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Healthy Eating in an Imperfect World

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Motivating Couch Potatoes continued...

If you eat in front of the TV, you probably have no sense of how much you're eating, says Christine Filardo, MSRD, director of public relations for the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), a nonprofit consumer education group. PBH helps run the national "5 A Day" campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption 5 or more a day for 75% of Americans by 2010.

"If you're sitting there [in front of the TV], and you rip open a bag of chips, it's very easy to eat the entire bag of chips and not really think about what you're doing, because your main focus is not on what you're eating, but on what you're watching," says Filardo.

Substitute candy and chips for light popcorn. Baby carrots with a low-fat dip and a bowl of fruit are also good alternatives. Also try light yogurt instead of ice cream.

Junk Food Junkies

Planning healthy meals and snacks ahead of time is crucial for people who want to curb their junk food cravings.

"Some junk food junkies just fall into that habit, because there's nothing else around, and so they hit the vending machine, or stop at a convenience store, and that's what's there," says Gidus.

If you must have junk food, sample the healthier alternatives, such as baked chips, dried fruit, or sugar-free Popsicle. Look for low-calorie, low-sugar, and low-fat options.

It also helps to determine what element in the junk food you like. "A lot of people don't realize that they are looking for something in particular," says Gidus. "I ask [clients], 'At night you tend to eat this, this, and this, so it sounds to me like you're looking for something crunchy,' and they'll say, 'Yeah, I guess, I am.'"

In place of chips, the crunch-lover could try chomping on light popcorn, whole grain crackers, carrot sticks, red peppers, and rice cakes.

For the sweet tooth, sugar-free pudding, sugar-free Jell-O, fruit bars, baked apple, fresh fruits, and dried fruits are options.

If you have to have chocolate, keep a small, lower-calorie portion of it around, recommends Mark Kantor, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition and food science at the University of Maryland. He likes little, individually wrapped chocolates, because they can give enough satisfaction, but can discourage overindulgence as it takes effort to open up each morsel.

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