Losing weight and eating better may often seem like a lot of work, but these easy steps will help keep you on course. From activities to eating habits and lifestyle changes, get started with the first tip on the next page.
America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, which is slated to only get worse over the next decade. An extra 20 minutes of physical activity a day, or an additional 2,000 steps, is all we need to avoid weight gain, according to Dr. James Hill, obesity researcher and co-founder of America on the Move. How do you know how many steps you're taking? Clip a pedometer to your belt and get moving! Everything from walking the dog to grocery shopping counts.
Apples contain 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C. In addition to contributing to overall health, fruits rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant, have recently been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. Fit two to three servings (or more) of fruit into your daily diet.
Like saturated fats, trans fats raise total cholesterol and LDL, the "bad" cholesterol levels. Trans fats also lower levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol in the body. Additionally, consumption of trans fats may inhibit the absorption of healthy fats that are necessary for the growth and functioning of vital organs.
This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.) Drinking more than moderately can increase the risk of such dangers as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents.
Portion sizes in restaurants and fast-food chains have exploded in recent years, and many of us just can't help but clear our plates. Ask for a to-go container when you order. That way you can pack up half your entrée to enjoy the next day.
It's no secret that calcium helps keep bones strong, but there's more reason than ever to eat yogurt for bone health. Some yogurt brands now contain inulin, a naturally occurring, fiber-like carbohydrate that's found in fruits and vegetables. Inulin has been found to increase the activity of live cultures and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. Best of all, it aids in the absorption of calcium.
A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that taking a daily multivitamin reduced the risk of a first heart attack in both men and women. Authors of the study think this effect is due to the B vitamins found in multivitamins, as well as the antioxidant vitamins, C and E, selenium and beta carotene. Vitamin supplements are no substitute for the nutrients you get from food, but they're a good way to cover your bases.
Excess sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension). More than 50 million Americans — or one in four — have high blood pressure and a third of them don't know it. High blood pressure contributes to the risk of heart and kidney disease and stroke. Use fresh herbs to boost the flavor of the foods you cook — you'll get lots of delicious flavor, without the sodium.
Whole grains are richer in nutrients and fiber than refined grains. Whole grains help keep you regular, too. Reach for whole-wheat bread over white and brown rice over white. Popcorn and oatmeal are whole grains, too.
Water is important for all metabolic processes in the body. It also helps with digestion and weight loss and improves the appearance of your skin. Drinking eight to 10 8-ounce glasses of water each day is key, but eating foods with a high-water content (like fruits and vegetables) also will contribute to your water intake.
The idea of healthy obesity is problematic and should be retired, according to one researcher. Learn more at HowStuffWorks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.