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Tips for a Healthy Diet and Better Nutrition
Healthy eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, and keeping yourself as healthy as possible – all which can be achieved by learning some nutrition basics and incorporating them in a way that works for you.
Choose the types of foods that improve your health and avoid the types of foods that raise your risk for such illnesses as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Expand your range of healthy choices to include a wide variety of delicious foods. Learn to use guidelines and tips for creating and maintaining a satisfying, healthy diet.
Healthy Eating: Strategies for a healthy diet:
Here are some tips for how to choose foods that improve your health and avoid foods that raise your risk for illnesses while creating a diet plan that works for you.
1- Eat enough calories but not too many. Maintain a balance between your calorie intake and calorie expenditure (don't eat more food than your body uses). The average recommended daily allowance is 2,000 calories, but this depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity.
2- Eat a wide variety of foods. Healthy eating is an opportunity to expand your range of choices by trying foods (especially vegetables, whole grains, or fruits) that you don't normally eat.
3- Keep portions moderate, especially high-calorie foods. In recent years serving sizes have ballooned, particularly in restaurants. Choose a starter instead of an entire, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything.
4- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes (foods high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, low in fat, and free of cholesterol). Try to get fresh types.
5- Drink more water. Our bodies are about 75% water. It is a vital part of a healthy diet. Water helps flush our systems, especially the kidneys and bladder, of waste products and toxins.
6- Limit sugary foods, salt, and refined-grain products. Sugar is added to a vast array of foods. In a year, just one daily 12-ounce can of soda (160 calories) can increase your weight by 16 pounds.
7- Don’t be the food police. You can enjoy your favorite sweets and fried foods in moderation, as long as they are an occasional part of your overall healthy diet. Food is a great source of pleasure, and pleasure is good for the heart – even if those French fries aren’t!
8- Get moving. A healthy diet improves your energy and feelings of well-being while reducing your risk of many diseases. Adding regular physical activity and exercise will make any healthy eating plan work even better.
10- One step at a time. Establishing new food habits is much easier if you focus on and take action on one food group or food fact at a time
Eating smart: A key-step towards healthy eating:
Healthy eating begins with learning how to “eat smart”. It's not just what you eat, but how you eat. Paying attention to what you eat and choosing foods that are both nourishing and enjoyable helps support an overall healthy diet.
• Take time to chew your food: Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite.
• Avoid stress while eating: When we are stressed, our digestion can be compromised, causing problems like colitis and heartburn. Avoid eating while working, driving, arguing, or watching TV. Try taking some deep breaths prior to beginning your meal, or light candles and play soothing music to create a relaxing atmosphere.
• Listen to your body: Ask yourself if you are really hungry. You may really be thirsty, so try drinking a glass of water first. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full.
• Eat early, eat often: Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating the majority of your daily caloric allotment early in the day gives your body time to work those calories off. Also, eating small, healthy meals throughout the day, rather than the standard three large meals, can help keep your metabolism going and ward off snack attacks.
Food staffs and Pyramid:
Food composed of some combination of starches, sugar and fiber.
Provide the body with fuel it needs for physical activity by breaking down into glucose, a type of sugar our cells use as a universal energy source.
• Bad carbs are foods that have been “stripped” of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. They have been processed in order to make cooking fast and easy. Examples are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. They digest so quickly that they cause dramatic elevations in blood sugar, which over time can lead to weight gain, hypoglycemia or even diabetes. Examples of refined grains are breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals.
• Good carbs are digested more slowly. This keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising and falling too quickly, helping you get full quicker and feel fuller longer. Examples are whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, which also offer lots of additional health benefits, including heart disease and cancer prevention.
Whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Examples of whole grain are brown rice, millet, quinoa, barley, dark breads and toasted wheat cereals.
Fiber, Vitamin, antioxidant and fiber powerhouses
Dietary fiber is found in plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. A healthy diet should contain approximately 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, but most of us only get about half of that amount.
Fiber helps support a healthy diet by:
• Helping you feel fuller faster and longer, which can help prevent overeating.
• Keeping blood sugar levels even, by slowing digestion and absorption so that glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream slowly and steadily.
• Maintaining a healthy colon - the simple organic acids produced when fiber is broken down in the digestive process helps to nourish the lining of the colon.
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble:
• Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and can also help to lower blood fats and maintain blood sugar. Primary sources are beans, fruit and oat products.
• Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water, so it passes directly through the digestive system. It’s found in whole grain products and vegetables.
Calcium and Vitamin D:
Dairy products provide a rich source of calcium, necessary for bone health. Most are fortified with vitamin D, which helps the small intestine absorb calcium. Calcium can also be found in dark green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and collard greens, as well as in dried beans and legumes.
Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over 50 years old. Take a vitamin D and calcium supplement if you don’t get enough of these nutrients from your diet.
Choose non-fat or low-fat dairy products that do not contain rBST (bovine growth hormone). If you're lactose-intolerant, choose lactose-free and lower-lactose products, such as lactose free milk, hard cheeses and yogurt.
Avoid full-fat dairy products or products from cows treated with rBST.
Salt and sodium:
Once again the problem with salt comes with the over-use and over consumption of processed salt most commonly used. It is best to limit sodium to 2,300 mg per day – the equivalent to one teaspoon of salt.
Salt itself is not bad. A high quality sea salt can have up to 90 minerals, which are healthy for our body. Look for sea salt that has a reddish or brownish tint, has no coloring, additives, chemicals and has not been bleached.
Fruits and vegetables: are low in calories and are packed with vitamins, minerals, protective plant compounds and fiber. They are a great source of nutrients and vital for a healthy diet.
Fruits and vegetables should be part of every meal, and be your first choice for a snack. Eat a minimum of five portions each day.
The antioxidants and other nutrients in these foods help protect against developing certain types of cancer and other diseases. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, and so on.
Greens: Dark leafy green vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet since they are packed with nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and Vitamins A, C, E and K. Greens help to strengthen the blood and respiratory systems.
Sweet Vegetables: Naturally sweet vegetables are an excellent way to add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets. Some examples of sweet vegetables are corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes or yams, winter squash, and onions.
During digestion, protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the basic building blocks our bodies use to create its own protein. Our bodies need protein to maintain our cells, tissues and organs.
A lack of protein in our diets can result in slow growth, reduced muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratory system.
Keep in mind that it is vital to eat healthy protein that is free of hormones and antibiotics. Each person is individual and may need different amounts of protein depending on their body and activity level.
- A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids. Examples are animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese.
- An incomplete protein source is one that is low in one or more of the essential amino acids.
- Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example, rice and dry beans.
Lipids and Fats:
Fats are another vital part to a healthy diet. Good fats are needed to nourish your brain, heart, nerves, hormones and all your cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Fat also satisfies us and makes us feel full.
• Saturated fats, primarily found in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products, raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Substitute lean meats, skinless poultry, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish and nuts. Other saturated fat sources include vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils.
• Trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as lowering HDL, or good cholesterol. Trans fats are created by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. Primary sources of trans fat are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
• Monounsaturated fats - People following traditional Mediterranean diets, which are very high in foods containing monounsaturated fats like olive oil, tend to have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Primary sources are plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.
• Polyunsaturated fats – These includes the Omega-3 and Omega-6 groups of fatty acids which your body can’t make.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in very few foods – primarily cold water fatty fish and fish oils. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood and help prevent dementia. Examples are sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils. It is important to know that these oils become unhealthy when heated due to the formation of free radicals, which can lead to disease.
How much fat is too much? It depends on your lifestyle, weight, age and most importantly the state of your health. Focus on including Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats in your diet, decreasing Saturated fats, and avoiding Trans fats as much as possible. Dietary cholesterol is also is a very important form of fat that has its own set of considerations.
The USDA recommends that the average individual:
• Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
• Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
• Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
• Limit cholesterol to 300 mg per day, less if you have diabetes.
You may hear a lot about getting your omega-3’s from foods rich in ALA fatty acids. Main sources are vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax, soybeans, and tofu. Be aware that our bodies generally convert very little ALA into EPA and DHA, so you may not get as big of a benefit from these foods.
Some people avoid seafood because they worry about mercury or other possible toxins. But most experts agree that the benefits of eating 2 servings a week of cold water fatty fish outweigh the risks.
Healthy Weight Loss and Dieting: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off?
In our eat-and-run, massive-portion-sized world, maintaining a healthy weight can be hard enough, and healthy weight loss can be a real struggle. Adding to the difficulty is the abundance of fad diets and “quick-fix” plans that tempt and confuse us and ultimately usually do not work.
Weight management not only makes you look and feel better, it influences your future health. A healthy weight decreases your chances of developing serious health risks such as heart disease or diabetes.
If your last diet attempt wasn't a success, or life events have caused you to gain weight, don’t be discouraged. The key is to find a plan that works with your body’s individual needs so that you can avoid common diet pitfalls and instead make lasting lifestyle changes that can help you find long-term, healthy weight loss success.
Why do some weight loss programs fail?
Diets, especially fad diets or “quick-fix” pills and plans, often set you up for failure because:
• You feel deprived.
• You “plateau” after losing a few pounds. Often your body adjusts to a new way of eating, and it’s only with increased physical activity that the pounds will continue to melt away.
• You lose weight, but can’t keep it off. Once you meet your weight loss goal, you have no means of lifelong, healthy diet maintenance, and the pounds quickly come back.
• After your diet, you seem to put on weight more quickly.
• You break your diet and feel too discouraged to try again.
• You lose money faster than you lose weight. Special shakes, meals, and programs may be cost-prohibitive and less practical for long-term weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
• You feel isolated and unable to enjoy social situations revolving around food.
• The person on the commercial lost 30 lbs in 2 months – and you haven’t. Diet companies make a lot of grandiose promises, and most are simply not realistic. Don’t get discouraged by setting unrealistic goals!
Why do some weight loss programs succeed?
While there is no “one size fits all” solution to lifelong, healthy weight loss, try these tips:
• Lifestyle Change.
• Find a cheering section – Social support means a lot. Programs use group support to impact weight loss and lifelong healthy eating.
• Commit to a plan and stick to it.
• Lose weight slowly. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week to ensure healthy weight loss.
• Stay motivated and keep track. Keep a food journal or weigh yourself regularly.
Body Mass index (BMI):
Body mass index is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women. It can be used to indicate if you are overweight, obese, underweight or normal. It will, however, overestimate fatness in people who are muscular or athletics. Because of these problems, this body mass index calculator shows extra statistics to help you be informed and judge your own body compared to others of the same height and age.
Women tend to believe
they look their best at values between 20 to 22.
Men are usually satisfied with a BMI of 23 to 25.
- If your BMI is between 17 to 22, your life expectancy is longer than average. You don't need to lose weight.
- If your BMI is between 23 and 25, you are not considered overweight by most people.
- If your BMI is 26 or more, that's not good. But you knew that already.
Above all, Don't Worry, Be Happy. It's unhealthy to have anxiety over a less-than-perfect body image. And, if this calculator's description of your body seems wrong for you, just trust your own judgment. A healthy mental attitude is just as important as physical fitness.
Your weight is a balancing act, but the equation is simple: If you eat more calories than you burn then you gain weight or if you eat fewer calories than you burn then you lose weight. (Gaining and losing weight (W) comes down to the simple calculation of calories consumed (CC), or in other words, what you eat, minus calories burned (CB) through metabolism and physical activity).
Weight (W) = Calories Consumed (CC) – Calories Burned (CB)
Then, in order to lose one pound of fat per week, you should cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you will lose approximately 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). Remember, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound.
A major study concluded that it doesn’t matter which diet program you choose, as long as it is one that reduces your calorie intake and is healthy for your heart (low in saturated fat and cholesterol). This does not mean that you need to eat less food. Instead, you need to consume fewer calories and lose more calories. With smart choices this is very doable. The key is to choose “low density” foods, which means foods that allow you to eat a larger portion sizes but that is lower in calories. These foods, including many fruits and vegetables, tend to contain more water and fiber.
Emotional and social components of healthy weight loss:
Food isn’t just used to satisfy hunger – it is also a common part of social interactions and a means of comfort and stress relief. How we eat is also partially dictated by how we were raised – “clean your plate – there’s children starving in Africa” – and how the people around us eat. If your friends and relatives start packing on the pounds, you are more likely to do so as well.
What’s a healthy dieter to do? First, consider how and when you eat. Do you only eat when you are hungry, or do you reach for a snack while watching TV? Do you eat when you’re stressed or bored? To reward yourself? Also pay attention to how much sleep you are getting – lack of sleep has been shown to have a direct link to hunger and overeating.
Recognizing your emotional triggers can help make it easier for you to make changes. Once you realize your own personal challenges to weight loss, you can work towards gradually changing the habits and mental attitudes that have sabotaged your efforts in the past.
Stress eating is a common problem. Instead of self-medicating with food, try alternative means of stress relief. In addition, when our minds are tuned out during mealtime, the digestive process may be 30% to 40% less effective. This can contribute to digestive distress, such as gas, bloating and bowel irregularities.
Mindful Eating tips for Healthy Weight Loss:
• Pay attention while you are eating. Be aware of your environment, eat slowly, enjoy each bite. If your mind wanders, just gently remind yourself to return to focusing on your food and how it tastes and feels in your mouth.
• Avoid distractions while eating. Try not to eat while working, watching TV, reading, using a computer, or driving.
• Try mixing things up to force yourself to focus on the experience of eating – try using chopsticks or your non-dominant hand.
• Chew your food thoroughly.
• Stop eating before you are full. Avoid the temptation to “clean your plate”.
• Serve yourself a smaller portion and use small plates, bowls and cups. If you are hungry later you can have a small healthy snack.
• Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time and don’t eat out of large bags or boxes.
• Focus on fruits and veggies.
• Upgrade your carbohydrates – Switch from simple to complex carbohydrates.
• Drink more water. You can easily reduce your daily calorie intake by replacing soda, alcohol or coffee with water. Thirst can also be confused with hunger, so by drinking water, you may avoid consuming extra calories, plus it will help you break down food more easily.
• Take a multivitamin.
• Get plenty of exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Get proper sleep.
• Turn off the TV.
• Cook your own meals – Cooking meals at home allows you to control both portion size and what goes in to the food.
• Eat early, eat often.
• Reward yourself – Celebrate the small victories by rewarding yourself with non-food related treats. If you have a favorite hobby or activity, consider using some of those things as incentives along your road to healthy eating.
• Create a picture of success – Visualization can help you keep moving in the right direction. Spend some time everyday thinking about why a healthy diet is important to you. If you hope to have more energy, or lower your cholesterol, or have stronger bones, or stick around longer for your children or grandchildren, remind yourself of those things on a daily basis so that you remember why you are working so hard.
All of your hard work will pay off. Maintaining a healthy diet can yield numerous benefits, including increased energy, good mental health and mental abilities, resistance to disease, faster recovery from illness, accident, or surgery, better medication effectiveness, and improved management of chronic health problems. The overall result of an emphasis on good nutrition will be an improvement in your quality of life, mobility, and independence.
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