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Dynamic Lifestyle | Keys to a healthy diet

Published:Monday | February 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Developing healthy eating habits isn't as confusing or as restrictive as many may think. The essential thing is that we eat mostly foods derived from plants, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and limit highly processed foods. Here are some guidelines for building a healthy diet.

1 Consume a variety of foods:

Not all the nutrients and other substances in foods that contribute to good health have been identified. So eating a wide variety of foods helps ensure that you get all the disease-fighting potential that foods have. In addition, this will limit your exposure to any pesticides or toxic substances that may be present in a particular food.

2 Keep an eye on portions:

You can eat all the broccoli and spinach you want, but for higher-calorie foods, portion control is key. In restaurants, choose an appetiser instead of an entree, or split a dish with a friend. Don't order anything that's been 'supersized'. When reading food labels, check serving sizes - some relatively small packages claim to contain more than one serving, so you will double or triple the calories, fat and sodium if you're planning to eat the whole thing.

3 Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables:

Aim for 21/2 cups of vegetables and two cups of fruits each day for a 2,000-calorie diet. If you consume more calories, aim for more fruits and vegetables - if you eat fewer than 2,000 calories, you can eat less. Include green, orange, red, blue/purple and yellow produce. The nutrients, fibre and other compounds in them may help protect you against certain types of cancer and other diseases. Legumes, which are rich in fibre, count as vegetables, though moderately high in calories.

4 Consume more whole grains:

At least half of your grains should be whole grains - wholewheat, barley and oats. Whole grains retain nearly all of the nutrients and fibre of the grain. Look for products labelled '100 per cent whole wheat' or '100 per cent whole grain'. If it doesn't say that, look for whole grain listed as the first ingredient.

5 Limit your consumption of refined grains and added sugar:

Refined carbohydrates in white bread, regular pasta and most snack foods, have little or no dietary fibre, and have been stripped of many nutrients. On food labels, look out for 'wheat flour' (also called 'white', 'refined' or 'enriched' flour) on the ingredients list. Also, limit foods with added sugar such as soda and candy. These are sources of empty calories that contribute to weight gain.

6 Enjoy more fish and nuts:

Nuts, fatty fish, avocados and

vegetable oils supply healthy unsaturated fats. Recent research suggests these foods, though high in calories, tend not to promote weight gain because they are satisfying. Still, it's best to eat them in place of other high-calorie foods. For instance, substitute butter with olive or canola oil. Fatty fish helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

7 Reduce animal fat:

Saturated fats, especially from red and processed meat, boosts (bad) cholesterol. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry and non-fat or low-fat dairy products. It's also a good idea to replace saturated fats with good fats, found in nuts, fish and vegetable oils.

8 Avoid trans-fats:

Trans-fats are supplied by partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used in many processed foods (such as commercial baked goods, snacks and stick margarines) and fast foods (such as French fries). Trans-fats raise (bad) cholesterol and also reduce (good) cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.

9 Keep sodium down, potassium up:

Excess sodium raises blood pressure as well as other harmful effects. People over 50, and those with hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day (about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt). At the same time, consume more potassium, which lowers blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include citrus fruits, bananas, potatoes, beans and yogurt.

10 Watch your calcium and vitamin D:

These nutrients are vital for bone health. Get calcium from low-fat or non-fat dairy products and fortified foods such as orange juices and soy drinks. If you can't get 1,000 to 1,200 mg a day from foods, take a calcium supplement. It's hard to consume enough vitamin D from foods, and getting it from sunlight is dangerous.

11 Be aware of liquid calories:

Beverages supply more than 20 per cent of the calories in the average diet. Some liquid calories come from healthy beverages, such as milk and 100 per cent fruit juices. But most come from soda and other sweetened beverages which have lots of calories yet few, if any, nutrients. Sodas are a major source of sugar and calories for many, especially children. Though juice is more nutritious than sodas, it's also high in calories, so most people should drink no more than one cup a day.

12 Limit your alcohol intake:

If you drink, do so in moderation. That means no more than one drink a day for women, and two for men. Older persons should drink even less. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 11/2 ounces of 80-proof spirits. While alcohol in moderation has heart benefits, higher intakes can lead to a wide range of health issues.

Enjoy your food but be mindful of what you eat, which may help you eat less and enjoy your food more. While having a consistent exercise routine is super important to transforming your body, achieving your lifestyle transformation will not happen without having a healthy diet.

- Patrice J. White is a certified fitness, lifestyle, and transformation coach, founder and president of the Sonic Steppers Running Club.; Instagram: @dynamiclifestyle ja; Twitter @patricejwhite; Facebook @dynamic lifestyle training studio; Give her a call at 876-GETTFIT (876-438-8348).