There comes a point in most of our lives when we decide to go on a diet. When we are young, we normally obsess about our weight, and we go on diets when we think that we have gained one ounce. As we get older, and our lifestyle becomes less active, in most cases, we often do not modify our diet enough to compensate for our reduction in activity. This results in the classic upside down ratio of calories in versus calories out.
What we may not realize is, that simply by altering what we eat, we do not necessarily have to eat less; we just have to eat better, make better choices about our diet.
We all know about the dramatic increase in the consumption of fast food over the past 30 years. It is, of course, no coincidence that our levels of obesity have also increased dramatically over this period of time. This is largely due to the statistic that, today, 11% of our food each day comes from fast food establishments. Many of these foods are very high in calories and comparatively low in nutrition. If we educate ourselves about what we eat, we will find that replacing fast food from a chain store with nutritious, home-prepared food can reduce calories and increase nutrition, exactly what we need.
We all need a certain number of calories each day, more or less, depending on our body type, our age, our lifestyle and other factors. We also need various nutrients to maintain a healthy lifestyle such as vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates; which are all an essential part of a balanced diet. But the stress should be on the word balanced. A huge bowl of pasta with two tomatoes on top does not constitute a balanced meal.
In general, we eat portions that are much bigger than we need. It is far better to eat smaller portions often than to eat three huge meals per day. And, of course, the worst habit of all is to eat three big meals each day and then snack in between.
Good nutrition is the key to a healthy lifestyle. If we follow the guidelines of institutions such as the American Heart Association, we are not likely to go wrong. They have specific recommendations concerning each food type, fruits, proteins, essential fats etc.
Another big problem with trying to become nutritionally educated is that the labeling on foods is frequently very misleading. Many sweets for example, may contain the words “fat-free” on the packaging, leading people to believe that they are healthy for their children, or themselves. But fat-free is extremely misleading, as the sugars in the product will be metabolized by the body with potentially dangerous consequences, not to mention tooth decay, the possibility of diabetes and many more problems.
It’s very difficult to persuade your children to eat celery instead of candy bars, but the key is education, both of yourselves and of your children.
Good nutrition is essential to a healthy lifestyle and there are experts out there who can develop the perfect nutritional balance for your own, individual needs.