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Published March 03, 2012, 11:30 PM

The YOU Docs: Make sure those calories you’re counting are nutritionally sound

Q I’m trying to shed 25 pounds by eating 1,400 calories a day, but it isn’t working. Is counting calories the best way to lose weight?

By: Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D., INFORUM

Q I’m trying to shed 25 pounds by eating 1,400 calories a day, but it isn’t working. Is counting calories the best way to lose weight? – Lynn, Destin, Fla.

A Calories do count – and they’re one way to measure your weight-loss efforts – but it makes sense only if the calories you’re counting are healthy. We YOU Docs want you to imagine you’re tagging along with Harold and Kumar for a meal of just one 140-calorie White Castle slider. Is this meager serving going to help get you into top shape? Nope.

For optimal weight loss and good health, you want to avoid calories from trans fats – partially hydrogenated oils that are found in many baked goods and packaged foods – as well as calories from added sugars and syrups, saturated fats from four-legged animals, all skin on poultry, and palm and coconut oils.

Did you know that if you took in an equal amount of calories from saturated and unsaturated fats, you’d lose more weight and get a flatter belly from eating unsaturated olive or canola oil? Your food choices may be why a reduced-calorie diet isn’t working.

The “YOU On a Diet” solution? Diet smart, not hard. The YOU Docs believe in eating the amount of food that feels right – but only when your diet is based on lean proteins and unsaturated fats, lots of veggies and fruit, and 100 percent whole grains (and no refined ones!). To help you get there, try this trick: Enjoy a handful of six walnut halves or a couple of slices of avocado 25 minutes before eating. You’ll start your next meal feeling well on your way to full. And set your goal to waist size, not weight: The ideal for women is 32 1/2 inches; for men it’s 35. Then kick up your weight-loss efforts by walking 10,000 steps a day. You’ll be able to tell those good-for-you calories you’re eating, “Burn baby, burn!”

Q My 8-year-old son is really into soccer. But I’m worried that he’s using his head too much for passing and trying to score goals. Is he in danger of brain damage or a head injury? Should I ask him to back off? – Sarah P., Springfield, Ohio

A Using your head might work for the nerds on “The Big Bang Theory,” but we know the Beckham and Hamm wannabes have something else in mind. And heading the soccer ball might not be a smart move for young kids whose brains are still developing. Although no single header may do any harm, we’re learning that the cumulative effect of many small head traumas may cause brain damage. We YOU Docs think that telling your son to back off might have the opposite effect, but we have a few ideas about how to protect him from possible injury.

Make sure that younger players – up to age 12 – are using an age-appropriate size ball, correctly inflated to its recommended PSI. And institute a No Heading rule in the kids’ organized camps and leagues. That way, the kids will avoid the most common head injuries – from a collision between two players’ heads, a head and a foot, or a head and a goalpost. And if we one day establish a clear link between heading and brain damage – in kids or adults – our children will be spared having to live with the consequences of our ignorance. We also recommend adding 600 mg of DHA (omega-3s) as a supplement to every kid’s diet, because anecdotal studies indicate that it facilitates brain healing.

When kids get older, they’ll be ready to learn the right heading technique. They can lessen the effect of the 20 Gs of force that impacts the skull with a strong header if they use their (now well-developed) frontal bone of the skull to contact the ball, engage their neck muscles correctly to control head motion and position the lower body in line with the neck and head. GOAL!

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.

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