Graduate to a Healthier Lifestyle with these Five Important Lessons
Leading a healthy lifestyle takes a little know–how. These five important lessons can help you graduate to better health.
- Calories count. Despite what the latest celebrity diet says, here's the bottom line: to lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn. In other words, eat less and move more. A reasonable weight loss is 1/2– to 1–pound per week, which translates to a calorie "deficit" of 250 to 500 calories per day. For instance, add 20 minutes of brisk walking and skip one can of a regular soft drink to subtract about 250 calories from your daily total. And, when it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Fad diets don't work long term. You might lose weight quickly at first, but it's hard to keep it off without a sensible plan you can live with long term.
- No excuses! You can fit exercise into your day. Being physically active–each and every day–is vital for good health. In addition to helping with weight management, regular physical activity may help promote stronger bones and muscles, relieve stress, and lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week (for instance, walk briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week). The good news is that you can cobble together your activity plan any way you'd like. For example, you might walk 20 minutes in the morning and weed the garden for 10 minutes later in the day to reach a 30 minute goal. "Everyday activities" like climbing stairs, cleaning the house, or playing with the kids count, too.
- The type of fat you eat matters. Research shows that the different types of fat in foods can affect health differently. Some fats may help protect health, but eating too much of others may increase your disease risk. Limiting saturated fat (e.g., in fatty meats and whole–milk dairy products) and trans fat (e.g., in some margarines, packaged snacks and baked goods) is important, since these types of fat tend to increase LDL "bad" blood cholesterol levels, and in turn, may increase risk for heart disease. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (e.g., in liquid vegetable oils) tend to increase levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, which is thought to protect against heart disease.
- Eat a variety of nutrient–filled foods every day. Get the biggest nutrition bang for the calorie buck by basing your diet on these foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat–free and low–fat dairy products, beans, eggs, lean meat, poultry and fish. No single food provides all the nutrients you need, so mix up your choices within each food group. Variety tastes great, too!
- Pay attention to portions. If the pounds are creeping on, big portion sizes might be the culprit. Try this experiment: read the Nutrition Facts panel to find the serving size and calories per serving of your favorite snack or dessert. Put your usual portion in a bowl; then, use a measuring cup to check the amount. Is your treat a lot bigger than the Nutrition Facts serving size? If so, make it a habit to measure out servings of chips, nuts, cookies and other munchies instead of eating out of the package. And switch to serving food on luncheon–size plates and in smaller bowls — the less food on your plate, the more likely you are to stick to reasonable portions.