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What's Your Nutrition IQ?

Getting the facts about food can help you lose weight.

4. True or false? "Empty calories" refers to foods that are "free," or have virtually no calories.

False. Empty-calorie foods are those that offer little nutritional value, but lots of calories. Most empty-calorie foods have few vitamins, minerals, or fiber, but are high in calories, fat, and/or sugar. To avoid them, check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels and choose foods that offer at least 20% of the recommended Daily Value of a few vitamins and minerals (except sodium -- we all get plenty of that mineral).

5. True or false? Calories eaten at night turn to fat more easily than those eaten during the day.

False. Whether you lose or gain weight comes down to this formula: Calories in - Calories Out = Weight Loss (or Gain). "Calories in" come from the food and beverages you consume. "Calories out" include those burned by physical activity; those your body burns even when at rest, by functions such as breathing; and the "thermic activity" of food (the number of calories it takes to digest and absorb food).

Many experts recommend consuming all your calories before 8 p.m. because most of us are sedentary after that hour and less likely to burn extra calories. And it is a good habit to eat most of your meals during the more active phases of the day. But the bottom line is that it's the total number of calories you consume -- regardless of the time of day -- that determines whether you gain or lose weight.

6. True or false? Meats described as "lean" are healthier choices.

True. According to government definitions, "lean" refers to cuts of meat (including poultry and game) with less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce cooked serving. The only exception is for ground beef labeled as 80%-95% lean. Ground beef that is 95% lean has 5% fat by weight -- which is equivalent to 6.4 grams of total fat per serving, and still qualifies as lean. But ground beef that contains more than 5% fat by weight is too high in fat to be considered lean.

Naturally lean cuts of meat include:

  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Eye of round
  • Top round
  • Mock tender steak (often sold as a roast)
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Top sirloin
  • 95% lean ground beef
  • Flank steak
  • Bottom round steak
  • Pork loin
  • Sirloin tip
  • Beef tenderloin

Keep a list of these low-fat cuts and use them as your preferred types of meats when cooking or dining out. Your eating plan can include lean meats regularly, but should include higher-fat meats only on occasion.

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