Healthy eating habits are important for maintaining not only good health, but better weight control. We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, and research is continuing to show us that this is probably even more true then we realized. As developed nations battle obesity pandemics, the statistics for diseases caused by weight related issues such as diabetes type 2, heart disease, strokes, and many forms of cancer are also on the rise.
Eating right to lose weight.
For many of us, the main goal for eating more correctly is to try and shed a few pounds. Basically, the formula is fairly simple. The more energy (or food) that you eat, the more activity you will have to perform to prevent the energy converting into another love handle. For many, this is a lot easier said then done. More sedentary jobs, computers, TV’s and a slowing metabolism caused by the aging process, are all hurdles that most of us have to overcome. We humans are no longer out there chasing down our dinner before we eat it.
Weight loss at its most basic comes down to eat a little less, and exercise more. Eating smart can be a simple yet effective way to reduce your calorie, fat, or carbohydrate intake. Reading the nutritional labels on foods is a must. Once you start you will be astonished at the varying fat and sugar levels in foods that appear to be the same. It goes without saying you should be consuming the product lower in fats and refined sugars.
Another simple way to keep you metabolism running faster is to eat smaller portions more often. The longer you leave it between meals the more your body will want to hang on to that next meal. Eating every 2-3 hours sends your body the message that it is not in starvation mode. When your body goes into starvation mode it will hang onto every last little calorie that you consume.
The important message from this is small meals. If you should start to eat 5 giant meals per day you will end up heavier than before you started. Take a look at what you would normally consume in a day, and split it into 5 smaller serves. If you should start to eat less than you used to, and are eating 5 times a day, your metabolism will definitely speed up. The faster your metabolism, the more fuel, or calories, it is burning.
Healthy eating pyramid.
* The healthy eating pyramid is basically a triangle representing safe eating guidelines recognized globally. The pointy bit at the top (or apex) represents the smallest amounts of food that you should consume in a day. The wide base at the bottom represents the largest amounts of food that should be consumed. See diagram below:
* Unhealthy items high in fats and sugars, such as sweets and potato crisps, along with most butters, fats, sour cream, mayonnaise, and desserts are firmly in the group at the top. Cakes, biscuits, pastries, chocolate, jams, and sodas are also included in this group. These items should be eaten sparingly, if at all. The more intent you are on weight loss, the less you should be consuming from this group. However, it is important to remember that your body does require some good quality oils in the form of olive oil, avocado, fish (omega-3), or nuts. These types of oils are considered heart healthy. The fats and oils that should be avoided are those that are supplied by dairy and animals. Of course, deep fried anything should always be avoided, whether you are looking to lose weight or not. Aim for as few servings as possible, ideally less than 3.
* Milk, yogurts and cheeses are good quality sources of calcium and protein. Those looking to lose weight should aim to select the lower fat varieties. Aim for 2-3 servings daily. One serving equals 1 cup milk or yogurt, or 2 ounces of most cheeses.
* Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts are an important component of the daily diet. These quality sources of proteins should be consumed in their leanest (lowest fat) form possible. Kidney beans and tofu also fall into this category. Aim for 2-3 servings daily. One serving equals 1 egg; 2 Tablespoons seeds or nuts; 2-3 ounces of cooked fish, meat or poultry.
* Fruits are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and many also in antioxidants. Fruits can make for great snacks. If you are on a strict weight control regime opt for those lower in sugar fruits. Fruits are best off eaten fresh, rather than tinned, for both the nutritional value, and also the lower sugar levels in fresh, as opposed to tinned which has a much higher sugar content. Aim for a minimum of 2 servings of fresh fruit daily. One serving equals 1 medium sized apple, orange or banana; or three quarters of a cup of fruit juice.
* Vegetables are filling, high in fiber, low in sugar, and jam packed full of vitamins and minerals. Try and select from a variety of colored vegetables daily. The brighter the color, the more nutrition. One serving is considered to be three quarters of a cup of vegetable juice; or half a cup of chopped fresh vegetables. Please note that technically potatoes fall into the following category of complex carbohydrates.
* Breads, cereals, rice, grains, potatoes, and pasta contain complex carbohydrates and essential sources of Vitamin B. Choosing the whole wheat versions of these products will also ensure that they are higher in fiber. Refined, sugary versions of these foods should be avoided as they are higher in glycemix index and will cause your blood sugar levels to spike. The less processed these foods, the longer they will fuel you and the longer you will feel full. Anyone who has been on a low carb diet will no doubt cringe that experts recommend 6-11 servings daily. (No this doesn’t mean that you should have 11 slices of bread or toast in one day.) Servings are considered to be one half cup cooked rice or pasta; one slice of bread; half a bread roll or bagel; one half cup cooked grains or cereals; one ounce muesli or breakfast cereal.
* The food pyramid is an easy guide to follow. Generally, women should be consuming the smaller suggested servings and the active guy the larger serving.
* Many food pyramids also include 8 glasses of water at the bottom as well.
Healthy eating tips.
There are many simple strategies that you can employ to improve your eating habits:
* Grocery shopping should only be done with a shopping list. Don’t visit the grocery shop when you are hungry, depressed or tired. Your resolve is much lower at those times. Stay away from the middle of the grocery shop, as most supermarkets are designed with the healthy items, including the fruits and veggies, around the outer perimeters of the store. It goes without saying, you should stick to the list. If it isn’t in your pantry you won’t be able to eat it.
* Organic foods may cost a little more, but have the advantages of tasting better, and potentially being less toxic. Do you really want to eat the pesticides and herbicides with your salad? Growth hormones in your meat?
* Recipes. Select a variety of recipes from your magazines and books. Low fat, diabetic, vegetarian, whatever you fancy. New recipes inspire the whole family to become more interested in their dinner.
* Cooking your food from scratch is always the more healthy, and cost effective option. This allows you to ensure that your ingredients are healthy and as unrefined as you prefer. If you are cooking for one, make a batch and freeze the rest for later.
* Plan your meals in advance. This prevents the “empty fridge” syndrome where you are forced into getting take out as there is nothing else to eat.
* High fiber foods fill you up, tend to contain complex carbohydrates, and have been linked to decreasing such things as bowel cancer.
* Smaller portions are essential if you are wanting to lose weight. Measure and weigh your portions for a few days. You will probably be amazed to see what one serve actually is, as opposed to what you are eating.
* Eat quality foods for improved health. Fresh is always best, as the longer handling and more storage involved, the less nutrition is left in the food.
* Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Antioxidants are vital in fighting off the free radicals in our bodies that are responsible for aging, cell destruction, and many cancers.
* No mindless eating. Eating in front of the computer, television, or while reading or working, is mindless eating. You are not concentrating on the foods you are consuming, and in these situations tend to eat far more than you would normally.
* Self-education is vital for a successful eating campaign. Libraries, magazines, and the Internet are great resources for educating yourself about correct food choices.
* Nothing happens overnight. Yes, we all want to lose weight tomorrow when we start a diet today, but that is unrealistic, and unhealthy. You didn’t gain your excess pounds overnight, and they will not vanish overnight either. ( Sad but true.) Set yourself realistic goals, otherwise you will become disappointed, depressed, unmotivated, and throw in the towel before you have even started.
* New eating plans can feel odd initially, but after a few days to a week, your body and mind will have adjusted and you will have yourself a great new set of eating habits.
* Before and after measurement and photos can be a great way to keep yourself motivated. Even if you are not planning on losing any weight you will probably find that your belly is less bloated when eating more healthy foods.
* No emotional eating. Eating when bored, depressed, stressed, anxious, or even as a reward, is emotional eating. We should all eat when we are hungry, and not use food as an emotional crutch. Emotional eaters tend to end up with weight problems. Food will not make you feel better, and in many instances you will actually feel worse than before you started. If you feel that you eat with your emotions, perhaps try replacing the food with a brisk walk, or phone or text a friend. Anyone who feels that their emotional eating is out of their control should seek support.
* Eating disorders affect more than 36 million people in the US alone, with 11 million suffering from anorexia or bulimia, and another 25 million suffering from binge eating, or compulsive over eating. Underlying psychological problems can cause eating disorders, including low self esteem, and respond extremely well to professional assistance. Symptoms of eating disorders include obsession with weight and food, depression, anxiety, weight fluctuations, and an inaccurate self-assessment of body image. More than 80% of those suffering from an eating disorder can be successfully treated, or cured, with professional help.
The benefits of eating healthy include:
* improved metabolism.
* glowing skin.
* can reverse aging process.
* reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
* fights free radicals.
* stabilizes blood sugar levels.
* improves moods.
* reduces food cravings, and mid-afternoon slumps.
* increased energy.
A healthy eating plan
A healthy eating plan incorporates servings from all food categories contained on the food pyramid. Fresh foods are always going to be more tasty and more healthy. Eating a variety of colorful foods will ensure that you are receiving plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Eating disorders are becoming more prevalent in developed nations, along with rising obesity rates. A well balanced diet combined with regular exercise will not only keep your weight within healthy guidelines, but will also help prevent some avoidable health issues such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.