Healthy Eating Habits

Dr. Margit Lister with Wasatch OBGYN, looks at the link between health and nutrition and shares a few healthy eating strategies.

When I talk to my patients about their troubles with losing weight, I usually try to emphasize that 70% of weight loss is what you eat and 30% of weight loss is what you do. So if you need to get the most bang for your buck, look at what you put in your mouth to have the largest impact on your weight.

Red,Yellow, Green

Green light foods are okay all the time. You have a green light to eat them (in the correct serving size). These foods are GOOD FOR YOU!

Beans and legumes
Whole grains

Yellow light foods are foods that you need to precede with caution. These are usually your proteins. They tend to be higher in fat and calories. Ensure proper SERVING SIZE!


Red light foods are a treat and should be eaten rarely if at all. These are foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt etc. These foods ARE BAD FOR YOU.

Juice (I know, what about 100% fruit juice, no sugar added? If you have this in the correct portion size, it’s not bad for you but too many calories too easily)

French Fries
Potato Chips

Categorizing food is not always easy but this can sometimes help steer you in the right direction.

Portion size

This is still my #1 issue that I think we do poorly as a population. Look at what constitutes a normal portion size and stick to it. We have touched on this before, so I will be brief. But understand that certain foods are not worth eating their portion size. Potato chips for example, here is a single portion size. I think some people have preached to break the bag of chips into its respective portion sizes, so you know how much food you are eating. The problem there is not enough food to fill you up. You end up eating 150 kcal and you are still hungry. Eat things that give you more food until you are use to the smaller portion sizes.


Fiber is a great way to decrease the calories from foods and feel full at the same time. There are some really great fiber foods on the market right now. My favorite is the ‘Fiber One’ bar. This bar with a large glass of water is extremely filling and is only 140 kcal. The best part is that if you are craving chocolate, it comes in several favors including chocolate that can reduce the craving. There are high fiber breads, cereals, yogurts, waters, snack bars and crackers.

Eat breakfast

Studies show that people who eat breakfast are thinner than those who don’t. Breakfast stimulates your metabolism. When your metabolism is stimulated, you burn more calories reading email, talking on the phone, or being active. Stimulating your metabolism is extremely important. Our metabolism slows about 3% each year, so we need to eat 3% less or become 3% more active! Eat breakfast, it’s easy and it makes a huge difference. People who are dieting will always tell me, when I eat breakfast, I get hungrier sooner. Yes!!!! It is stimulating your metabolism and you are burning more calories doing the same things you were previously doing. EAT BREAKFAST!!

Breakfast foods are awful

Look at what you eat for breakfast. Muffins, HUGE bagels, cereals. Cereals are usually terrible health foods. They seem to have the most advertising about how good they are for you, but the worst ingredients to back up their claims. I teach my children about ‘Red light, Yellow light and Green light foods’. Green light foods you can have any time (fruits and veggies). Yellow light foods are foods they can have once in a while and red light foods are a treat. They ask me, “How do you tell a red light food from a yellow light food?” I explain that if one of the first three ingredients is sugar (high fructose corn syrup, etc) then it is a red light food. There were 5 cereals in the 65 boxes that I examined that did not have sugar as one of the first 3 ingredients. Raisin bran, Fiber one, and Shredded wheat were the only ones. All of these had a considerable amount of fiber in them. READ YOUR LABELS

Snack foods, what is your weakness?

If you’re a “snacker”, you need to figure out what is safe to snack on, what is not. READ YOUR LABELS. I can’t emphasize this enough. Assume that whatever the package says is lying and the only way to determine if they are telling the truth is to read labels. Here is an example. I wanted to buy my children a healthier snack. I chose raisins covered in yogurt. I was thinking; raisins are good for you and yogurt is good for you. Together it will make a healthy snack. Until I read the label. 18 raisins are about the same calories as 24 Mike and Ike candies. Nutritional value aside, this was a poor snack choice. High calories and small amounts of food. Sliced apples. Look at the label. NO SUAGR ADDED. A better snack. Dried fruit = less water, which = less food. Your best bet is the real apple, a green light food.

What snacks should you eat? All green light foods, this includes fruits and vegetables. Next find high fiber snacks, whole grain crackers (I have an example of All-bran multi-grain crackers where 18 crackers is 130 calories with 5 gm of fiber) or whole grain goldfish (55 pieces are 140 kcal with 2 gm of fiber) and my favorite the Fiber one bar (140 kcal and 9 gm of fiber). Fiber snacks are better with a large glass of water as this makes the fiber expand and fill you up. Last but not least, your best bet for a filing snack is popcorn. 2 tablespoons of uncooked popcorn makes about 3-4 cups of popped corn with 160 kcal and 4 gm s of fiber. Watch the rice cakes, there is a big difference between rice cakes and popcorn though they look and taste similar.

Drink water

We also touched on this in a previous episode. Don’t drink your calories and learn to like water. If you don’t like water, mix it with Crystal light or something similar. Crystal light now comes with added fiber, caffeine and multiple flavors.

Margit Lister, M.D. specializes in obstetrics and gynecolgy at Wasatch OBGYN. To schedule and appointment with her visit:

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