Small Improvements to help People Stay at Healthy Weight, as recommended by NICE

Diet, Tape Measure (1)Making any improvements, however small, to physical activity or dietary habits is likely to help individuals stay at a healthy weight or prevent further weight gain, guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have said.

The new guidelines described the many things that people can do to maintain a healthy weight that are known to be effective (NICE, 2015). These included walking more, limiting time spent watching television, eating more healthily, avoiding sugary drinks, and drinking less alcohol.

The guidance, the draft version of which was published last year (Kmietowicz, 2014), said that being physically active and improving dietary habits were as important for people who were currently a healthy weight as for people who were already overweight. It stressed that it was easier to prevent weight gain than to lose weight and keep that weight off.

Everyone should be encouraged to follow a diet mainly based on vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, wholegrains, and fish. In addition, the guidelines said that the overall energy density of the diet should be reduced. For example, by reducing intake of fried foods, biscuits, savoury snacks, confectionary, and drinks made with full fat milk or cream.

The guidelines advised against extreme dietary behaviours, such as avoiding all carbohydrates, as this may be difficult to sustain and may not be accompanied by wider improvements in health. NICE recommended avoiding sugary drinks including carbonated drinks, sports drinks, squashes, and any other drinks that contain free sugars.

NICE defines a healthy weight as a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9. However, the guidelines recognised that as the mean BMI in England is now 27 the aim for many people may be to prevent further weight gain.

Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said, “A significant amount of effort is needed to lose weight and keep it off—it is often much easier to make changes to physical activity and diet to help maintain a healthy weight or prevent weight gain.”

Practical ways to maintain a healthy weight from NICE (2015) guidance:

  • Drink water instead of drinks containing free sugars (including sports drinks) while being physically active;
  • Avoid overeating after being physically active;
  • Avoid giving “sweet treats” as a reward;
  • Be aware that even food and drinks perceived as healthy such as olive oil, fruit juice, and nuts can contribute to weight gain;
  • Choose smaller portions or avoid additional servings of energy dense foods;
  • Limit consumption of fast or takeaway foods;
  • Eat breakfast but do not increase overall daily energy intake;
  • Reduce sedentary behaviour and build activity into daily life; and
  • Reduce time watching television by having television free days or a limit of two hours a day.

References (In Article)

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) (2015). Maintaining a Healthy Weight and Preventing Excess Weight Gain Among Adults and Children. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG7. [Accessed: 20 March, 2015].

Kmietowicz, Z. (2014) Watch Diet and Exercise more to Prevent Overweight, NICE Advises Public. BMJ 2014;349:g5814.

Reference (Whole Article)

Wise, J. (2015) NICE Recommends Small Improvements to Help People Stay at Healthy Weight. BMJ 2015;350:h1427.

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