(Family Features) - It's that time of year: Just as the last snow bank disappears, many of us wish we could melt away a few pounds for a more slender summer silhouette. It's time for a diet that jump-starts weight loss without gimmicks, helps establish healthy lifestyle habits and is easy to both swallow and follow.
Dreaming? Nope. A diet that is rich in whole grains and fiber can be a useful tool in losing weight, and maintaining your loss. Fruits and vegetables, and cereals, breads and pasta made with whole grains, are delicious and satisfying - filling you up, not out.
The easiest way is to wake up and begin at the breakfast table. "Start the day right with a bowl of whole grain cereal, fat free milk and fruit," said Jackie Newgent, registered dietitian and culinary consultant. "In fact, I counsel my weight-loss clients to include two whole grain cereal meals daily, with their third meal being well-planned, tasty and balanced."
Why the emphasis on whole grains? "Americans need to close the whole grains gap," said Newgent. "Nine out of 10 Americans do not get the recommended three or more servings they need daily. Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals and are also loaded with fiber - a great tool for weight management because it fills you up and keeps you satisfied."
Newgent points out that we need look no further than the classic whole grain cereals that we've enjoyed for years. "Whole grain cereals are familiar, satisfying, taste great and offer the utmost in convenience for busy consumers," she said.
What you add to your cereal can elevate it to a real taste sensation and nutritional powerhouse. Newgent suggests the following ideas and encourages her clients to create their own:
Scrumptious, Speedy Ways for Cereal With Style
Dress Up Your Cereal: Don't just serve cereal with plain ol' milk; serve it with fat free milk and fruit, low fat yogurt and fruit, or fat free soy milk and fruit. Try exotic fruits new to you or farmers' market picks. There are nearly endless varieties.
Cereal Sundae: Layer your favorite cereal in a wine, martini or parfait glass along with low fat yogurt and fresh, seasonal fruit.
Mix-n-Match to Create Your Own Favorite Combination: Know you should choose the higher fiber cereal but prefer the taste of a lower fiber one? Just mix them together to get the best of both - nutrition and taste.
Bag It to Go: Toss cereal in a sealable plastic snack- or sandwich-size bag with dried fruit and nuts of choice. Try dried cranberries and almonds for a nutritious kick - and super flavor.
Sprinkle It ... Just a Little Bit: Want to add a little crunch to a salad or casserole, but want a nutritious alternative to croutons, fried onions or potato chips? Toss or top with Grape-Nuts instead!
Satisfaction in a bowl might be the key to weight loss. Participants in a clinical trial conducted by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute lost an average of 10 pounds and up to 3 inches off their waistline in 12 weeks. The plan was simple: Every day participants replaced two meals with a serving of Post Healthy Classics (Post Raisin Bran, Post Grape-Nuts, or Post Shredded Wheat) and one-half cup of fat free milk and fruit, ate a balanced third meal and included 30 minutes of light exercise like walking.
During a 12-week maintenance phase of the study, dieters ate one meal of Post Healthy Classics cereal and two balanced meals. Most participants not only maintained their weight loss but, on average, lost an additional 2 pounds and maintained reductions in their heart disease risk factors: low blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
In addition to being a critical component to weight loss and maintenance, whole grain foods fight several serious chronic diseases, according to Newgent. "Whole grain consumption has been linked with lowered risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer. Eating whole grains is also associated with lower blood pressure and blood lipid levels," she said.
"For professionals concerned with public health, the recommendation to eat more whole grain foods is a dream come true." Newgent points to the new dietary guidelines for Americans, which focus on weight management, physical activity, adequate nutrients and specific whole foods like whole grains.
"Healthful lifestyles include portion control and mindful eating - choosing healthful foods that taste good to you, and enjoying your meals. This is a critical component of any healthful diet," said Newgent, who also emphasizes regular exercise as part of a diet of whole grains.
"Physical activity is critical for weight loss and maintenance, stress management and positive outlook. And the best exercise is one that you'll actually do. It can be as elementary as taking a walk."
Ready to cinch an inch? For more information on Post Healthy Classics' 3-step weight loss plan, cereal serving ideas, tips on diet and nutrition, healthy recipes and healthy lifestyle tips, check out www.posthealthyclassics.com.
Consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program. Results may vary.
Hot Ideas With Whole Grain Cereals
Adding more fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and whole grains to your daily diet can be as delicious as the following recipes.