Federal law now requires most fast food restaurants to post calorie information on menus, but it you're trying to lose weight by cutting calories, Cornell University researchers say you're off base.
Instead, they suggest simple, routine behaviors may be your key to losing or maintaining a healthy weight.
To explain what they mean, Cornell Food and Brand Lab researchers developed an online Global Healthy Weight Registry. People who had already achieved a healthy weight were asked to sign up and then answer questions about their diet, exercise, and daily routines.
That became the focus of scientific analysis, which zeroed in on some common routine behaviors of those who stay healthy and slim.
How they do it
For example, the analysis determined that 96% of the people ate breakfast every day and 42% exercised five or more times a week. At least half said they weighed themselves at least once a week.
What they didn't do, by and large, was go on diets.
Although 74% never or rarely dieted, 92% of the people in the registry said they were generally conscious of what they ate. As part of their healthy habits that lead to weight control, 44% reported at least one non-restrictive strategy, such as listening to inner cues, cooking at home, and eating high-quality, non-processed foods.
"Most slim people don't employ restrictive diets or intense health regimes to stay at a healthy weight,” study co-author Brian Wansink said in a release. “Instead, they practice easy habits like not skipping breakfast, and listening to inner cues. If you struggle with weight, try adding these simple practices to your routine, you may be surprised how easy it is to be healthy!"
What you eat, not necessarily how much
While there have been studies showing calorie restriction provides health benefits in other areas, many nutritionists stress the importance of eating a healthy diet, not necessarily a small one.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a diet rich in nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. It also says a healthy diet is made up of fruits and vegetables, whole grains -- like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice -- seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
Last year, the U.S. government updated its Dietary Guidelines For Americans. You'll find them here.