One of the hardest things to incorporate into a regular routine is the ability to “eat right.” For some reason, most people can eat healthy for a day or two; others can last maybe a month. But when that period is over and no significant improvements have been made, we tend to fall back into old habits.
The concept of “eating right” is not difficult. We do not need to over think it. We don’t even need to set unrealistic goals like “I will start eating all the right foods tomorrow.” This is about a lifestyle change, and with every change in life, it takes time and baby steps to adjust.
So how does an “eating right” concept fit into a busy schedule? Luckily for us, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated the food pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov) to help us understand what we need, why we need and how to get it.
We should make efforts to include all the basic food groups listed in the pyramid into our routine. Take it one day at a time, and soon enough, you’ll be “eating right.”
• The Grain Group: A daily dose of at least six ounces of whole grains adds nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamin B, iron, magnesium and selenium into a diet. Dietary fibers reduces blood cholesterol, helps the digestive system and provides a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Vitamin B releases energy from carbs, fats and proteins to speed up the metabolism.
• The Vegetable Group: Vegetables provide Vitamin A, essential for protecting the skin from infections. Vitamin C heals cuts and wounds in the teeth and gums. Try for two and one-half cups of vegetables daily. One cup is equal to a sweet potato at dinner. Another cup amounts to three spears of broccoli on the side or add a small tomato to lunch.
• The Fruit Group: The best group for weight management, fruits have no cholesterol and are low in fat, sodium and calories. It’s an excellent source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C and the “good” sugars. One cup of fruit is equal to a large orange and another cup could simply be a banana.
• The Meat and Beans Group: Probably the hardest to relate to portions, an ideal 2,000 calorie diet requires five and one-half ounce of meat and beans. Most of the time we get this by overeating steak and fried “anything.” This group provides proteins that function as building blocks for muscles, bones, cartilage, skin and blood. Other nutrients include vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Extra lean ground beef, turkey (or chicken), ham and pork provides nutrients without extra fat, cholesterol and calories. Remember portion size. One steak dinner should be four ounces – about the size of a deck of cards. To get the remaining ounce and one-half, try eating beans, nuts, peanut butter or seafood.
• The Milk Group: Dairy products provide potassium, calcium and vitamin D. The most important tip is to choose low-fat or fat-free milk products. The goal is three cups, and can be found in a glass of cold milk, a fat-free yogurt and one-third cup of shredded cheese.
Check out the food pyramid, don’t worry about dieting and just “eat right.” After eating right, then practice portion control. Before you realize it, you’ve baby-stepped your way into eating the right foods in the right amounts. After that, you’re on your way to a whole new lifestyle.