Nutrition News: Cut Carbs, Cut Fat or Just Exercise? Plus: Raise a Healthy Eater

Forget about carbs or fats; it’s the calories you cut that count. Exercise alone will not make you thin. Plus: There's a better way to teach kids to eat healthy.
Oat topped whole grain bread.

Oat topped whole grain bread.

©2008 Sharon Day

2008 Sharon Day

Cutting Carbs Not So Key

Attention, carb cutters: A new study has found that, contrary to the belief of die-hard Atkins fans, it is not necessary to cut carbs to burn fat and lose weight. According to researchers at National Institutes of Health, who published their findings in the journal Cell Metabolism, those who cut an equal caloric amount of fat from their diet are just as, if not more, likely to burn fat as those who cut carbs. "Our study suggests it's probably the calories in a diet that matter much more than the carbohydrates or the fat," lead author Kevin Hall, of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, told the Los Angeles Times. The key to losing weight is to reduce calories and keep them down over the long-term, Hall said.

Exercise Alone Won’t Make You Skinny

If you needed further testimony to the benefits of cutting calories, two public health scientists at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine have provided it in an article in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Being active may benefit your health in many ways, they write, but exercise alone will not help you lose weight. "Physical activity is crucially important for improving overall health and fitness levels,” Drs. Cooper and Luke noted, “but there is limited evidence to suggest that it can blunt the surge in obesity." One problem is that when we exercise more, we tend to eat more — and only when we also control or cut calories do we shed pounds. "There is only one effective way to lose weight — eat fewer calories," they wrote.

How to Raise a Healthy Eater

Health-minded parents who pay particular attention to the foods their kids eat — urging them to finish their vegetables, withholding dessert or begging them to try new foods — may want to take a lower-key, bigger-picture approach, New York Times health writer Jane E. Brody suggests, citing advice from It’s Not About the Broccoli author Dina Rose. Let kids follow their own cues about hunger or fullness, Rose counsels. To get them to accept new foods, offer only a very small amount of it initially and discuss their response. Then try it again another time, and try different ways of cooking it. “The way a food is prepared may prompt a switch from revulsion to acceptance,” Brody wrote, observing that a child who can’t abide spinach steamed may adore it sauteed with garlic and olive oil. “Flavor is important,” Rose said.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish .

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