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April 12, 2007

Eat to Stay Slim

Eat to stay slim, even when you can't get to the gym.

salmon with capers and a sauce

Photo Credit: James Baigrie

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Tired of what some diets put us through — counting peanuts, measuring tofu, or feeling exhausted at the end of the day — we called Bob Seebohar, M.S., R.D., a certified specialist in sports dietetics and sports dietitian for the U.S. Olympic Committee, to see if there was a better way to eat to get the body that you want. He said eating right and feeling your best are all about seeing the big picture — which happens to look like a target. His Fuel Target system is an easy way to get all the nutrients you need while avoiding useless extra calories. The result: You're more focused and efficient during the day, you lose weight without being hungry, you have more energy to get to the gym, and you can give your all to your workout and whatever other important things you're doing afterward. "I use this with everyone from teenagers to people who are 65-plus, and it's so simple that it works for all of them," says Seebohar.

Here's how the target works:

Ring 1 the bull's-eye, contains lean protein and healthy fats (salmon, tofu, chicken, eggs, walnuts, olive oil).
Ring 2 is made up of whole fruits and vegetables (watermelon, bananas, pomegranates, oranges, broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, beets, and more).
Ring 3 comprises whole grains and healthier starches (quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, etc.). Outside the target is everything else — alcohol, refined-sugar and refined-flour products (as in chocolate-chip cookies, Twinkies, and white bread), processed foods, sweets, and most other junk foods.

"The target changes the way you think about food," says Seebohar. At every meal, you should start at the center of the target. Choose the protein source first, then pile on the veggies or fruit, then the whole grains.

In practical terms, that means thinking of the center of the sandwich first. Then add plenty of veggies, such as spinach, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, and then add the bread, Seebohar says: "Usually people go for carbs first and miss all the other important nutrients."

To keep your weight steady, change how far out on the target you eat depending on how active you are. On days when you can't get to the gym, choose foods from Rings 1 and 2 with only a nibble from 3. On days you do work out, choose more foods from Ring 3; you need more of those carbs to fuel your workouts. "The beauty of the target is that portion control takes care of itself.

The protein and fiber in Rings 1 and 2 trigger your body to feel full — as long as you don't eat too fast," Seebohar says. He generally recommends eating three meals and two snacks a day to keep your blood sugar steady. But on days when you aren't able to get to the gym, you may want to drop the morning or afternoon snack.

Seebohar's no food nazi: He knows you need a saketini (or two or three) every now and then, and that sometimes dessert happens. "It's a dartboard, and you're not going to hit the target every time," he acknowledges. "If you can stay within the rings 90 percent of the time, you're doing really well."

So forget counting calories, feeling unsatisfied by your meals, or cutting out certain food groups altogether: Targeting your perfect weight doesn't get easier than this.

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