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Nutrition & Diets


Diet & nutrition:


The Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid developed by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services illustrates how to follow dietary guidelines and make wise food choices. Select most foods from the bottom two levels of the pyramid (whole grains/cereals, fruits and vegetables) and fewer foods from the top (fats, oils and sweets), based on the recommended number of servings. Eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups to help provide all the nutrients your body needs each day.

Following the Food Guide Pyramid will help you eat a balanced diet with moderate amounts of sugar, sodium and saturated fat. It also will help you get the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.



Eating a balanced diet means eating a wide variety of foods. A traditional way of getting a balanced diet has been to eat a certain number of portions from certain food groups, as defined by the US Department of Agriculture.

The five basic groups are vegetables; fruit; bread and cereal; dairy; and meat, poultry, fish, and legumes (dry beans, lentils and peas).

It's recommended that you have four servings from the fruit and vegetable group, and should include one good source of vitamin C each day, such as citrus fruit, and a good source of vitamin A, usually deep-yellow or dark-green vegetables. From the bread and cereals group, it is recommended that you get six basic servings including some whole-grain bread or cereals. The recommended servings from the milk and cheese group vary with age, the highest recommendations for teens and nursing mothers (four servings). Two basic servings from the meat, poultry, fish and bean group are recommended.

Then there's the sixth group: fats, sweets, and alcohol. It's a group you want to avoid getting too many servings from. Foods in this group have plenty of calories and not a fair balance of other nutrients.

Eggs, as a protein source, are included in the same group as meat, poultry, fish and beans. One egg is considered a serving in that group. So if you eat two eggs for breakfast you have obtained your recommendations from the protein group and should have no more egg, meat, poultry or fish that day.

Daily Food Choices

Breads, Cereals, and Grain Products 6 - 11 1 slice of bread
hamburger bun or english muffin
a small roll, biscuit, or muffin
2 large crackers
cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
1 ounce of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal
Fruits 2 - 4 a whole fruit such as an apple, banana, or orange
a grapefruit half
a melon wedge
a small cup of juice
cup of berries
cup cooked or canned fruit
cup dried fruit
Vegetables 3 - 5 cup of cooked vegetables
cup of chopped raw vegetables
1 cup of leafy raw vegetables (lettuce or spinach)
Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Alternatives 2 - 3 amounts should total no more than 7 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish a day
1 egg
cup cooked beans
Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt 2 1 cup of milk
8 ounces of yogurt
1 ounces of natural cheese
2 ounces of process cheese





Change the Way You Eat

Risk Factors

Set Some Weight-Loss Goals

Making Sense of All the "Diets"

What is a Calorie, Anyway?

Keeping a Food Diary - If You Eat It, Write It Down

Portion Control - The Best New Buzzword

Get the Scoop on Serving Sizes



Risk Factors
Being overweight - or even worse, obese - is a major risk factor in developing many serious diseases and health problems, from arthritis to heart disease to diabetes.

What does it mean to have a "risk factor"? Simply, this means that you are putting yourself at greater risk for developing these serious diseases by being overweight - much greater risk than you would have for developing the problems if you were not overweight. This doesn't mean that you will never get a disease if you lose weight, but your chances of getting it are much, much lower.

When it comes to losing weight, you will have to set some goals for how much weight you wish to lose. We recommend that you consult with your physician before setting any goals or beginning any weight-loss or exercise program. By talking to your physician, you can review any particular health problems you have, your current weight, and any problems you may have with increasing your physical activity.


Set Some Weight-Loss Goals

If you think that you have some weight to lose, and if your doctor agrees, then together you should set some basic goals. Your weight-loss goals need to fit your personal situation. Every person is unique and has individual challenges associated with weight. Every person has a different body shape or style, lifestyle and medical history.

That is why we suggest that you set weight-loss goals only with the help of your doctor. Make an appointment to see your doctor, or bring up this issue at your next visit. There are some personalized tests that you can do with your doctor that will show you if you are overweight, and by how much.

With your doctor's help, you will set some basic goals for your weight-loss efforts. These goals might include:

How much weight you should lose

A range, in pounds, to aim for and to stay within once you achieve that level

How long you should try this program, tracking your weight-loss efforts to determine your progress.

When it comes to how long you should try any weight-loss effort, it really depends on you. The changes we suggest are long-term changes. Permanent changes, in fact. We're suggesting that you set goals for yourself to make changes to your diet and eating habits that will last a lifetime. What you should aim to create is a nutritious, healthy, balanced diet. By eating this way, and by incorporating sensible physical activity into your lifestyle also, your weight will likely reduce as a result.

Losing weight by making gradual, healthy changes will be much easier than trying to make a drastic, short-term change to the way you eat. And this type of weight loss should be easier to maintain because you will become accustomed to eating in a new way. It will seem natural to eat nutritiously.

Making Sense of All the "Diets"
You may have read about many "diets" or weight-loss programs that claim you can lose weight by cutting out one type of food or another from your diet. You may have friends who have lost dramatic amounts of weight on various popular plans. These programs are often called "elimination diets," because they suggest that you eliminate a whole food group from your menu in order to eliminate excess fat from your body.

For instance, some weight-loss programs tell you to eliminate carbohydrates. Others tell you to cut almost all fats out of your diet. Some programs push eating high amounts of protein. Some of these programs may work for you if your desire is to lose weight. By why do they work?

The reason these diets work is because they cut calories from your diet. These programs are known as calories-deficient diets. There's that old word again - calories - but nobody has been using it for years, have they? Calorie has been replaced by other terms, such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins, right?

No - calories are still the key to any weight program and any weight-loss strategy. Every food has a caloric value. You can read the caloric value of most foods by checking the nutrition label on the side of packages, or by looking up the value in calorie counter books available in most bookstores. No matter how you package the plan, the key to losing weight is calories, not fat or carbohydrates or any other nutrient.

In other words, you may cut out a lot of the fat in your diet by eating "fat-free" or "low-fat" foods in abundance. These foods can include things like celery or plain baked potatoes, but they can also include jellybeans, licorice sticks, fat-free chocolate pudding, fat-free turkey wieners and fat-free cheese. You might think that you could eat these foods in unlimited quantities, because these foods technically have little or no dietary fat. But all of these foods have calories, and some of these foods are quite high in calories. By eating them in large amounts, you could be eating too many calories for your body's needs. And that leads to excess weight.

What is a Calorie, Anyway?
What is a calorie? And why is this term important when we're talking about weight? A calories is the amount or measurement of heat necessary to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree on the Celsius scale.

Excuse me? What does this have to do with why my pants won't fit?

A calorie is also the unit of measurement of energy produced by food when it is oxidized, or used, in the body. Calories are like fuel for our bodies. We need them for our bodies to run. But if we pump more fuel into our bodies than we need for the amount of activity we do, the excess fuel just sits there. Your body will store this excess, unused fuel. It may store it as muscle, if you perform enough physical, muscle-building exercises such as weightlifting, or it may store it as fat.

You need to maintain a balance between the amount of calories you take in (food) and the amount of calories you use (exercise). You "burn" your body's fuel - calories - when you perform physical activities, and you also burn calories just by sitting still, breathing and living each day.

If you perform enough physical activity, you may increase the amount of calories (or energy units) you burn each day and raise the amount of calories (or energy units) you need each day. So a person who is physically active can eat more calories each day without gaining weight, because this person uses the fuel he or she pumps in, instead of storing it as fat.

Each person is different when it comes to the amount of calories he or she needs each day. The amount of calories a person needs for fuel varies according to age, height, gender, amount of physical activity and other factors.

If You Eat It, Write It Down
The best way to grasp how many calories per day you eat now, and how many you may be accustomed to eating, is to keep a food diary. Try this exercise for a week. Simply write down the foods you eat, including portion size. Try to estimate the caloric content of each of these foods using a calorie counter book or by looking at the nutrition label on the packaging of the food. You may be surprised how easily calories add up!

Here are a few examples of common foods, a typical portion size and their approximate caloric values. (These caloric values are measurements for a basic serving size. Check the nutrition information on the labels of our foods, or measure your servings, to determine caloric value.)

As you can see, the caloric value of different foods varies tremendously! And the amount of the food you can eat as a normal "portion" also varies quite a bit. It's important to rethink how you may look at what foods are "healthy," "nutritious" or "diet."

For instance, a Caesar salad, which is often coated with very highly caloric dressing, grated cheese and buttery croutons, can take up a large portion of your daily calorie budget. Does this mean you have to give up Caesar salads? Maybe not. You could budget the rest of your day's calories with low-calorie foods so you have room to indulge in your favorite salad. You could eat a much smaller portion of the salad to cut the calories you are eating. Or, you could make your own Caesar salad, with lower calorie dressing, adding low-calorie fresh vegetables for crunch rather than buttery croutons.

Whatever you choose to eat, do your best to estimate the caloric value of the foods you consume and note them in your food diary. It wont be possible to know the exact caloric value of everything you eat, particularly when you eat in restaurants. But if you can estimate the calories you are eating, that will be a big help for you as you learn to budget calories wisely.

You can keep your food diary in a spiral notebook, a bound journal on your home or work computer, or any way you choose. It's important you find a method that is easy for you to use. Try not to keep a mental record of what you ate and then write it down later - it's easy to block out a few chips here or a banana there.

Portion Control - The Best New Buzzword
Even when you eat foods that are low in fat or relatively low in calories, the amount you eat is the most important factor. You will want to keep the number of calories you eat per day within a healthy range, but you still want to eat a variety of foods for taste and nutrition. And you will want to eat enough to keep you satisfied.

You can eat almost any type of food and still stay within a healthy range of calories for the day. You simply have to decide how you will spend your budget of calories. Higher-calorie foods, such as french fries, will use up more of your budget than baked potato chips. If you want to budget your calories wisely, look at the sizes of the portions you are eating. Portion control is the most important diet buzzword you need to know. One of the biggest reasons so many Americans are overweight is that they have no concept of healthy food portions.

While it is important to consider the type of foods you are eating, it's really more important to look at the quantity of food you eat. Many people know the right kinds of food to eat. They know that baked chicken is more nutritious than fried chicken, for example. But many people have no concept of how much food is too much - and that misconception is a major contributing factor in their weight problem.

If the average adult female needs about 1,600 calories a day, does she need to eat a 1,200 calorie plate of pasta and meatballs at one meal? The answer is no - a portion size of pasta is one-half cup. But most of us have become used to eating larger and larger portions, and we feel deprived by going back to eating reasonable portions of food.

Many people underestimate how much they really eat at a typical meal. Like many Americans, you have come to expect large portions at restaurants, but instead of eating half the meal and taking the other half home (or sharing it with your dining partner), you eat the whole, gigantic portion. The result: You feel stuffed, sluggish and probably consume too many calories than you need in a day.

When it comes to eating, most people are driven by what they see, not by how they feel. Your hunger is driven by instinct. By putting too much food in front of you, you will perceive this oversized meal as normal. If you change that habit, and start serving yourself smaller portions, you will perceive this smaller amount as a normal meal.

There are a few easy ways to determine healthy portion sizes for the various foods you eat.

On packaged foods, look at the "serving size" measurement on the nutrition label of the food's package. If you look on a box of cookies, and the serving size is two cookies, that means one portion is two cookies - not six cookies.

When following a recipe, look for how many "servings" the recipe makes. If the recipe says "serves four," that means that one portion is one fourth of the total amount of the food you prepare by following the ingredients and measurements in the recipe.


Get the Scoop on Serving Sizes
Do you know what you're eating?

You may find it difficult to adjust your sense of a normal portion of food to reality. You may say, "I won't be satisfied with one cup of dry cereal." The key is to eat more slowly, to eat one bite at a time. Don't shovel your food into your mouth as if you were in an eating contest. Your body needs a little time to absorb your food so you don't feel so hungry.

It takes 20 to 30 minutes to feel a sense of fullness when you are eating. This sense of being satisfied or full tells you when to stop eating. That's why it's important to eat slowly. If you try to consume as much food as possible in 20 minutes, by the time your body catches up and feels satisfied, you are over-stuffed. You feel as if you couldn't eat another bite. Does that sound familiar?

Slow down when you eat. Eat one bite at a time, chew your food thoroughly and savor the taste of your food. That may be a hard habit to adopt, but you can make this one of your change-your-life goals.

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