It’s no secret: The American diet needs to change. Fast foods, high-calorie desserts, sweet drinks, and more have filled us up — and out. Most adults and 1 in 3 children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Some people don’t really understand the term obese, they thing that it means your gigantic. Not that’s not what they mean. It’s a term that health care experts use when your excess body weight is large enough to cause you health problems.
Changing the way you eat is pretty easy if you follow a few tips. To start, learn about some of the worst food offenders and how to replace them with healthier choices. Then try some portion-control tricks.
Most of our calories come from foods high in fat and sugar. Sweets like cookies and cakes, along with yeast breads, top the list. We also load up on calories in chicken dishes (often breaded and fried), sodas, and energy and sports drinks. Pizza, alcohol, pasta, tortilla dishes, and beef dishes pile on more calories. Except for fries and chips, fruits and vegetables don’t even make a dent in our daily calorie count. Just two problem foods — solid fats and added sugars — count for about 800 of our daily calories. That’s almost half the calories an average woman should have in a day. U.S. dietary guidelines call for limiting solid, trans, and saturated fats. Cut back on fast foods and refined grains, like white bread. While you’re at it, cut down on sodium (salt), too. Most of us get too much, putting us at risk for high blood pressure and heart and kidney disease.
Add more nutritious foods to your diet.
- Instead of fatty meats, choose lean protein and seafood. Shoot for at least 8 ounces of fish a week.
- Instead of solid fats like butter or margarine, use olive, canola, and other oils that are good for your waistline and your heart.
- Instead of baked goods and cereals with all white or refined grains, make at least half of your grains whole grains.
- Other healthy choices: nonfat or low-fat dairy foods, eggs, beans, and, of course, fruits and vegetables.
Some of your favorite foods may just need a makeover. Take pizza. It has lots of calories, refined grains, and saturated and solid fats. It might seem like the first food to axe from your eating plan. But with a few tweaks, pizza can fit into a healthy diet:
- Choose a thin, whole-grain crust.
- Pile on veggies and skip the meat.
- Use no cheese or just a sprinkle.
- Have one small slice and fill the other half of your plate with vegetables.
What Are Whole Grains?
The outer shell, or “bran,” of a kernel of wheat, rice, barley, or other grain is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is a top food for good health. It helps you feel full on fewer calories and keeps your bowel movements regular. But to make white (refined) flour from a kernel of wheat, food makers remove the bran. With it goes much of the fiber and vitamins.
What Are Solid Fats?
Solid fats, which have a lot of saturated and trans fatty acids, are usually solid at room temperature. These include butter, stick margarine, shortening, and animal fats. Cream, fatty cuts of meat, many cheeses, bacon, and chicken skin have solid fat in them. Avoid this fat as much as you can.
Fats that have healthier unsaturated fatty acids in them are usually liquid at room temperature, or oils. If oils are hydrogenated, though, they become solid fats. Unhealthy hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are in some margarine’s, baked goods, and packaged desserts.
My next post is about portion size