No gut time in 09… if you got what it takes!

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By: Susan Brady.. from Health news

healthyfoods-main_fullIt’s that time of year again—when we make promises and resolutions, with great intentions to lose weight and/or improve our diet. Most of us will fail, for a variety of reasons. Most often it is because we go about it in the wrong way, either in the choice of diet or in trying to change our lifestyle in a way that does not work for us. Even if we are successful in losing weight, when we go off a diet, we tend to return to our old ways, not bothering to change the way we eat, which caused the weight or health issue in the first place.

Rather than radically altering our menus and lifestyle, committing to diets that are difficult to follow, it might be wiser to take small steps. Think about changing just one thing, master it, and then move on to another. Choose one dietary improvement (see list of suggestions below) and commit. Maybe it takes one month, maybe three, or even six. No matter. The point is that you become successful in incorporating that one thing into your diet, making it a habit, before you move on to the next. By taking small steps, you have less chance of failure, less rules and recipes to follow.

Small changes will have long-term impact: weight loss (albeit slowly) and improved lifelong dietary habits. The sweet smell of success is yours if you do it in slow easy stages. In addition, always remember “moderation.” Everything done in moderation is important, whether it is eating, drinking, or exercising. Don’t gorge on food, become sloppy drunk, or push your body past its limits. Stick to single servings, eating slowly, enjoying that glass of wine or imported scotch, and setting realistic exercise goals for yourself. This can bring about a healthier you in 2009.

Suggested Dietary Improvements:


Increase Intake of Fruits and Vegetables: The government recommended number of servings of fruits per day is 2-4, veggies 3-5. That equals 5-9 servings total per day. I would bet that the average person eats 4 servings a day: juice, 1 piece of fruit, a salad and a vegetable. Look honestly at your diet and add 2 servings per day. If that is too much, add 1 serving to what you already eat. Ambitious? Add 3 servings. Remember that these servings can be in juice (100% juice is best), fruit smoothes, and fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables. For a great snack, buy some dried fruit (but watch for added sugar, sulphites and other preservatives).

Increase Consumption of Whole Grains: According to the government food pyramid, bread/cereal/rice/pasta should make up 6-11 servings per day, and for optimum health, you should choose whole grains at least half of the time. Whole-grain bread products have come a long way from the cardboard ’70s version you hated. Now available in mainstream markets are healthy alternatives such as cracked wheat sourdough, whole grain English muffin, and 9-grain breads. Even Wonder Bread is making a whole-grain version, which will stick to the roof of your mouth, just like the original. Cereal manufacturers have also jumped on the bandwagon, adding whole grains like oats, wheat, bran and barley. Just make sure there is significant fiber content, and keep the sugar content to a minimum (10g per serving or less). You can also substitute oatmeal for breakfast several times a week. Another easy switch is pasta; most cannot tell the difference when using whole wheat pasta and it takes virtually the same amount of time to cook. Rice is a different story, however. Brown rice does not appeal to everyone, and takes significantly longer to cook. Brown rice, along with red and black rice, are nuttier in flavor but combine well with other ingredients and can make a colorful and tasty base under stir-fries, stews, and steamed vegetables. For more information and ideas on whole grains, check out my “Celebrate Whole Grains” column.

Increase Fish Consumption: Optimal consumption is 2-4 servings per week, including at least 2 servings of fish with high omega-3 content. That means you should try to get at least two 4-ounce servings of fish/seafood, with an emphasis on salmon, tuna, halibut, and herring. This will be a heart healthy addition, and can save calories over fattier proteins such as beef and pork. A secondary benefit is the ease and quickness in which fish cooks. Most can be steamed, poached, baked or grilled in under 10 minutes. A simple marinade pre-cooking adds flavor, as does a simple fruit- or tomato-based salsa once plated. Do your best to find fresh fish and seafood, and make sure it is a sustainable fish.

Decrease Refined Sugars/Sweets: For many this is blasphemy (myself included). What’s a sweet tooth to do? You can commit to half servings/portions (3 cookies instead of 6), reduce sugar in everyday items such as boxed cereal, and try healthier alternatives (chocolate covered almonds, fat-free frozen yogurt, dried fruit, or trail mix). Me, in addition to committing to half servings and cutting down my sweet intake by half, I have turned to dark chocolate. Considered a superfood, dark chocolate is an antioxidant and low in sugar. The darker the better, and it can be melted for dipping strawberries or dried fruit for a tasty dessert (adding a serving of fruit as well).

Decrease Soda Intake: Honestly, there isn’t anything health about soda. Whether your preference is for regular or diet, that 20-ounce can contains sugar (or sugar substitute), chemicals and usually caffeine. At an average of 250 empty calories, you need to be concerned about diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and cavities, not to mention what the artificial sweeteners are doing to your body. Try decreasing your intake by half if you are a hard-core sodaholic (one or more, 7 days a week). Try eliminating the bubbly sweetness altogether if it is just an occasional whimsy. For alternatives to the soda habit, check out my columns “Trading in Your Diet Soda” and “Summertime Soda Substitute.”

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