Steps to Health

 
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Kelly James-Enger introduces some simple changes for more healthful living.

If your idea of healthful eating is passing on dessert or a latte and muffin at morning tea, your diet may still be in desperate need of a tune-up. The truth is that most of us consume too much caffeine, too much fat, way too much sugar, and not nearly enough fruits, vegies and complex carbohydrates.

Sure, we know we should eat better, but who wants to exist on tofu and bean sprouts? Fear not! You don’t have to forgo the food you know and love to improve your diet—a few simple changes will make a world of difference.

Go easy on the coffee

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Too much of this powerful stimulant can leave you jittery and irritable— and the calories in those mochas and lattes can add up.

Cut back on caffeine by going “half and half”—half regular, half decaf— every time you get a cup of coffee, or better still, cut it out altogether by substituting one of the new beverage options to your regular routine.

Yame your sweet tooth

You don’t have to eliminate sweets to eat more healthfully—the key is moderation.

“It’s all relative to how physically active you are,” explains dietitian Susan Kleiner, author of Power Eating (Human Kinetics, 1998), who offers several guidelines for enjoying calorie-laden goodies.

Number one, make sure that you’re eating a good diet and not replacing good wholesome nutrient-dense foods with empty calories; number two, that you’re physically active enough to handle the extra calories; and three, that you’re choosing wisely,” says Kleiner.

Choosing wisely might mean selecting “pure” sugary candies over those containing both sugar and fat. So if a sugar craving hits, opt for jellybeans instead of high fat, high-sugar treats such as chocolate. Better still, consider natural sweets, like grapes, strawberries and cherries, which will give you extra fibre and nutrients to boot.

Break the fast

Just because we’ve become a nation of breakfast-skippers doesn’t mean it’s wise—or healthy—to go without food in the morning.

Mum was right— breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” says registered dietitian Christine Palumbo.

If you’re never hungry in the morning, it’s probably because you’ve “trained” your body to get by without breakfast.

You can eat a light, satisfying breakfast every day,” says Palumbo. “You don’t have to eat breakfast before your workday begins. If you wish, wait until you’re at your desk and munch on a cinnamon raisin bagel and a glass of orange juice.”

Pack portable produce

Getting the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is easier than you think—a medium-sized piece of fruit, three-quarters of a cup of fruit or vegetable juice or half a cup of cooked or canned vegetables or fruits all comprise one serving. But you do have to plan ahead—buy fresh produce at the supermarket or greengrocers, and carry it with you.

Toss an apple, banana or orange in your purse or workout bag to eat at your desk or during your trip to work. Canned fruits like pineapple and pears are other convenient options.

A lot of vegetables are portable, too—a can of tomato juice packs a load of nutrients, and you can buy bags of packaged baby carrots, broccoli or cauliflower to munch on at work. And don’t forget salads, a primary source of vegetables for women.

If you select carefully, you can have a great lunch at a salad bar, but you have to be careful,” says Barbara Gollman. “Start with lettuce and spinach and add bean salad and it becomes a source of protein, fiber and satisfaction.”

“Skip things that are coated with mayonnaise like potato salad and select toppings like garbonzo beans (chickpeas), sunflower seeds, carrots, tomatoes, and other vegetables.” Include bread or crackers for extra carbs.

Stay hydrated

Doctors recommend that we drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day (and more if you work out regularly).

Yet the average person drinks just half of that. “People need to drink more water,” says Gollman. “You have to make a conscious effort to supply the water that you’re losing when you exercise. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re depleted.” Keep a big glass of water on your desk and drink plenty of water before and after your workouts. Feeling hungry? Down a big glass of H 2 O first—sometimes thirst masquerades as hunger, says Kleiner.

Trim the fat

Much of the fast food we love—pizza, burgers, fried chicken—is dripping with fat, but most restaurants offer a few healthier alternatives. Opt for lower-fat choices like broiled or grilled chicken, or better yet, bring lunch from home—you’ll save money, too. The popular packaged soups that come in their own bowls are a great choice—just add hot water, stir, and your lunch is ready. “Some are really loaded with beans, couscous, lentils, and rice,” says Gollman. “They’re very nutritious and have around 1200 kilojoules. Add some fresh fruit and vegetables and maybe low-fat yogurt and you’ve got a great lunch.”

Another hidden source of fat is cheese.
Sometimes women will cut out milk or drink skim milk to save calories but may be eating a lot of cheese, which is much higher in fat and calories,” cautions Kleiner.
Cheese should be eaten in moderation.

Snack wisely

While it is better to not eat between meals at all, a sugary snack will only temporarily satisfy your hunger and leave you feeling more tired. Instead choose healthy treats. You’ll not only improve your energy level, your mood will improve as well. Shoot for a satisfying 100-200 calorie snack—it should be more than a handful of carrot sticks but less than a full-blown meal. “It helps to have a combination of protein and carbs,” says Gollman. “If you’re just eating vegies, you won’t be satisfied—it’s just not enough food.” Choosing snacks that contain both protein and carbohydrates— like cheese or crackers, chicken salad on bread, or yogurt and fruit—will boost your energy and keep you feeling satisfied for several hours.

Ditch the diet mentality

If you starve on Mondays and Tuesdays to make up for weekend splurges, break that all-or-nothing thinking. Dieting not only makes you crabby—it also increases your chances of overeating and bingeing, and makes you more likely to gain weight. If you’re serious about losing weight, limit the loss to a kilo per week and focus on making healthier, lower kilojoule choices and taking smaller portions (that’s two slices of pizza instead of half the box)—and boost your exercise.

See? It’s easy. Make these changes in your diet and you’ll be looking and feeling better without turning into a healthfood fanatic!

Going Vegie

Want to eliminate meat from you diet but don’t know where to begin? GOing vegie is easier than you might think:

  • Cut down on meat gradually – you’re less likely to feel deprived
  • Replacte meats wit other protien sources like beans, tofu, nuts or dairy products.
    • When dining out, request marinara sauce instead of meat-based sauce at Italian bistro, vegetable fried rice or stir fry at a Chinese restaurant, and cheese enchiladas or bean burritos at your local Mexican eatery.
    • Having a BBQ? There are now a plthora of vegie-burgers available that vary widely in taste and texture- sample several to find your favourite.
    • Try vegie alternatives of your favourite dishes-order onions and green peppers instead of pepperoni on your pizza or whip up a batch of vegetarian chill-you may not even miss the meat.