As summer approaches, many people start making changes to their diet or lifestyle to reach certain health goals. But there are some common pitfalls to be aware of when trying to reach weight-loss goals this time of year.
Before you jump into a diet or weight-loss program, there are some important factors to consider to make sure you are being safe, realistic and healthy.
Vanessa Rissetto, registered dietitian and co-founder of Culina Health, shared the top dieting mistakes people should avoid and how to healthily reach your goals instead.
Cutting too many calories
The first thing to ask yourself before making any changes to your diet is: "Is this safe?" Rissetto told TODAY in a segment that aired on April 20. If you're cutting too many calories, it's not.
Being too restrictive is not only risky, it's also unsustainable and a large reason why people fail to stick to new diets, TODAY previously reported.
"Some things you can do for a day or two days and then that’s it, but you actually need fuel to function," said Rissetto.
Instead of heavily restricting your caloric intake, Rissetto suggested using math to figure out how many calories your body actually needs.
"A lot of people try to cut calories and they think, 'oh, my friend eats 1000 calories a day, so I should do that too'," said Rissetto, adding that people should base their caloric intake on their own weight.
As a general rule of thumb, she suggested dividing your weight by 2.2 and multiplying that by 25. So if you are 150 pounds, it would be 68 times 25, which would give you 1700 calories a day to maintain your current weight, she explained. If weight loss is your goal and you decide to eat less than that, you should never go below 1300 calories per day, she added.
Not getting enough fiber or water
Fiber and hydration are a key part of any diet, said Rissetto, but people often forget to focus on these two factors.
In the summer when the temperatures are higher, digestion can slow down, said Rissetto. Fiber and water are ways to aid your digestion and help speed things up.
How much water do you need? In the summer it’s easier to get dehydrated, which is why Rissetto suggested drinking 90 fluid ounces of water every day, more than the standard eight glasses a day recommendation.
"Fiber also helps with weight management," she added, suggesting people load meals with extra vegetables and fruits.
Skimping on protein and fat
You need to eat protein and fat to fuel your body, said Rissetto, so it's important not to cut back on these too much. "On average, fat is about 20 to 35% of your calorie requirement," she added. Healthy sources of fat include nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fatty fish, TODAY previously reported.
Your daily protein intake should be about 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of your weight, said Rissetto. So someone who is 150 pounds or 68 kilograms would need about 68 to 82 grams per day. "For context, four ounces of chicken has 31 grams of protein," she added.
Rissetto said another mistake she sees people make is omitting entire food groups, namely, carbs. Low- or no-carb diets for weight loss have come in and out of popularity for a long time, TODAY previously reported.
"Carbs are not bad. They are our major energy source and we need them for fuel," she added. People are often scared of carbs because they don't actually know what carbs are or how much we need to eat, she said.
“It’s not always bread and cookies,” she clarified. Not all carbs are created equal, and healthier options include whole grains like quinoa, starchy vegetables like broccoli, or pulses like lentils.
Spending a lot of money on fad diets and cleanses
"When you think about these fads, like a juice cleanse, you have to buy the whole system and that's costing you hundreds of dollars over a month," said Rissetto. Expensive cleanses or fad diets are often not sustainable, she added, and a total waste of money.
"Ask yourself ... can I achieve the goal while not blowing up my pocket?" said Rissetto, adding that professionals can also help you understand how to make sustainable, affordable changes. "Most of us (dietitians) take insurance and the cost is probably a copay," she added.
It's important to make sure any changes are realistic for your lifestyle, Rissetto emphasized. A diet shouldn't take away from your social life, for example. If going out to eat or trying new restaurants is a big part of your life, choose a diet that allows you to keep doing that, but in a healthier way.
"Think about what your limits are and what your life is like," said Rissetto, adding that people should consider the best way to incorporate a diet change into their routine so that it works for their lifestyle. If you are a busy parent cooking for your family, for example, you may not want to choose a diet that requires you to eat separate meals, she added. "Really, what is going to be sustainable in the long-term without having you lose your mind?"