It's 2005 & you're still not sure what to eat

You wake up cold and the dogs are barking and it is time to get out of bed. Another day... another day of eating. You are still struggling with what is good to eat.

Why does it seem like they are always telling us something different about what is healthy? First fat was bad, then it was good. Carbohydrates were good and now they aren't? Yes, it is all very confusing. As new research teaches us things, some nutrition messages do change.

Here are some suggestions to improve your eating habits before it's 2006.

Figure out ways to eat more fruits and vegetables. Bring some to work/school in a sandwich baggie so they are ready when you want a snack. Keep frozen vegetables in your freezer so you can have some each night for dinner and they won't get rotten.

Put fruit in your cereal. Have fruit for dessert at night like plain yogurt mixed with peaches or applesauce. Add lettuce and tomato to your sandwich. Have a salad instead of bread with your meal.

Try an apple or banana as an after school snack. Aim for two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.

Right now much of the local produce is perfect for meals and snacks, if you have freezer space wash the item and put in freezer bags and store in the freezer to enjoy during the winter months when a hot bowl of soup warms the body.

Eat more whole grains. This is whole wheat breads, bran cereals, whole grain cereals, wild rice, brown rice, and oatmeal.

Look for the word "100 percent whole grain" on the label. Whole grains have more vitamins and more fiber and are better for you and your kids than foods made with white flour. Give your children sandwiches and toast made from whole wheat bread. The earlier they get wheat bread, the less likely they are to want white bread.

Do not eat foods that have trans fat in them. This type of fat is not good for your blood. Look for hydrogenated oil or polyhydrogenated oil on the ingredient list and avoid foods that are made with this ingredient. .

Watch how much salt you eat. Do not use the salt shaker if you eat a lot of processed foods, foods from bags, boxes or cans, or fast food. They put a lot of salt in those foods already. Slowly train your taste buds to need less and less salt. Use lemons or Dash brand salt replacement to flavor vegetables.

Try to avoid sweetened beverages that contain "high fructose corn syrup." There is a lot of evidence that this concentrated sweetener can really worsen your body's ability to handle sweets (carbohydrates). Try to limit juice intake to a glass a day. Try to avoid all regular sodas. Only drink sports drinks (such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc) after a really sweaty work out.

Yes, you still need to exercise! This helps to keep your mind and body healthy. It also helps you control your body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you burn off each day.

The new recommendations state that if you want to lose weight you probably need to do some moderate intensity exercise (breathing heavy but still able to talk) for at least 60 --90 minutes on most days. To keep your weight where it is now you need to exercise at least 60 minutes a day. To help prevent some chronic diseases (such as heart disease and diabetes) you should try to exercise at least 30 minutes per day along with a healthy diet. Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day.

Don't overeat, this will prevent weight gain. Keep your portions small so you can enjoy most foods. Don't use eating out or special occasions as an excuse to eat too much.

When you eat more calories than your body needs or uses your body saves it as fat. There is the right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you are trying to gain, maintain or lose weight. 2,000 calories is the value used as a general reference on the food label, but you can find out the number of calories you need on the World Wide Web at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines or you can talk to your health care provider.

It is getting darker and colder earlier and the day is almost over. Another day of eating done.

Did you think about what you ate? Did you plan ahead? How many times did you put food in your mouth without thinking about it. Make sure you stop before you eat and think about what you are eating.

It is not easy to eat well. There are lots of forces against us. Our culture provides us with quick and easy food (and lots of it) that is not good for us.

Don't give up because it seems overwhelming to follow all these recommendations for a healthier lifestyle. Just keep at it each day and you will feel and look better. Good Luck!

(Jane Dougherty-Lake, a member of the TCRHC Corp. Wellness Committee, wrote this heath column based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines.)

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