When we think of diet and nutrition, the first thing that comes to mind is weight loss. That’s because most of us have always got at least a few pounds to lose. Then, once you lose the weight, the trick is to maintain the weight you have lost and not gain it back
The key elements of maintaining a proper weight are learning to control portion size, eating a balanced diet, getting in touch with your hunger and exercising on a regular basis. Though exercise alone will not keep your weight in check, exercise has always helped to burn calories, lose body fat and keep muscle tone.Cardio Exercise burns calories and strength exercise boost your metabolism. Click the individual pictures below to learn more each video.
Eating only when you are truly hungry can help you stay on track. Many of us engage in emotional eating: we eat when bored, depressed angry or even happy. To curb this tendency we must rekcon with our inner selves. This can be getting on a scale, putting on a pair of pants that used to fit, and writing down what we are putting into our mouths.
For me, maintaining my proper weight is a constant struggle but it is one I embrace and so can you. Remember, the real reason for food is to keep us alive and well. The following information on diet and nutrition can help you eat healthy for the rest of your life.
Choosing healthful foods is integral to feeling good and possibly preventing diabetes, cancer and heart disease and numerous other health problems. Between fast food and vending machines, it’s often a challenge to eat basic foods that are not prepared or processed with too much salt, sugar and preservatives. Yet a wealth of fresh vegetables, fruits, dried beans, whole grains and nuts are available if you just know what to look for and make time to prepare nutritious meals.
Health and food quality.
As we age, our immune systems become more vulnerable – especially if we are recovering from illness. The food and agriculture industries are allowed by the FDA to use a multitude of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and even insect-based dyes to produce as much food as cheaply, and therefore profitably, as possible.
The movement toward organic foods and support for local farming in the U.S. has grown as more people become aware and concerned about the untested and unlabeled additives in our food supply. Although organic foods are often more expensive, the cost can be balanced by avoiding non-nutritious prepared foods – such as snack items, candy, sugary sodas and frozen meals – while choosing fresh produce, dried beans, whole grains and a limited amount of lowfat dairy and lean meat and poultry.
Informative food-related web sites are:
Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org)
American Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org)
USDA Food and Drug Administration (www.nutrition.gov)
Organic Consumers Association (www.organicconsumers.org)
Red meats like beef, lamb and pork – as well as preserved meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and bologna – need to be limited in a healthy diet, because they have nitrites and have been linked to colon cancer. Red and preserved meats have high amounts of saturated fat that can lead to heart disease and overweight. Grilling meat and poultry also creates carcinogens when charring and blackening result. Meats and poultry also are farmed with antibiotics, hormones and even arsenic in some cases – all potentially harmful additives that can be avoided by choosing organic products.
Meats, poultry, fish and dairy products do have valuable vitamins and minerals, so small amounts (3 ounces of one meat or dairy item per meal) can be an important part of a healthful diet.
Poultry products, such as turkey sausage and ground turkey, are good substitutes for red meat in recipes. Or use alternative protein sources, such as dried beans – which also have lots of healthful fiber and the B vitamin folate – or soy products such as tofu. (See “soy foods,” under legumes, below.)
Fish is considered one of the most healthful protein foods because of low calorie content, low saturated fat content and some varieties having plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, a very beneficial type of fat that is linked to lower risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
However, fish that have the most omega-3s are fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, swordfish, herring, sardines, mackerel, trout, halibut, seabass and flounder/sole. Some fatty fish also absorb mercury from pollution – especially white albacore tuna, king mackerel and swordfish, according to the FDA. These fish are most hazardous to young children and pregnant or nursing women, but others can eat two 3-ounce servings weekly without risk, say experts.
Salmon is known to contain other pollutants called PCBs, especially farmed and Atlantic salmon. Choose Pacific salmon that is wild (often available canned), and remove skin and visible fat before cooking and eating.
Dairy products. Lowfat dairy products are the best choices. Milk is one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D, which is added because the high calcium content of milk enables absorption of Vitamin D for bone strength – important in preventing osteoporosis. Milk may have bovine growth hormone, as well as antibiotics and other additives used in regular farming. You may want to choose organic milk to avoid these additives.
Yogurt does not have much Vitamin D, but it is a good source of calcium and its live cultures are excellent for the digestive system. It is wise to limit butter because it is high in saturated fat; other oils and fats are healthier choices (see below). Eggs are not considered the cholesterol-raising hazards they once were, however it’s best to limit your egg consumption to two or three per week, or use egg substitutes. If you can afford them, eggs fortified with omega-3s are now available, as are organic eggs that are produced without antibiotics and other potentially hazardous farming substances.
Cutting back on the amount of animal-based proteins may enable you to spend the money saved on higher quality organic versions.
Plant foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. All of these foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and natural substances called phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals – originally produced by plants as part of color, odor and taste that would attract helpful creatures like birds and bees to propagate the plant, or repel pests that would destroy it – number in the thousands. When people eat a steady diet of many plant-based foods, phytochemicals are believed by scientists to interact with each other and with the vitamins in foods to protect our health and strengthen our immune systems. Brightly colored or strongly scented vegetables and fruits often signify high phytochemical content. Whole grains also contain phytochemicals as well as fiber.
Fiber can be soluble (the type in vegetables, fruits, dried beans and oats) or insoluble (in whole grains) which means it stays relatively intact in the digestive system and helps to clear out potentially harmful bile acids from fats and to keep waste elimination regular. Animal products do not provide fiber.
Vitamins and minerals are best absorbed by the body when they are digested from healthful foods. Meats, poultry, dairy products, and fish contain important vitamins and minerals, but should be balanced with small servings (1/3 cup) of nuts, dried beans and other legumes such as lentils, peas and soy foods, whole grains and vegetables and fruits. A few vitamin and mineral supplements are commonly recommended for older people as supplements – including calcium and vitamin D for bones, folate, and vitamin B12 and iron to prevent anemia – but it is best to check with your doctor first before taking any supplements other than a daily multi-vitamin.
Grains. Refined flour in white bread, white rice and semolina pasta are usually the staple grains for Americans. However, with the FDA’s 2005 revised dietary recommendations to eat at least 3 daily servings of whole grains, food companies are beginning to produce more whole grain products. It is most important to look at the ingredients label when buying whole wheat products, because food companies are known to use caramel coloring to make bread look brown and calling it “wheat” without really using “whole wheat” flour. The words “whole wheat” should be among the first ingredients listed on a package of whole-wheat bread. Rice is a bit easier – just choose brown rice for the most fiber and healthful substances.
Legumes. Dried beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and peanuts fall into the category of “legumes.” A huge variety of dried beans exists — chickpeas, kidney, lima, cannellini, black, pinto and other beans that are commonly used. But there are dozens of other beans — cranberry, adzuki, fava, and anasazi, to name a few. Along with lentils (green, red and yellow) and green and black-eyed peas, a bounty of nutritious beans can be explored to add variety and health to your meals.
Soy foods are beneficial as part of a cancer-preventive diet, although women who have had breast cancer should limit soy servings to two or three per week. Eating soy from an early age is thought by researchers to help prevent breast cancer later in life. The best soy foods to choose are tofu (also called “bean curd” and available in lowfat versions), tempeh (which is fermented and resembles ground meat and is often available frozen) and miso (also fermented and used to flavor broth in Japanese soups). Soy sauce has little health benefit by itself and contains lots of sodium. Soy analog foods – such as soy cheese and soy sausage – have fewer health benefits than actual tofu, although they are a good way to eat less red meat.
Legumes are used frequently in international foods, from Asian to Mexican and South American to Indian and African (where chicken stew with peanuts is a specialty).
Vegetables and fruits. It’s best to enjoy the widest variety possible of vegetables and fruits when eating the recommended daily 5-10 servings (usually a half-cup of a chopped fruit or vegetable, one cup of leafy greens or one whole hand-held fruit). Some of those daily servings of fruits and vegetables can fit into breakfast and snacks.
Some vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli, definitely have more nutrients than others, such as iceberg lettuce. However, as a rule of thumb, you can rely on produce that is deeply colored or strongly scented, such as onions and garlic. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help ward off many health problems, from diabetes, cancer and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and macular degeneration.
Some great choices that contain plenty of fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals are:
• Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, all types of cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)
• Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, etc.)
• Leafy greens (spinach, collards, mustard greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens, watercress)
• Tomatoes and processed tomato products (high in lycopene, a phytochemical)
• Carrots (high in beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A)
• Melons (canteloupe, honeydew, watermelon, etc.)
• Squash (acorn, hubbard, butternut, etc.)
• Onions (garlic, scallions, leeks, shallots, chives)
• Seed fruits (apples, pomegranates, kiwis and pears)
• Stone fruits (mangos, peaches, nectarines, plums and prunes)
• Citrus (oranges, grapefruits, lime and lemon juice)
• Red grapes (contain the phytochemical resveratrol)
• Sweet potatoes
The list goes on, from artichokes and radishes to peppers and zucchini. Even lettuce – particularly darker Romaine and red leaf – has some beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals.
Herbs and spices are very healthful, not only because they provide so much noncaloric flavor to healthful foods, but also because they contain powerful phytochemicals. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and oregano and other green herbs are particularly good for you. Nuts and seeds. Although nuts and seeds have high amounts of healthful fats and so are caloric, they can round out a healthful diet as a satisfying source of protein, vitamins and minerals. You can eat a handful for a snack that will give you energy to keep going for a couple of hours, or you can chop them and sprinkle them on salads or in whole grain dishes for crunch and protein. Studies of people who ate a small handful of nuts every day showed they had lower rates of heart disease and other illnesses. Almonds are packed with vitamin E and fiber, Walnuts and pumpkin seeds are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, and they may help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure for heart health. Peanuts are high in folate, a B vitamin that is heart-healthy and the phytochemical resveratrol. Brazil nuts are one of the highest sources of the mineral selenium—just one ounce (6-8 nuts) supplies the recommended daily allowance. Seeds – pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower — also are high in calories because of their fat content, but provide similar benefits to nuts, including protein, fiber, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous. Some also contain some calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium, folate, and niacin.
FATS, SUGARS, ALCOHOL, CARBS AND SALT
Fats and oils. All fat was once condemned as unhealthful. But research in the last few years has revealed that healthy fats in limited amounts are vital. Unhealthy fats include saturated and trans fat (listed on products like chips and margarines as “partially hydrogenated”). Saturated and trans fat is now required by the FDA to be listed on products’ Nutrition Facts labels. Saturated fat is also the kind found in animal proteins.
For good health, use monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, was the first to make a splash for its cholesterol-lowering ability, as seen in studies of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Canola, which is flavorless, and peanut oils also are monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats include safflower, sunflower, corn and soybean oils, as well as omega-3 fats in fish.
Some vitamins, such as vitamin A from carrots and sweet potatoes, are “fat-soluble” – that is, the body needs to absorb them along with a bit of fat, such as olive oil. But it’s advisable to eat even healthy fats in moderation, since they are so concentrated in calories. Use cooking methods that minimize or omit fat, such as steaming, broiling, baking, or stir-frying. Use nonfat flavorings, such as fruit juices, vinegars, mustard, horseradish, and tomato sauce.
Sugars and alcohol. The FDA Food Guide Pyramid allots a tiny tip of the pyramid to added sugars and alcohol. Although there is no recommended daily limit for sugar on the Nutrition Facts Label, sugar is added inconspicuously to many products, including canned vegetables, and can be a large source of calories when sugary beverages, cereals and other foods are consumed frequently. Sugar contributes to overweight and obesity (which in turn is linked to many serious diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer), as well as tooth decay. Honey is not necessarily a healthier choice. Except for saccharine, sugar substitutes like aspartame and fructose are generally considered to be safe. Naturally sweet fruits are a healthy choice for desserts, cold or cooked.
As for alcohol, research shows a link to cancers of the head, neck and esophagus, and possibly to breast cancer. Alcohol also has almost as many calories per ounce as fat. Women should limit alcohol consumption to no more than 1 serving per day (12 oz. of beer, 6 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of spirits); men should drink no more than 2 daily servings.
A note on carbohydrates and salt: Foods should not be judged by their carbohydrate content, because some of the most nutritious foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans – have substantial amounts of carbohydrates along with the essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals they supply for good health.
The types of carbohydrates to avoid are those in the foods that are devoid of nutrients and high in calories and fat: chips, baked goods, candy and the like. And most prepared and processed foods, as well as many frozen dinners (even those for dieters or labeled “healthy”) are very high in sodium as well. Too much sodium may lead to high blood pressure – it’s smart to choose bottled sauces, soups and other products that are lowest in sodium. Adding your own amount of salt to foods cooked at home can be minimized if you use lemon juice, herbs or a salt substitute instead.
Once you begin to reduce the amount of sodium you eat, you will get used to the lower amount and foods (such as regular canned soup) you thought tasted fine before will seem very salty, as they truly are. Ditto for sugar: A sweet tooth will diminish in a week or two when not indulged.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Why? Because it will give you energy to last through the morning so that you are not ravenous and prone to overeating at lunch. For the longest-lasting energy, balance three types of food in your breakfast: A serving of whole grains (a piece of whole wheat toast, a half-cup of oatmeal or a serving of whole-grain cereal per size listed on the package); two servings of fruits (which can include a glass of 100 percent juice) and a bit of lowfat protein – such as yogurt, an egg, reduced-fat cheese, or skim milk on whole grain cereal. In calories and nutrition, it will beat a sugary, fatty pastry any day. Studies show that women who eat a healthy breakfast each day have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight.