The following tips can help you improve your nutritional habits. As with any change, dietary changes can be difficult, so don't try to do too much at one time.
Take one or two tips and put them to practice for a few weeks. Once you feel comfortable with those, pick a couple more to implement. Before you know it, you will be on your way to better nutritional health!
1. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
Not only are they a rich source of vitamins and fiber that are necessary for optimal body function, but they are packed with many phytochemicals such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and indoles -- just to name a few. These phytochemicals are important in preventing diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat -- a bonus in the battle of the bulge. Aim for a minimum of two to three servings of each per day by trying the following tips:
- Keep fruit handy for a quick snack idea
- When time is short, rely on frozen fruits and veggies -- they are still packed with nutrients
- Try blending fruit or fruit juice with yogurt for a refreshing smoothie
- Add vegetables to tomato sauce
- Try to fill half your dinner plate with fruits and vegetables
2. Choose whole grains
Choose whole grain breads, cereals, pastas, beans, or potatoes as a part of most of your meals and snacks. Carbohydrate-based foods are the best fuel for your body.
By making high-fiber choices your body will not only get the energy that it needs, but also many vitamins and minerals that come along with less refined sources of carbohydrate.
3. Aim for the right amount of protein . . .
. . . but not too much. Most adults can easily meet their body's need for protein in just 3 ounces of protein rich foods per day. However, it is often difficult to limit your intake to only that amount. A reasonable goal is to aim for 5 to 12 ounces per day. Most people find this amount satisfying.
Make your meat choices as lean as possible by including more fish, skinless poultry, and soy-based meat alternatives.
4. Be aware of obvious as well as hidden fat sources
A high-fat diet puts you at risk for diseases such as heart disease and cancer, not to mention making it difficult to control the waistline. But it is not necessary to eliminate dietary fat.
Aim for 20 to 35 percent of your total calories to come from fat. For most people, this means keeping fat intake at 40 to 60 grams per day, depending on your calorie needs.
The following tips can help you to decrease your fat intake:
- Choose high-fat preparations, such as fried or cream sauce, only occasionally
- Ask for sauces and dressing on the side and use less when dining out
- Be aware of high-fat condiments such as mayonnaise, butter, margarine, and sour cream. Try to limit these to three to five teaspoons per day
- Use lower-fat condiments and seasonings such as steak sauce, garlic, onion, bouillon, or chicken broth to flavor foods in cooking
- Choose smaller portions of leaner cuts of meat
- Choose low-fat or fat-free versions of condiments
5. Drink more water
The human body loses one quart or more of water each day during normal respiration and perspiration. For optimal health, our body needs to be well hydrated, and the best way to do this is to drink 48 to 64 ounces of water per day.
In addition it is important to be aware of calories in your beverages, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Many people do not think about the impact of beverages on weight, but consider this. A can of regular soda or just 10 ounces of fruit juice contain the same amount of calories.
Although you do get some nutritional value from the juice, at 150 calories per 10- to 12-ounce serving -- it adds up quickly. The calories in just one soda or in 10 ounces of fruit juice per day are enough to pack on a pound in one month. A piece of fruit is lower in calories and substantially higher in a host of other valuable nutrients.
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