Our eating habits need help. Fast food, high-calorie desserts, sweet drinks, and more have filled us up -- and out. Most adults and 1 in 3 children in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Changing the way you eat can be easy. To start, learn about some of the worst food offenders and how to replace them with healthier choices. Then try some portion-control tricks.
Most of our calories come from foods high in fat and sugar. Sweets like cookies and cakes, along with yeast breads, top the list. We also load up on calories in chicken dishes (often breaded and fried), sodas, and energy and sports drinks. Pizza, alcohol, pasta, tortilla dishes, and beef dishes pile on more calories. Unless you count fries and chips, fruits and vegetables don't even make a dent in our daily calorie count.
Just two problem foods -- solid fats and added sugars -- count for about 800 of our daily calories. That's almost half the calories an average woman should have in a day. U.S. dietary guidelines say we should limit solid, trans, and saturated fats. Cut back on fast foods and refined grains, like white bread. While you're at it, cut down on sodium (salt), too. Most of us get too much, raising our chances of high blood pressure and heart and kidney disease.
Add more nutritious foods to your diet.
Favorite foods like pizza may just need a makeover. Pizza can have lots of calories, refined grains, and fats. But with a few tweaks, it can be OK:
The outer shell, or "bran," of a kernel of wheat, rice, barley, or other grain is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber helps you feel full on fewer calories and keeps your bathroom visits regular. But to make white (refined) flour from a kernel of wheat, food makers get rid of the bran. With it goes much of the fiber and vitamins.
Fats that are solid at room temperature usually contain saturated and trans fats. Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible and saturated fats should only contribute 10% of your calories. You will find saturated fats in butter, coconut oil, animal fats in meat, dairy, bacon and chicken skin.
Start downsizing to healthy portions and your body will, too. Check food labels and restaurant menus for hidden calories. Learn to "eyeball" your food to gauge what’s too much -- and what’s just right.
You may have grown up being told to "clean your plate." The problem is that dinner plates in homes -- and restaurants – have gotten bigger. And so has the amount of food we put on them. If you clean your plate now, you're probably overeating.
To shrink your portions:
Restaurants usually serve one person enough food for two or three. But you don't have to eat it all.
How many calories you should have depends on your age, your gender, and how active you are. An inactive woman should have 1,600-1,800 calories a day. An active average-sized man should have 2,400-2,800 calories. Have a healthy balance of foods each day:
You don't need to weigh or measure your food every time you eat. Instead, keep a mental image of a deck of cards, a poker chip, a baseball, a hockey puck, a CD, dice, and a lightbulb. This makes it easy for you imagine healthy portion sizes.
1 medium potato = 1 computer mouse
That's equal to 1 cup of vegetables.
If you use a mouse every day, it's easy to grab the right size of potato at a grocery store. But a restaurant potato is likely to be twice that big and loaded with toppings and extra calories. To eat smart when you eat out:
1 portion of pasta is 1/2 cup = 1/2 a baseball
That's 1 ounce, or 1/2 cup, of grains.
For healthier pasta:
1 portion of pancake or waffle = the size of a CD
That's a 1-ounce serving of grains.
Skip plate-sized waffles and stacks of pancakes swimming in syrup and butter. Instead:
Bagels and bran muffins seem like healthy eating choices. But they can be two or three times too big. A large bagel and even a low-fat muffin can pile on 300 calories. Spread it with butter or cream cheese, and you've added more fat and calories. Breakfast can be a whopping 500 calories.
1 small muffin = a tennis ball
1/2 a medium bagel = a hockey puck
That's a 1-ounce serving of grains.
Don't overdo it with bagels and bran muffins:
1 portion of cheese = four dice
That's a 1-cup serving of dairy.
Cheese is high in calcium. Regular cheese is also high in fat. One serving of low-fat cheese is one-third the amount of nonfat or low-fat dairy you should have in a day.
1 portion of meat or fish = a deck of cards or the palm of your hand
That's 3 ounces of protein.
Eat lean protein -- fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, and beans -- at every meal to help build muscle and lose weight. But you may need less protein than you think. Adults only need 5 to 6 1/2 ounces of protein a day. That could be one egg at breakfast, a handful of nuts (12 almonds or 24 pistachios) mid-day, and 3 ounces of meat for dinner.
1 serving of fruits or veggies = 1 baseball or a fist
1 serving of leafy greens = 2 tennis balls
That's a 1-cup serving of fruits or vegetables.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, eat as much as you want.
1 portion of peanut butter = a golf ball
That's 2 tablespoons or two 1-ounce servings of protein.
Peanut butter and jelly is great comfort food. And snacking on peanuts and peanut butter can curb hunger. The trick is to make a little bit go a long way. Peanuts have healthy fat, but it's still fat and can add calories -- 190 for 2 ounces. Jelly adds more.
2 portions of cooked rice = a light bulb
That's 2 servings of grains.
Rice is low in fat and calories. Serve it with a rainbow of healthy vegetables -- like red peppers, bok choy, onion, and carrots -- stir-fried in a little peanut or canola oil.
1 portion of fat = a poker chip or a stack of four dimes.
That's 1 teaspoon, or 1 serving, of fats and oils.
You probably get enough fat in foods like cooking oil, salad dressings, meats, and nuts.
1 ounce = 6 large tortilla chips or 20 potato chips
That's 2 teaspoons of oil and 150 calories
Chips tend to be packed with the things we need to limit: unhealthy fat, refined grains, and sodium. Just one ounce can have nearly half of an entire day's fat for a woman.
Read the label: Baked, multigrain, and vegetable chips -- like carrot and sweet potato -- have more nutrients and may have less fat.
1 serving = 1/2 baseball
That's 4 ounces or 1/2 cup.
Desserts can be full of unhealthy fats and sugar. One cup of ice cream -- twice the size of a portion -- can have 285 calories and 75% of the solid fat an inactive woman should have in a day
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