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Expert Q&A: Tips from 'The Biggest Loser'

An interview with Cheryl Forberg, RD

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What are your best weight loss tips to help people at home get results?

If you really want to get the scale moving, one of the biggest first steps is to lose the white stuff, like sugar, white bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. It sounds simple, but can be a really big change. Most people don’t realize how much sugar and refined flour is in condiments, breads, tortillas, muffins, baked goods, and bagels. Start by replacing white bread, rice, and pasta with whole grains, and instead of cakes, cookies, and candies, eat more fruit.

Keep in mind that the quality of the calories is just as important as the quantity. If you focus more on eating nutrient-rich foods, you don’t have to worry as much about calories.

Start recording what you eat in a food record. Just by writing down what you eat, you take ownership that you ate it -- and that can be a powerful motivator to eat more healthfully.

Find a fitness routine that you can stick with on most days.

What type of diet do the Biggest Loser contestants follow?

Calorie levels are individualized for each person, but in general we rarely go below 1,200 or above 2,400 calories per day. With the exception of skim milk, most of the calories come from food instead of beverages because food is more filling than drinks. The food selection is based on nutrient-rich foods that provide good nutrition, fiber, and meal satisfaction for the least number of calories.

Here is the nutritional breakdown of the diet they follow:

  • 45% of calories from healthy, whole-grain carbs.
  • 30% of calories from lean protein from chicken, turkey, dairy.
  • 25% of calories from healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado.
  • 3 meals plus 2 snacks daily.
  • 4 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.

When contestants are hungry or tired, we reevaluate the food budget to make sure they are getting enough food to fuel their activities and that the combination of foods is satisfying. In fact, at times we have trouble getting them to eat all their calories. On the flip side, when the scale gets stuck, we might cut back on the grains.

What is the role of a registered dietitian on the show?

Prospective cast members come out for a week, and during that time I conduct a nutritional assessment and diet history. Once they are selected, I see each one for an individualized consultation about their diet plan and give them instructions on the importance of keeping a food record, which they send to me daily. From their food records, I create a spreadsheet to ensure they are getting enough nutrients and food.

How are meals prepared for cast members?

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