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FoodFit's Seven-Step Plan for Healthy Living

Nowadays, our busy schedules make it hard to find time to take care of ourselves by eating healthfully and exercising. We consulted nutrition, health and fitness experts to come up with seven simple steps to take for better health. Our tips keep hectic lifestyles in mind and promote the two basics of a healthy diet—balance and variety.

step1 : Start Early—Breakfast is a habit to cultivate

Research shows that breakfast-eaters consume fewer calories at lunch and dinner and are less likely to snack compulsively the rest of the day. What you have for breakfast matters. A study found that people who kicked off the day with eggs or pastries ate more saturated fat throughout the day than people who had cereal and fruit for breakfast.

  • A breakfast that's high in fiber and carbohydrates but low in fat gets your metabolism moving faster. Breakfast skippers burn fewer calories.
  • Good grab and go breakfasts are a banana or a bag of dry cereal such as oat squares (oats lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.)
  • Mix berries into plain yogurt for a calcium and antioxidant boost.
  • If you're opting for an energy bar—check the label carefully and pick the one with the least calories and saturated fat.
step2 : Think Portion Control—Size it up

Don't feel you have to clean your plate when you're eating out. Most meals are a lot larger than the average adult requires. Try spliting dinner with a friend. There are so many healthy advantages to eating a balanced diet featuring plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. So make sure you eat enough of them. Remember:

  • A serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards or your palm.
  • Be sure to read the food label. Many snacks are sold as single servings but actually provide two servings or more, like a bag of pretzels.
  • Substitute one or two "first course" dishes for the main; you'll get a variety of tastes without huge portions.
  • Water works. Drinks lots of it at the table to slow eating and hunger.

The American Institute of Cancer Research, one of FoodFit's Resource Associations, has more info on portion control.

step3 : Plan Ahead For Snacks—So your munchies are healthful

Snacking isn't a bad habit if you're mindful of how many calories you're eating. (Keep a food and exercise diary to stay on track and stay honest.)

  • Have a corner in the fridge reserved for good-for-you nibbles. Wash some carrots or celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, peppers, shelled peas, strawberries, and blueberries and place them in airtight see-through containers or plastic bags.
  • Put some cut-up veggies or sliced fruit on the table to help you through those starving moments just before dinner is ready.
  • Snack only when you're hungry; it's not the cure for a glum mood.
step4 : Small Changes Make a Big Difference—To your waistline

Choose low fat. Switching to 1% or skim milk from 2% slashes the fat by at least half. Eat your fruit instead of drinking it. You'll get more fiber and antioxidants and fewer calories—an orange has 90 calories and an eight-ounce glass of orange juice has 110 calories. Other changes that make a difference:

  • Knock the word "club" off your sandwich, i.e. bacon, cheese and extra bread. Go for mustard to add flavor and save calories and fat.
  • Hold the butter on your movie popcorn and you'll save over 200 calories.
  • An English muffin is usually half the calories of an average bagel and they're remarkably low in fat, too.
  • Switch to water from sugary sodas.
step5 : Fit Fitness in Throughout the Day—Every step you take counts

Lifestyle activities can provide health benefits similar to a traditional gym-based workout. Get moving by parking in the furthest space, climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator or walking or stretching while you're on the phone.

  • The goal for good health is to accumulate 10,000 steps a day, experts say. To help keep track, some people use an electronic pedometer—a palm size gadget that clips to your waistband and measures the number of steps you take.
  • Balance on one foot while brushing your teeth. Balance on the other foot while combing your hair.
  • Take your dog for a walk every day. If you don't have a dog, borrow your neighbor's, or just walk your "inner dog."
step6 : Remember the Basics—Of good nutrition

There are three "rules" for healthy eating. They're easy to remember and easy to follow. Use the Food Guide Pyramid as a tool to help you make choices in today's confusing marketplace and to help balance your diet.

  • Expand the variety of foods in your diet.
  • Add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the foods you already eat.
  • Select more lower-fat food choices.
step7 : Treat Yourself

Pick a day or two in the week and have a treat that is planned, such as a dessert or entree that you especially enjoy. The extra 100-200 calories you've eaten will then be easily burned off with a 1-2 mile walk.

  • Challenge yourself with a 5K run or walk.
  • Treat yourself to a massage.
  • Try meditating, yoga or an old-fashioned nap.
  • Take care of yourself as often as you can.

FoodFit's Plan was presented at the National Governors' Association Governors' Spouses' Seminar.

Contributors include Ann Coulston, MS, RD, Jane Folkman, MS, RD, Rachel Johnson, RD, MPH, PhD, Richard Cotton, and Carol Krucoff.


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