Cheryl Forberg, the nutritionist who co-wrote "The Biggest Loser" diet plan, has helped contestants lose thousands of pounds and transform their bodies and lives on the NBC-TV show.
A registered dietitian and chef, Forberg, stresses the importance of focusing on the quality of food as much as the quantity of calories.
Following is Forberg's take on healthy eating and "Loser."
How did you get involved with "The Biggest Loser"?
"Loser" was the first weight-loss show on TV; they had no idea how it would go over. A colleague at UCLA did the first season and happened to be working on another project and couldn't continue. I've done all except the first season.
What are three simple changes people can make to be more healthful?
(1.) Give up the white stuff (sugar, flour, etc.) if you want to get the scales moving. It's an invaluable step to take.
(2.) Keep a food journal. Food journaling is a very powerful tool.
(3.) Make time for exercise that you love. It can be dancing, hula hooping, whatever, as long as you burn calories.
Why do you use agave nectar, not sugar, in your recipes?
Agave nectar is similar to honey but a little thinner and with a lighter taste. It has a relatively low glycemic index and has some antioxidants.
Were you ever overweight?
I gained about 25 to 30 pounds in college. I signed up for some crazy weight-loss plan. I was spending a lot of money on a very low-calorie diet, but the high cost motivated me to stick with it. I was 19 at the time, and I learned that for the rest of my life, I can't eat what I want.
Losing weight is one thing; maintaining is another. How is that done?
Once you reach your weight, you can slowly reintroduce foods and see what happens. At the same time you reach your goal weight, you're probably slowing down on the exercise. If weight starts to creep up again, never let it go more than 3, 4, 5 pounds tops.
What are some good snack foods?
An apple or orange sounds like a healthy snack but it's not. You need to have a little protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat at each meal and snack.
Have an apple with a mozzarella stick or almonds; apple slices with peanut butter; a carton of yogurt (Forberg recommends Greek yogurt because of its higher protein count); edamame; half of a sandwich made with whole-grain bread, mustard and turkey; a smoothie.
You mentioned, with the exception of dairy, calories should come from food, not beverages. Besides water, what else is good?
Drinking three to four cups of green tea a day can kick up your metabolism by 80 calories. Green tea also has lots of anti-aging compounds.
What kind of diet plan are contestants on?
They eat four cups of fruit and vegetables, mostly vegetables, lots of lean protein like turkey, chicken without skin, egg whites, red meat occasionally, lots of dairy. It's a modified low-carb -- a little higher in protein because we're doing a lot of exercise. The first couple of weeks, it's literally detox -- no sugar. All of a sudden, contestants are eating all this healthy stuff. They sleep well, think clearly, their hair shines. They don't remember the last time they felt this good.
How many calories does a woman contestant eat per day on the show?
About 1,200. Three hundred calories for breakfast, lunch and dinner and 150-calorie snacks twice a day. They can have snacks at different times of their choice. We like them to have a little complex carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat at each meal and snack. The biggest man -- we have some football players -- might get 2,400.
What about water?
I recommend eight glasses of water. Probably on the show they drink gallons because they exercise so much.
What do you do if you're dieting and hungry?
Eat more. If you get too hungry, you'll eat too much the next meal, too fast and the wrong things. We want them to be satisfied. If you feel calories are not enough, let's kick it up another 200 calories, considering you're eating the proper balance (45 percent complex carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 25 percent healthy fats). If you're eating 75 percent carbohydrates, we're not going to (increase calories).
How many days a week should you exercise?
Five, maybe six.
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