The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or advertising, is a new force for change to help make a healthier you and a healthier world.

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Can You Lose Weight with the Feeling Great Menu?

Yes, you can.

South Beach, Atkins - it's difficult to watch television, or pick up a magazine, or talk with a neighbor and not find yourself confronted with a tempting "new" approach to weight loss. At the same time, you might be thinking about weight loss on your own, but we can't think of a healthier way to lose weight than the Feeling Great Menu and we can't think of foods that are more tried and tested - or tasty - than the foods we include. It is not a plan; it's not a program; it's not a diet; it is a healthier way of eating.

There are many truths about losing weight. One truth about calories is: they don't explain everything, but they still count depending on body size, activity level and sex. Most adults need to consume 2000 to 3000 calories per day. Our Feeling Great Menu averages slightly under 1,850 calories per day. Without exercise, this amount would be too high to allow for weight loss in many individuals. Even with normally-paced walking, however, you can count on burning about 5 calories per minute, so that an hour's worth of normal walking will burn about 300 calories' worth of energy. If you subtract this 300 from our 1,850 average, you end up with about 1500-1600 calories. This level would fit pretty well for many persons in setting the stage for a lasting, healthy weight loss of about a pound or so per week. Establishing an enjoyable exercise routine is just as important as establishing an enjoyable menu when it comes to losing weight and feeling great.

While getting the calories in line is important for weight loss, most people regain weight not because of calories, but because they don't really like their diet, or because they get bored with their choices, or because the food stops tasting good. Sometimes when the excitement of losing weight wears off, the diet just becomes less interesting. When we developed our Feeling Great Menu, we put taste at the top of the list. We don't think you can do any better than the real flavors of real foods. And we didn't compromise at all on portion sizes! At dinner time you get a complete meal, like seared tuna with sage, plus brown rice, plus a vegetable medley, plus a dinner salad.

When it comes to weight loss, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber are "nutrients in the news" right now. We paid special attention to these nutrients in our Feeling Great Menu, and here's how they balanced out in our menu.

Fat and Weight Loss

Although it's possible to lose weight on a high-fat diet, we don't think this approach is the way to go. By "high-fat," we're talking about a menu that provides about half of its calories from fat. First, high-fat diets have been linked over and over with the risk of chronic disease. Second, high-fat diets don't make sense from a calorie standpoint, because bite for bite, fat contains over twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate. If you want to eat a reasonable amount of food, fat makes it harder to do so because it's so calorie-dense. Third, fat is difficult to digest. It requires a lot of work on the part of our digestive system.

Our Feeling Great Menu weighs in at about 27% fat - enough to include plenty of nuts and seeds, lean cuts of meat, and the highest fat fish available. We used walnuts, for example, to make the crust for our blackberry tart. Walnuts are high in fat - like all nuts. However, the fat in walnuts is not the same as the fat in rib roast. It's higher quality because it includes types of fat like the omega 3 fats; the average person gets far too little of this kind of fat. The fat level in our Feeling Great Menu leaves plenty of room for high-quality plant fats like omega 3s, but it doesn't allow for so much fat the digestion is compromised, or the risk of chronic disease is increased.

Carbohydrate and Weight Loss

We recognize the current weight loss trend toward fewer carbs - so many of the currently popular weight loss diets like Atkins and South Beach really focus almost exclusively on this low-carb dimension. When we look through the research, we don't really see carbs looking like major health risks in and of themselves. What we see is health risk associated with low quality carbs. By "low quality" we're talking about processed grains and everything made from them, including white pasta noodles and white bread and white rice. We've seen estimates indicating that about 19% of the average person's total calories currently come from highly processed wheat flour. No wonder our risk of chronic disease is increased! When you process grains and take out the germ and bran, you also remove about half of 19 vitamins and minerals that are contained in those parts of the grain.

You also take out the fiber. That's one of the last things you want to do when trying to lose weight, or just when trying to stay healthy overall. Fiber is critical to our digestion, and it's research-proven to be protective against problems with blood sugar, and heart disease, and cancer. You can't follow a diet that's high in processed grains and stay healthy. In our Feeling Great Menu, we don't include processed grain products in our meals. We do include enough grains to support our body's need for fiber and carbohydrates. But we don't go overboard. One reason to include at least 100 grams of carbohydrates is ketosis. Diet plans that drop below this level are likely to shift the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. In this metabolic condition, more fat is burned than the body can successfully process, and the body starts to make fat-like molecules called ketones as a way of dealing with the fat excess. The ketosis process can put an extra load on our kidneys, and it can also result in a deceptive kind of weight loss, because our bodies lose extra water trying to move the ketones out through our kidneys in the urine. That means water loss which shows up as weight loss on the scale. But it's not permanent. Whenever we eventually raise our carbs back up to a healthy level, the water weight comes back, and the scale goes back up. We kept enough carbs in our Feeling Great Menu to avoid ketosis, and to allow for plenty of health-protective fiber. We average about 40 grams of fiber per day - almost 4 times the U.S. average. Our Feeling Great Menu averages about 55% carbohydrate, although the range varies considerably, and on some days the carbohydrate level is as low as 40%.

Protein and Weight Loss

Our Feeling Great Menu averages about 90 grams of protein per day. This amount is very close to what the average U.S. adult is used to, and so it should feel comfortable to most people in this context. There is plenty of room for lean cuts of meat and for fish in our plan. Particularly if you are going to be increasing your exercise as part of your weight loss strategy (which we strongly encourage you to do), you'll want to keep your protein intake up to allow for new muscle development. Our plan keeps protein near the 20% of total calories level.

Weight Loss and the Pleasure of Food

Although nutrition facts are very important, so is the simple pleasure of eating. Delicious food can be one of life's amazing pleasures. Whole, natural, unprocessed foods also connect us up with the world around us, with the seasons, and the land, and the miraculous aspect of living things. Our Feeling Great Menu is a plan meant to be enjoyed! Enjoying life, and food, and eating seems part of weight management to us. Over the long haul, we don't think it's possible to stay completely healthy without sharing in the natural pleasures of food. That's why we've given you recipes with the highest quality ingredients and foods with long histories of cultural use. Calories and carbs are important, but so is the magnificent aroma of minted carrots or spicy Mexican soup. We're confident that it will be much easier for you to lose weight when your menu feels satisfying and everything tastes delicious.

Our Food Advisor

We've included on our website a personalized Food Advisor that can help you identify possible nutrient deficiencies in your current diet. It will also give you an estimate of how you're doing with incorporation of the World's Healthiest Foods. Our Food Advisor will not only help you identify possible nutritional deficiencies, but it will also give you food and recipe recommendations that emphasize these missing nutrients. By mixing and matching some of the Food Advisor recommendations with the meal choices in our Feeling Great Menu, you can create a more customized version that takes into account your individual nutrient needs.