Diet and Weight Loss

Summer is the perfect time to fine tune your diet

Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD

If you’re feeling down about not sticking to your New Year’s Resolution to eat better, don’t fret! Summer is the perfect time to kick start your new eating routine. It’s important to establish an eating pattern and stay with it. Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are some great ways to eat healthfully. These tips can help you eat swap the sugar for fruit and the red meat for lean protein.

The big benefits of plain water

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

Many Americans opt to quench their thirst with drink sodas, juices, and sports drinks instead plain water. Now, a recently published study has confirmed what researchers have been saying for a while: upping your water consumption can help you avoid excess calories and control your weight. So, next time you’re thirsty, try water instead — it’s free, refreshing, and good for you!

Sugar: Its many disguises

Uma Naidoo, MD
Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor

Excess sugar in the diet can cause a whole host of health problems, both physical and mental. If you’re concerned about cutting down on sugar, you might think you’re covered if you skip the soda and pastries. But there are plenty of hidden and added sugars lurking in all kinds of foods — even those traditionally considered “healthy.” Here, we’ve given you some tips on what to watch out for.

Why pregnant women should avoid artificially sweetened beverages

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Many pregnant women turn to zero-calorie artificially sweetened beverages to help avoid weight gain. However, these beverages may actually cause weight gain—and even alter your digestion and sense of taste. Recent research suggests that pregnant women who drink diet beverages to avoid weight gain may end up with heavier babies. So, if you’re pregnant, you may want to rethink that zero-calorie soda. After all, the old adage about “eating for two” is a reminder to eat and drink in ways that keep both you and your baby healthy.

Exercise: It does so much more than burn calories

Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD

You’ve probably heard that if you want to lose weight, it’s as simple as “eat less, exercise more.” A recent study suggests that a lot of exercise doesn’t always translate into a lot of extra calories burned. But even if you never lose a single pound with exercise, it has so many other benefits for your body and mind that it’s always worth it to be active. Give it a try today!

Could lack of sleep trigger a food “addiction”?

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

Many people cite a lack of “motivation” or “willpower” as the reason that overweight people can’t control their eating habits. But a wealth of evidence has come to light that obesity is linked to insufficient sleep. Most recently, an experimental study has found that restricted sleep can increase the levels of brain chemicals that make eating pleasurable. Could it be that insufficient sleep makes the brain addicted to the act of eating?

How useful is the body mass index (BMI)?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The body mass index (BMI) has long been considered an important way to gauge your risk for many chronic conditions, from arthritis to sleep apnea to heart disease. But like all medical measures, BMI is not perfect — and a recent study has revealed that BMI alone may not be a solid measure of cardiovascular health. Here, we’ve examined the pros and cons of the BMI, and whether it’s a number worth knowing.

The missing rewards that motivate healthy lifestyle changes

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Ask anyone who’s ever tried to make a healthy change — after a while, the motivation to keep at it just stops. Indeed, it can be incredibly hard to break old habits, or make new ones. But research has revealed that there are actually two different types of rewards in the brain — and that focusing on the less commonly pursued of the two can help you make lasting changes.

Are protein bars really just candy bars in disguise?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Eating on the go can be a challenge, so many of us turn to protein meal-replacement bars, or even to the ever-popular candy bar. While the protein bars may be a little better for you in terms of the nutrients they contain, they probably do not offer any significant health benefits, and the occasional candy bar won’t hurt provided you eat a balanced diet most of the time.

Exercise: You may need less than you think

Gregory Curfman, MD
Gregory Curfman, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Publications

Getting regular physical activity is one of the most important things one can do to protect and promote health, yet many people say they don’t have time to exercise. A recent study has confirmed that even a little exercise — just 8 to 15 minutes a day — reduced the risk of death. When it comes to exercise, some is always better than none.