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Nutrition Notes With Ilana Muhlstein—‘Water First Veggies Most’

Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2016 – 3:03 PM

Michael Pollan aimed to spread a movement of healthier eating with three short sentences: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” While clever and relatively simple, it has yet to catch on in a way that has the masses repeating it in their heads. But he was on to something. We, as Americans, are in desperate need of a quick catch phrase that will work to counter our current slogan of “All You Can Eat.”

Motivated by the challenge, I created the mantra that will save American’s health. Yes, it’s that simple. Repeat after me, “Water First Veggies Most™”

After counseling thousands of people for weight loss both in my 10 semesters leading a weight-loss seminar at UCLA and in private practice, I always find the same common theme among people. We are all not drinking enough water nor eating enough vegetables. When people aren’t drinking water first and eating veggies most, they are forced to fill up on the other stuff (protein, carbohydrates and fats), which are meant to serve as the supporting actors, not the stars.

Studies have consistently shown that starting a meal with water can help you lose more and maintain a healthier weight in the long term. Studies also show that eating vegetables first and most lead you to want to eat more vegetables, whereas starting your meal with starches, leads you to eat more starches, less vegetables, and more food overall.

The image here shows how the stomach can fill up in different ways; study it and imagine how many calories it would take someone to fill up on fat, such as a meal of French fries or fried chicken. It would take close to 1,500 calories, or a whole day’s worth of calories. Our stomach can only hold about four cups of space and if you tried to eat 400 calories of cucumbers, you would have 25 cups. You would be beyond full. We enjoy feeling full and satisfied and thus, when filling up on water first and veggies most, we can still enjoy the carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but in a much smarter, balanced and strategic way—one that leads you to feeling satiated after a meal, confident in your body, and healthy in your everyday life. 

Ilana Muhlstein, R.D.N. is a Beverly Hills-based registered dietitian nutritionist. At UCLA she has led a benchmark weight loss and health promotion program, titled the Bruin Health Improvement Program (BHIP), and is the dietitian on the hit show Fit to Fat to Fit on A&E.

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