heart disease.
26. Which fats and oils
are good for you?
Most research on Mediterranean style diets shows that the primary fat used for recipes is olive oil. The Mediterranean cultures do use other vegetable oils, and most cultures use some butter, but it is generally used sparingly.
27. Are dairy products
good for you?
Dairy products are one of the nine elements of the traditional Mediterranean Diet. Even so, dairy products eaten by those in Mediterranean cultures are usually consumed in the form of processed products like yogurt or cheeses. Milk is not often drunk as a beverage.
28. Which meats should
I not eat?
It's clear that those in Mediterranean cultures consume less meat and eat leaner meats than those in Western cultures. Diet studies reveal that they consume an average of 4 ounces or less of meat each day, so a lot of prospective research has been undertaken to focus on the effect of consuming less meat.
29. Is drinking alcohol
good for you?
I get questions from patients almost every day about whether it's safe or healthy for them drink alcohol. It goes without saying that drinking too much alcohol is bad for you. Even so, the best research we have now shows that those drinking between 2 and 3 drinks per day for men or 1 to 2 per day for women live longer and live healthier.
30. Is it important to measure
I have written about how I like to use butter in recipes. It enhances the flavor and texture of recipes in a way that few other ingredients can. Most of the time you don't need much, just a bit works wonders. A chef friend once commented that he believed it was easy for chefs to hide their sins by simply adding more fat and salt to a recipe. He would say, "You can make bad food taste better with more butter or salt, but it's better to just make great food with the right amount of ingredients." I believe that he's right and that measuring is key to great food.
31. Are snacks good for you?
There's good research about snacking and it seems most of us are one of two types. We are either sweet snackers or salty snackers. Knowing which you are can help you manage your weight by making sure you have snacks on hand that will be satisfying.
32. How to choose the right portion size
In the last few decades portion size has become a major issue, with portions in restaurants increasing dramatically. Forty years ago a 32 ounce milk shake with 1,160 calories would have been unusual. There was no such thing as a Quarter Pounder (let alone a Double Quarter Pounder) and getting a mountain of nachos would be rare. These huge plates have spilled over into how people choose their food.
33. Can you lose weight
with a smaller plate?
So portion control is clearly critical to losing weight and eating healthy. There's study after study to show how well this can work for you. The natural extension of this might be not just the portion size of your food, but also the size of your plate. A lot of research has gone into this very question: does it make a difference whether you use a small or a large plate in how much you actually eat?
34. Eat healthier by cleaning
out your pantry
When I am giving talks I always joke that none of my patients ever eats Oreo cookies. Now, I find this really strange because the aisles in the grocery store are FULL of cookies (but none of my patients are buying them). This always gets a big laugh, but I think folks are laughing at themselves. We aren't always honest with ourselves, and probably even more often are not completely honest with our doctors (shocking, I know).
35. Which oils and fats
should I keep in my pantry?
Time and again you will hear "eat more monounsaturated fat" or "don't eat too much saturated fat." These are certainly true statements, and over the last ten years or so we have learned a great deal about just which fats can be a problem and which are actually good for us. I get the question all the time at the DrGourmet.com web site about when and how to use butter, which is the best oil for cooking and how about baking?
35. Which oils and fat
are good for you - and when should I use them?
First and foremost, choosing a fat should be based on what you are going to use it for. I try to use a variety of fats, carefully and where I feel they will do the most to enhance the flavor of my recipes.
36. Which carbohydrates
should I keep in my pantry?
Carbohydrates are not your enemy. After years of research we do know what we have known for a long time – poor quality calories are bad for you. It doesn't really matter whether the focus is on carbs or fat or protein, if the quality of the food is great, the food is likely great for you.
37. What is the best chicken
or turkey for you?
It seems like a simple thing, choosing poultry. For years folks have thought that eating healthy means more chicken and fish. I hear that all the time from patients. So what to choose and how?
38. Are dairy products good for you?
The research on Mediterranean style diet does include good information on dairy products. The data says that including dairy in your diet is healthy, but most of the dairy in the Mediterranean Diet is lower in fat or processed, such as cheese or yogurt.
39. Which nuts and seeds are good for you?
We know now that nuts and seeds are really good for you. One important study shows that nuts added to a Mediterranean Diet made a huge difference in developing metabolic syndrome. Do keep in mind that nuts are considered fats and are higher in calories. Even so, the types of fat are so much better for you, since most are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fats.
40. Is red meat like beef or pork bad or good for you?
When I discuss cholesterol results with patients they'll often tell me, "I'll stop eating red meat." Unfortunately, it's not that red meat is bad for you, but folks generally eat too much of it and also don't choose the right cuts.
41. Is eating dessert good
or bad for you?
Desserts are an important part of eating well and eating healthy. The key to making dessert part of your healthy diet is that you should consider desserts as a special part of your life. Dessert is not something that should be eaten every day.
42. Is drinking soda bad for
It is clear that soft drink consumption is a major contributor to health problems. I have had emails from industry representatives disputing this, but their argument that drinking Coke or Pepsi has nothing to do with obesity, diabetes and other health issues is fantasy.
43. Is drinking coffee bad
Back when David Letterman had his heart trouble a few years ago, he talked about how his doctors had told him that he couldn't drink coffee anymore. At the time all I could think was, "Find a new doctor." There has never been good evidence for telling patients not to drink coffee. In fact, there's a ton of research showing that coffee is good for you.
44. How can healthy food
taste good? Part 1
It's common for folks to think that eating healthy means that food doesn't have any flavor. This couldn't be further from the truth. Understanding the flavors in ingredients and how they blend together is key to getting great results in your kitchen.
45. How can healthy food
taste good? Part 2
Umami is usually defined as the taste of foods that are pungent or aromatic, like mushrooms or cheese or roasted chicken. It is sometimes described as "savory," but it is much more complex.
46. How to eat healthy
while eating out
While having dinner with friends recently, I was asked about how to eat out. What should someone look for when choosing a meal? It's easy when you are at home and can weigh food. When you are looking at a menu it can be tough to know whether what you are reading will come out of the kitchen as you expected.
47. Are vitamins and supplements
necessary to eat healthy?
There are a lot of vitamins sold today. They come in all forms – pills, capsules, packets of pills and supplement drinks. We now have more and more good research that says they are pretty much worthless. We know that vitamins are good for you, but the research is now clear that getting your vitamins from food and not supplements is better for you.
48. How to eat healthy while
I will often have patients remark on how they can't eat healthy while they're traveling. This comes from people who only travel occasionally, for pleasure, as well as those who make a living on the road. Just like at home, planning is the key to eating healthy on the road. Thinking about what and when you are going to eat beforehand makes all the difference.