women

1. MyPyramid—Simplified

Me! Me! Me! It’s all about me! Well, okay—it’s all about you, too! I’m talking about the newest food guide pyramid developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA created the first dietary guidelines back in the early 1980s, and those guidelines are updated every five years. This is a good thing because it keeps the guidelines current with the latest nutritional information and probably helps to justify a few jobs. You may recall the media hoopla in 2005 when the old food guide pyramid was laid to rest. This time around the guidelines are called MyPyramid because they get really personal. No, not about your love life but about your personal diet! I’m talking about the fact that one size does not fit all. The new MyPyramid creates a personal eating plan for you with the foods and amounts that are right for you as an individual. Of course, if you have specific health conditions you should consult with your health care provider. MyPyramid is designed for the general public. You can use this advice to help you make smart choices from every food group, to find your balance between food and physical activity, to get the most nutrition out of your calories, and to stay within your daily calorie needs.

Live

  YOUR Life

All adults should strive for at least thirty minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Pick up a pedometer. It’s a neat device that can count your individual footsteps. Worn on the hip it clicks with each step. Challenge yourself to increase the number of steps you take each day.

I often recommend the official USDA Web site www.MyPyramid.gov—I think it is marvelous! However, I’m in the business. After an intelligent friend told me he had no idea what to do with it, I knew I had to develop a program to help everyday consumers make sense out of it. Let me simplify. I can show you how to implement these guidelines into your life.

2. Guidelines Set for Americans: ABCs

The USDA Guidelines can help you understand what you should be eating and how much activity you need to do to stay healthy. People of various cultural backgrounds, age groups, and lifestyles should be able to follow this information. The dietary guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars

Understand that these guidelines are just that—guidelines! These are suggestions to help you stay healthy. They were written to help you achieve and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. There is also a lot of flexibility so you can make the best food choices for you and the way you live.

At the very least, follow these three basic messages. It’s as easy as ABC:

  • A: Aim for fitness.
  • B: Build a healthy nutrition base.
  • C: Choose sensibly.

3. Aim for Physical Activity!

A woman I know once asked me, “What can I do to up my metabolism rate?” I quickly responded, “get moving!” There is no way around this issue. If you want to drop some pounds and maintain a healthy weight you have got to aim to be physically active.

Finding Your Physical Activities

Physical activity simply means movement of the body while using energy. Walking briskly, climbing the stairs, and even gardening are all considered physical activities. At a minimum you should do activities that add up to at least thirty minutes daily. This is in addition to your usual daily activities. Of course, if you increase the intensity or the amount of time there are additional health benefits and faster weight loss. Do activities that increase your heart rate. Please don’t count walking to your refrigerator as being active.

Why Physical Activity?

There are a zillion reasons to be active. It can make you feel better, possibly live longer, and, of course, look great. Following are a few benefits of physical activity.

  • Helps to manage your weight
  • Improves your fitness level
  • Builds muscle strength and improves endurance
  • Improves your self esteem
  • Helps control blood pressure
  • Improves posture and flexibility
  • Lowers risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes
  • Helps build and maintain bones, muscles, and joints
  • Reduces feelings of depression

Movement and nutrition work together. Being active helps you to burn more calories. Aging often slows the metabolism down so you need to move more and eat less. Get active!

4. Build a Healthy Nutrition Base!

Building a healthy nutrition base is the foundation of staying healthy and achieving weight loss. Because no one single food can provide all the nutrients you need, you should consume a number of different foods each day. Here is what you can eat from MyPyramid to get your desired results.

Gravitate to Grains

Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, barley, or cereal are considered grains. Think of pasta, bread, and oatmeal, for example. Grain products are low in fat. There are “whole” and “refined” grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel—meaning the bran or germ. Refined grains remove the bran and germ. While milling may lengthen the shelf life of your bread (who wants old bread?), it also removes the dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. The whole truth is whole grains are better!

Vary Your Veggies

There isn’t a sensible diet on the planet that disagrees with the importance of eating lots of vegetables. Maybe it’s time you took that advice seriously. Whether they are cooked, raw, fresh, frozen, canned, dried, whole, cut-up, or mashed you can’t go wrong with vegetables. They are jam packed with nutrients for overall health. They are loaded with fiber, which is great for losing weight. Fiber can help you feel full and eat less. Fiber in your body acts as the roto-rooter of your system and helps to clean you out. MyPyramid recommends five veggie subgroups. These subgroups include vegetables that are dark green, orange, dry beans and peas, starchy vegetables, and all “other” vegetables. Different vegetables provide different nutrients. That’s why, to simplify: vary your veggies!

Cyndi’s Secrets

You can easily increase your fiber intake by keeping peels on your fruits and veggies. A modest baked potato with skin has almost twice the fiber of a “naked” potato the same size.

Fruits Are Your Friends

Making friends with fruits is easy. They are delicious. They may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Serve them up whole, cut-up, or puréed. Although 100 percent fruit juice counts as a fruit, make most of your fruit choices whole. My mom used to freeze peach slices from our tree and they were yummy! Just like with vegetables, the nutrients in fruit choices vary. That’s why it’s wise to make friends with lots of fruits!

Bone-Up on Calcium-Rich Foods

All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered calcium rich. This is important because whether you are two or ninety-two the nutrients in milk build and maintain healthy bones and strong teeth. Choose milk products that retain their calcium content such as all fluid milk, yogurt, or cheese. Avoid foods made from milk that have little or no calcium such as cream cheese, cream, and butter. It is also best to choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. For those who are lactose intolerant, lactose-free products are available.

Cyndi’s Secrets

Fiber acts like a sponge by absorbing water that softens stools and reduces incidence of constipation. It also provides a sensation of fullness by actually slowing the emptying time of the stomach. Fibrous foods are also usually low in fat and calories.

Meat and Beans

Get lean with protein. All foods made from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds are considered part of this category. If you noticed that “dry beans or peas” are in the vegetable group as well, it’s not a typo. Vegetarians are happy that you can kill two birds with one stone—not that we would kill a bird! If you choose meat or poultry, make sure that it is lean or low-fat. It is better to choose fish, nuts, and seeds that contain healthy oils.

Making Peace with Oil

Don’t go to war with oil. Some of it is essential. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature like cooking vegetable oils. They come from fish and many different plants. Some common oils are canola oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil. Fats that are solid at room temperature such as butter, shortening, or chicken fat come from many animal foods and can also be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. Obviously, it’s not smart to order a plate of lard. The better fat choices should be from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Limit your intake of solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.

Live

  YOUR Life

Marinate raw veggies in low-calorie Italian dressing. I keep mine covered in the fridge. They make a great healthy snack and help provide lots of vegetable variety.

Use Your Discretionary Calories

What is really cool about MyPyramid is that it allows for the fun food factor. We all have a food weakness. I love chocolate, desserts, and other good stuff. This program gives you a total calorie budget. Your budget can be divided into “essentials” and “extras.” If you make smart food choices most of the time there is room in the calorie budget for healthy “little” treats of your choice on occasion. You can call them the “discretionary calories.”

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