Friday, May 8, 2015

Nutrition -- Feel Better Look Better

This is going along with the Stress Management series.



Week 1

Setting attainable goals and resolutions


Setting goals for yourself is very personal and you need to choose your resolution carefully. There may be many things you would like to change, but you are more likely to stick to your goal if you attempt only one or two changes at a time. Identify what behavior, or aspect of your life, you would most like to change and concentrate on that.

Whatever your goal, make a list of why you want to do it, and how you think it will change your life - will you feel healthier, happier, more relaxed? And how will you feel if you don't make the change? How will you feel not only now but in a year or five years?

Take time to consider the change you want to make. Planning how you are going to incorporate the change into your life will make your resolution much more successful than a split-second decision.

Learn about the behavior you intend to adapt: read books, watch videos, search the Internet - find out as much as you can so you are aware of the pitfalls and the difficulties you will encounter as well as the benefits of achieving your goal.

Think about the wording of your resolution - is it conducive to achieving your goal? Instead of "I am going to lose weight" which is broad and unspecific, how about "I am going to lose 10lbs by May", or "I am going to go walking three times a week at lunchtime". Making a specific commitment makes it easier to keep.

Once you have decided on your resolution, set a start date and prepare yourself. For example, if your goal is to eat more healthily, or lose weight, clear out your cupboards and fridge, chuck out your temptation foods and go shopping with your new eating plan in hand.
Make a plan for your resolution. Which behavior are you going to change, what do you aim to achieve each week and how are you going to cope with slip-ups in your plan? Making a contingency plan for slip-ups will also help you reach your goal. To find out more, click here to read "don't feel guilty about diet slip-ups".

Regularly remind yourself why you have made the resolution. Set yourself short- and long-term goals, and reward yourself appropriately when you achieve them. Log your progress - see how you are improving and, if you are tempted to lapse, look at the circumstances that caused this to happen.

Don't become complacent. Success is achieved by making the change last, so continue to avoid situations that are possible triggers to your old habits.

Give yourself credit for what you have achieved. You have worked hard to stick to your resolution.

Sources

  1. How to keep up with those New Year's resolutions, researchers find commitment is the secret of success. University of Washington Press Release Dec 23, 1997. www.washington.edu
  2. Prochaska JO et al. Changing for good: A revolutionary six-stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward. Avon books. New York. 1994

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Week 2

The importance of a balanced diet


We all know what we should eat, but that doesn't always jive with what we really like. Why is a balanced diet important, and how can we still have the occasional fried chicken, bag of chips or chocolate-laden cake?
Best bets
  • Remember that no food is bad for you if you only eat it occasionally.
  • Try different cooking methods to make your favorite foods more healthy.
  • The key to a balanced diet is variety - endless burgers won't make you healthy, but neither will just eating green salad.

Why is it so important?
Your body needs a variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, carbohydrates and fats - available from fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products and grains - to operate at peak performance.



Fruit and vegetables
These are great sources of water-soluble vitamins (including vitamins C and the B complex). Vitamin deficiencies can lead to diseases affecting our skin, bones, energy levels, eyesight and muscle growth so it is important that your intake is adequate. Water-soluble vitamins can't be stored by the body so you need to obtain them from food sources regularly. Read more about vitamins.

Some vegetables are also good sources of protein (protein is responsible for the construction and repair of many of the body's tissues and organs, and the functioning of a healthy immune system). If you are a vegetarian, make sure eat a wide variety of vegetables including beans, peas and legumes so you get enough protein. Read more about protein.

Soluble fiber, found in fruit, vegetables, grains and beans, can help lower levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol in the blood (LDL cholesterol can lead to heart disease and narrowed arteries). Read more about fiber.

Aim for five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day - increase your intake by having a glass of orange juice with breakfast, a banana mid-morning, lots of salad and tomatoes in your lunchtime sandwich, and a couple of vegetables with dinner. (Potatoes don't count toward your daily total, but beans and peas such as lentils do.)

Fats and oils
We do need some fat, although not nearly as much as most of us consume. Currently we get about 40% of our daily calories from fat. This should be reduced to nearer 30%. Although all fat is high in calories (nine calories per gram) saturated fats (from meat and dairy sources) also raise levels of 'bad' cholesterol in the blood. By comparison monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil) actively reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, and polyunsaturated fats (such as sunflower oil) lower both bad and good (HDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. Fried foods should be eaten only occasionally - try baking, steaming or microwaving instead. High-fat foods such as avocados and nuts actually contain 'good' fats so these can be eaten in moderation (even 'good' fats are high in calories). If you like butter, try switching to an olive oil or soft sunflower spread.

Grains and cereals
Bread, pasta, and rice are great sources of carbohydrates (sugars and starches). Over 50% of your calories should come from carbohydrates - they fill you up, and provide glucose for your cells. Your brain runs exclusively on glucose. If you do not eat enough carbohydrates your body breaks down protein instead, and since protein is needed for cell repair and growth, diverting it in this way can be harmful1. Read more about carbohydrates.

Whole wheat bread or pasta, and brown rice, contain insoluble fiber. This passes through the body, helping to prevent constipation, and reducing the chance of developing bowel cancer. Oats contain soluble fiber, which helps lower 'bad' cholesterol levels.

In addition to their fiber content, many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamins and iron - however, check the fat content because some cereals may have high levels of saturated fat.

Meat, fish and eggs
Red meat is a source of saturated fat, so try not to eat it every day. Good alternatives include with chicken, turkey or fish. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, and sardines are good sources of the omega 3 oils, which are polyunsaturated fats. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D and E) are found in fish oils. Meat, fish and eggs are all good sources of protein.

Dairy products
Milk, butter, cheese and yogurt contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E, and are also good sources of calcium. However they can contain high levels of fat. Try switching to low fat or non-fat milk, or lower fat cheeses including cottage, ricotta, goat's cheese, and mozzarella. Choose low-fat natural and fruit yogurts.

Alcohol
Current guidelines limit men to 14 drinks per week and women to 7 drinks per week. Alcohol has no nutritional benefit and is high in calories. If you enjoy drinking, have a regular glass of wine, beer or hard liquor as part of a balanced diet - just don't overdo it.

Variety and moderation!
It is important to remember that you can have a full and enjoyable diet without feeling deprived. The key is to have a wide variety of foods, make sure you base your diet on fruit and vegetables, fiber and carbohydrates, and avoid saturated fat where possible. But eating should be enjoyable, so if you like other types of food - chips, chocolate, high-fat fast food and creamy desserts - you can have them occasionally. It's what you eat everyday that counts.

Sources

  1. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2005; key recommendations for the general population. US Department of Agriculture.
  2. How to understand and use the nutrition facts label. US Food and Drug Administration.
  3. Inside the Pyramid; what foods are in the grain group? US Department of Agriculture.
  4. Inside the Pyramid; what counts as one cup in the milk group? US Department of Agriculture.
  5. Food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. World Cancer Research Fund.
  6. Why is it important to eat vegetables? US Department of Agriculture.
  7. 5 a day health benefits. UK Department of Health.

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Surprising calories and fats


With so many choices available, foods have become a calorie minefield
We tend to think of salads as the healthy option because vegetables don't contain many calories. However, salad no longer means just lettuce leaves and a tomato. Today the choices are huge, in supermarkets and restaurants.

Creamy dressings, eggs, crispy bacon bits and croutons can drive up the calories. Load your bowl or plate with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onions and plenty of other fresh vegetables, but top it with a lower-fat alternative. Low-fat yogurt, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and fat-free dressings are all good choices1. You don't need to eat salad all the time but eating vegetables helps to ensure you get plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Alcohol is high in empty calories - it provides energy but has little nutritional value2. Enjoy your drink but avoid extra calories by replacing creamy cocktails with fruit-based ones, and choosing a low calorie mixer rather than a beer (note that liquor contains less sugar, but not fewer calories)3.



Sometimes we avoid foods that aren't that bad. Take for example a Chinese takeout called crispy duck - although it contains quite a lot of fat, if you only eat the meat and roll it up in your pancake with sliced green onions, cucumber and a spoonful of black bean sauce, you'll be fine. The fat on duck is also high in the healthier monounsaturated fatty acids.

Foods such as avocados, nuts and oily fish (salmon, sardines and herring) are considered to be high in fat but should actually be included in your diet. They contain high levels of mono and polyunsaturated fats. But remember that fat contains 9 calories per gram (twice as much as protein or carbohydrate).

Many lean red meats are actually relatively low in fat and are a great source of iron. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are high in fat but if you select low-fat varieties you will get the benefit of the calcium with little fat.
If you choose...
Try this instead
Mayonnaise or salad dressing
Virtually fat-free dressings, natural yogurt
Salad with oily dressings
Salad with salsa or extra herbs
Full-fat coleslaw and potato salad
Reduced-fat coleslaw and potato salad (use as accompaniment only). Tabouleh (chick peas, cous cous, vegetables).
Mayonnaise based pasta salads
Look for the healthy eating range and choose less often
Fried chicken
Barbequed, plain roasted or broiled chicken.
Creamy sauces
Tomato-based sauces or salsa.
Pasta or rice salads without vegetables
Pasta and rice with mixed chopped vegetables or a layer of salad
Salads with fried rice or noodles
Plain boiled rice and noodles
Waldorf or cheese salad
Bean and chick pea salads, grilled vegetables

Sources

  1. Alcohol and diet. National Institutes of Health.
  2. What's In The Food You Eat Search Tool. United States Department of Agriculture.
  3. Why is it important to make lean or low-fat choices from the Meat and Beans group? United States Department of Agriculture.

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There is also a food diary.

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Week 3

Reading food labels


Most food packaging includes a Nutrition Facts label giving basic nutrition information. What are the main features of a Nutrition Facts label, and which ones are most important?
The food labeling laws can be very complicated. They reflect a tension between the need for scientific detail and the need for straightforward simplicity so that most people can understand the label.

The ingredients list

The ingredients list is useful if you are looking for certain foods, for example, when you have an allergy. If you are allergic to nuts, then the list of ingredients will help you to avoid nut-laden foods. However, if you are concerned about fats or carbohydrates, then the list of ingredients is less easy to read. By law the list must order ingredients by weight from most to least1, 2, and each chemically different ingredient must be named separately2. The carbohydrates in a cookie might be listed as flour, sugar, inverted sugar, glucose, fructose, glucose syrup, whole wheat flour, and dextrose! Unless you know a lot about food chemistry, the ingredients list is fairly meaningless.

Nutrition information

The nutrition information gives typical values for energy, carbohydrates, fats and so on. Values are given in terms of a single defined serving2. Be careful to look at the serving size, including how many servings are in the food package, and compare it to the amount you actually eat. Carbohydrates are split into total carbohydrates (starches plus sugars) and sugars. Breakfast cereals provide a good example of this. Compare the label from a box of a wholegrain cereal with one that is frosted and you'll clearly be able to see the difference in the content of sugars.
Fats are similar. The label will show the total amount of fat and its breakdown into saturated and unsaturated. Watch out for hidden fat, as it is often used in foods to give a pleasant feeling in the mouth - not too dry or crumbly - and to help products bind together. A pancake can contain huge amounts of fat to hold the flour together. And some granola-type cereals use fat to bind the clusters of cereal.
Many food packages highlight special features such as 95% fat free, light, and low fat. These will all be true but only in terms of how regulations define them. Manufacturers are trying to sell their products and will highlight whatever good features they can. A low-fat humus will be low-fat compared to normal humus but it will still have plenty of fat. It is best to ignore all advertising slogans and look directly at the label1. The percent daily value (% DV) tells you whether the nutrients (fat, sodium, fiber, etc) in a serving of food contribute a lot or a little to your total daily diet. By diet we mean all the different foods you eat in a day. Do you need to know how to calculate percentages to follow this advice? No, the label (the % DV) does the math for you. It helps you interpret the numbers (grams and milligrams) by putting them all on the same scale (0-100% DV), much like a ruler. This way you can tell high from low and know which nutrients contribute a lot, or a little, to your recommended daily allowance2.

Sources

  1. Bender AE and Bender DA. Food Tables and Labeling. Oxford University Press. 2000
  2. US Food and Drug Administration, How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Panel on Food Labels, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html
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Week 4

Reading food labels


Most food packaging includes a Nutrition Facts label giving basic nutrition information. What are the main features of a Nutrition Facts label, and which ones are most important?
The food labeling laws can be very complicated. They reflect a tension between the need for scientific detail and the need for straightforward simplicity so that most people can understand the label.

The ingredients list

The ingredients list is useful if you are looking for certain foods, for example, when you have an allergy. If you are allergic to nuts, then the list of ingredients will help you to avoid nut-laden foods. However, if you are concerned about fats or carbohydrates, then the list of ingredients is less easy to read. By law the list must order ingredients by weight from most to least1, 2, and each chemically different ingredient must be named separately2. The carbohydrates in a cookie might be listed as flour, sugar, inverted sugar, glucose, fructose, glucose syrup, whole wheat flour, and dextrose! Unless you know a lot about food chemistry, the ingredients list is fairly meaningless.

Nutrition information

The nutrition information gives typical values for energy, carbohydrates, fats and so on. Values are given in terms of a single defined serving2. Be careful to look at the serving size, including how many servings are in the food package, and compare it to the amount you actually eat. Carbohydrates are split into total carbohydrates (starches plus sugars) and sugars. Breakfast cereals provide a good example of this. Compare the label from a box of a wholegrain cereal with one that is frosted and you'll clearly be able to see the difference in the content of sugars.
Fats are similar. The label will show the total amount of fat and its breakdown into saturated and unsaturated. Watch out for hidden fat, as it is often used in foods to give a pleasant feeling in the mouth - not too dry or crumbly - and to help products bind together. A pancake can contain huge amounts of fat to hold the flour together. And some granola-type cereals use fat to bind the clusters of cereal.
Many food packages highlight special features such as 95% fat free, light, and low fat. These will all be true but only in terms of how regulations define them. Manufacturers are trying to sell their products and will highlight whatever good features they can. A low-fat humus will be low-fat compared to normal humus but it will still have plenty of fat. It is best to ignore all advertising slogans and look directly at the label1. The percent daily value (% DV) tells you whether the nutrients (fat, sodium, fiber, etc) in a serving of food contribute a lot or a little to your total daily diet. By diet we mean all the different foods you eat in a day. Do you need to know how to calculate percentages to follow this advice? No, the label (the % DV) does the math for you. It helps you interpret the numbers (grams and milligrams) by putting them all on the same scale (0-100% DV), much like a ruler. This way you can tell high from low and know which nutrients contribute a lot, or a little, to your recommended daily allowance2.

Sources

  1. Bender AE and Bender DA. Food Tables and Labeling. Oxford University Press. 2000
  2. US Food and Drug Administration, How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Panel on Food Labels, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html

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Know what you are eating: what is a serving?


In a balanced diet it is recommended that you eat a certain number of servings of carbohydrates, a set number of servings of fruit and vegetables, and a number of portions of dairy foods, but how much is in a serving? Understanding serving sizes can help in a weight management program so that you can calculate exactly how much you are eating, and can help you see which parts of your diet need improvements.
See the table below to see what constitutes a serving and how many you should eat in a day:
Food Group Serving size of foods Recommended servings per day
  These constitute one serving  
Bread, cereals and potatoes 1 slice bread/1 small roll 5-11 servings per day (depending on your weight and amount of exercise you do)
  ½ bagel/pitta/naan  
  1 english muffin  
  3 crackers  
  1 small chapatti  
  3 crispbread/rice cakes  
  2 average potatoes/1 small stuffed potato  
  1 small sweet potato  
  1 small bowl breakfast cereal  
  2 tbsp muesli  
  1 Shredded Wheat  
  2 heaping tbsp boiled rice
 
  4 heaping tbsp boiled pasta/noodles  
  1 crumpet/1 slice currant bread  
Fruit and vegetables 1 apple/pear/peach/ orange/banana Minimum 5 servings per day
  2 plums/kiwi/clementine  
  1 large slice melon/papaya/pineapple  
  ½ small box strawberries/ ½ mango  
  1 small glass fruit juice  
  1 tbsp dried fruit e.g., raisins, figs, apricots  
  3 tbsp canned fruit in natural juice  
  4 tbsp stewed fruit such as prunes  
  2 serving spoonfuls vegetables  
  1 small salad  
  1 medium tomato  
Milk and dairy 1 medium glass milk, preferably skimmed or semi-skimmed 2-3 servings per day
  1 average container of low-fat yogurt  
  1 cottage cheese (approx. 1 cup)  
  1 matchbox size piece cheese, preferably low-fat  
  2 matchbox sizes cream cheese (low-fat)  
Meat, fish and alternatives 2-3 slices lean red meat (beef, lamb, pork etc) 3 servings per day
  2 slices/ ½ large portion chicken without skin  
  1 medium fillet white fish  
  3 fish sticks  
  2 eggs  
  4 ounces tofu  
  4 heaping tbsp beans/lentils  
  5 tbsp baked beans (in low sugar and salt tomato sauce, if possible)  
  2 tbsp nuts/peanut butter  
Fat rich foods 1 tsp butter/margarine 0-3 servings per day
  2 tsp low fat spread  
  1 tsp mayonnaise  
  2 tsp low calorie mayonnaise  
  1 tsp oil or oil based dressing  
  1 tsp blue cheese dressing  
Occasional foods 1 heaping tsp jam/honey  
  3 tsp sugar  
  1 small pkg chips  
  1 tbsp cream  
  1 small scoop ice cream  
  ½ doughnut  
  1 small bar chocolate  


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Week 5

Why exercise?


Exercise is good for both your physical and mental well-being. As little as 30 minutes a day can improve your overall health, dramatically reduce your risk of developing many diseases, and just plain help you look and feel better.
Best bets
  • If you can't fit in a 30-minute exercise session, split it into two or more shorter blocks instead.
  • Feeling blue? Just one exercise session could be enough to lift your spirits.
  • Exercise is the #1 strategy used by "successful losers" who take off and keep off extra pounds.

Effects of exercise on your body
Physical activity can help you keep off extra pounds, build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, stay flexible, improve mood, and reduce stress. It can also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers1.



Psychological well-being
When you exercise you release endorphins into the brain. Endorphins are hormones that can act as painkillers, but can also trigger positive, euphoric feelings. They are what give you a lift and feeling of revitalization at the end of a workout2. Exercise can also reduce depression and anxiety1.

Even a single exercise session can have a positive influence on your mood and emotions. This can work both by increasing pleasurable feelings such as revitalization, tranquillity and vigor3, 4, and by reducing negative emotions such as tension, fatigue and anxiety4, 5.

Which exercise?
The best exercise is the one you do consistently! Aerobic exercise (such as walking, running and cycling) and strength training have both been shown to boost weight loss, overall health, and your mental outlook. You will get the greatest overall health & well-being benefit from a program that gives you a balance of aerobic, strength, and flexibility training.

How much is enough?
You don't have to be super fit to reap the health & well-being benefits of physical activity. Just 30 minutes of moderate activity each day can make a big difference in your health and weight - and your fitness time doesn't even have to be all in one chunk. You can grab 5, 10, or 15 minutes of brisk walking, stretching or other activity anytime you have a chance throughout the day.

Can exercise be bad for you?
Exercise isn't bad for you - doing it wisely is what counts. Be careful not to overdo it. When you first start to exercise, have a rest day between each session. As you progress, be sure to take it easier the day after a particularly intense session.

A good rule of thumb for determining a safe workout intensity is the "talk test" - you should be slightly breathless but still able to carry on a conversation during exercise. For fat loss, vary your intensity as you exercise - push harder for a minute or two, then pull back to an easier level for another minute or two before pushing harder again.

Don't exercise if you are feeling unwell. If you are injured, give your body time to recover fully, or you could turn a minor injury into a chronic injury. If you are new to exercise, or you have a medical condition, seek medical advice first.

Sources

  1. American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (6th Edition), 2000 Encyclopedia.
  2. Endorphins. 2001; www.encyclopedia.com
  3. Biddle SJH. Emotion, mood and physical activity. In: Physical activity and psychological well-being. Biddle SJH, Fox KR, and Boutcher SH, Editors. 2000, Routledge: London
  4. Gauvin L and Spence JC. Measurement of exercise-induced changes in feeling states, affect, mood, and emotions. In: Advances in sports and exercise psychology measurement.
  5. Duda JL editor. Fitness Information Technology Inc. Morgantown WV. 1998 Taylor AH. Physical activity, anxiety, and stress. In: Physical activity and psychological well-being. Biddle SJH, Fox KR, and Boutcher SH, Editors. 2000, Routledge: London.
  6. Engels HJ, Currie JS, Lueck CC, Wirth JC., Bench/step training with and without extremity loading. Effects on muscular fitness, body composition profile, and psychological affect. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 2002 Mar;42(1):71-8.
 
 
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Getting started with physical activity


Why should you bother with exercise and how can you get started?
  • Exercise gives you a huge return on your investment. 
  • Only a small amount of exercise each day is needed to get major mind/body benefits. 
  • Activity doesn't necessarily need to be structured or done in a gym.
  • Start slowly - don't try too much at once.

The good news is only a small amount of exercise is needed to get benefits from activity. Thirty minutes a day is enough to produce results. Physical activity is essential for the health and best performance of your heart and many other body organs. It is also great for promoting psychological well-being2. What's more, you don't have to do it all in one 30-minute block.You can break it up into 5, 10 or 15 minute "chunks", whatever fits best with your lifestyle and schedule.
Moderate activity, such as brisk walking or any activity that makes you slightly breathless, can lead to health benefits. This can include climbing the stairs, washing the car, cleaning the house, or playing with the kids.



Tips for getting started
  • Set simple goals. One of the easiest ways is to commit to a certain number of minutes of physical activity each day. Your plan of action will depend upon how active you are now. If you've been totally sedentary, you might begin with a 10-minute walk or bike ride before dinner. If that feels okay, gradually add 10 minutes of strength training with small dumbbells while you watch your favorite TV show. Then begin to use lunch or break time for another 10 or 15 minutes of brisk walking. It's that easy!
  • Keep an activity log. In order to track (and give yourself credit for!) your progress, keep a record of your physical activity on a convenient calendar or in a training diary. Jot down what you did and the number of minutes you did it each day, and how you felt before and after. Add up your total at the end of each day and week, and congratulate yourself!
  • Find a partner. It's always easier to exercise with a buddy, so find a friend or colleague who also wants to get fit. If you?ve agreed to go for a brisk walk together, it will be that much harder to skip it.
  • Join a walking group, exercise class or swimming club. Find an activity that you enjoy (or used to enjoy!) and join a group that meets regularly.
  • Take up a new activity. Consider trying out one that has always appealed to you. This could be anything from Salsa dancing to swimming to yoga.

    • Don't do too much too soon. Start your fitness plan gently and gradually build up to longer or more vigorous exercise sessions. If you ask your body to do more than it's ready for, you may get discouraged, or even injured.
    • Don't rush into vigorous exercise without warming up. Spend about five minutes warming up by slowly walking or jogging. Follow this with some active stretches such as arm and shoulder circles, side bends, hip rotations, and knee bends. Also remember to stretch and cool down when you have finished.
    • Don't cut corners when buying equipment - splurge on the "right stuff." You deserve it! Be sure you have the correct clothing, footwear and equipment for the activity you choose. If you are unsure what type of shoes you need read "Best bets for choosing shoes", in the background fitness section.

    Regular activity is beneficial to your health. However, anyone with a health problem (e.g. heart disease, diabetes or obesity) should consult a doctor before starting a new fitness program. Men over the age of 40, or women over 50, who are planning to undertake strenuous or vigorous physical activity should also seek advice.

    Sources

    1. HEA and Sports Council. Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey, 1992
    2. American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (6th Edition), 2000
     
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    Increase your energy expenditure


    To lose weight, your energy intake must be lower than your energy output. All diets and weight loss plans work on this principle, but how can you make sure you have your energy balance right?
    To reduce your energy intake you can reduce the amount you eat, and to increase your energy output you can increase the amount of energy you use each day through physical activity and exercise. Combining both factors is the most effective way to lose weight. To gain weight you should maintain your activity level, but increase the amount of food you eat.

    If you want to cut back on what you eat, look at when and where the majority of the calories in your diet are coming from. Are they coming from well-balanced meals, or do you snack on junk food? Are there certain points of the day you find yourself reaching for chips and chocolates? Identifying your danger areas can help you reduce excess calories without reducing essential components of your diet.

    Try to cut back on the amount of fat in your diet and eat smaller portions. Fill up on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and always include some carbohydrates (ideally wholegrain), such as potatoes, rice, pasta, breads and cereals, with all meals as it adds bulk and makes you feel full.
    Avoid fatty and sugary snacks such as chips, chocolate, cookies, cakes and pastries as they are very high in calories and fat. Snack on fruit, low-fat yogurts, rice cakes/crackers, cereal bars (check their fat and sugar content - there are big differences between brands) and smoothies instead.

    Don't skip meals as this will reduce your metabolic rate (energy used by your body to function) and can make you eat too much when you finally do eat. Skipping meals can also lower your energy levels. Always make time to enjoy a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is important so you recognize you have eaten a meal - if you don't, you can sometimes think that you haven't had much to eat, when you have actually been munching all day.

    Reducing your food intake is only one part of the equation. It will cause you to lose weight, but to improve your overall body composition (reducing fat and increasing muscle mass) you must also increase your activity levels.

    High levels of body fat are linked with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other related problems. Reducing your body fat should be a major aim in any weight loss plan, but you should also aim to increase muscle tissue. Muscle increases your metabolism which means you are burning up more calories per day. So although muscle weighs more than fat you want to increase the amount of muscle rather than decrease it. Loss of muscle can occur if you do not incorporate exercise into your weight loss plan.

    Health professionals recommend that you accumulate a minimum of 30 minutes of activity per day on most days of the week. This can be accumulated throughout the day and can include any of the following: 
    • Walk to and/or from work - or at least some of the way if you can.If you take public transport such as the bus, consider getting off a stop before your normal one and walk that extra distance. 
    • Take the stairs, and walk up escalators instead of standing there or using the elevator.
    • Go for a walk at lunchtime - a brisk 10 minutes around the block.
    • Walk around the office more, taking breaks away from your desk.
    • Take the dog for a walk before and/or after work - borrow one if you don't have your own! 
    • Do some household chores.
    • Walk to the store instead of driving.
    • Perform at-desk stretches regularly.
    Any activity is better than none at all, so try and make even little alterations to your day to make sure you are getting enough to benefit your health.
     
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    Fitness in 30 minutes


    Even if you don't have time to go to the gym, or the inclination to go for a run, you can still fit exercise into your day. You only need 30 minutes, and you can even break that up into two or three shorter sessions of 15 or 10 minutes each.

    Why exercise at all?
    Physical activity is great for both your physical and mental health. It is essential for a healthy heart and it can improve the performance of many of the body's other organs. It can help build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, and help preserve mobility and strength in your body1. Physical activity also releases endorphins into the brain and it is these that give you a positive "high" feeling at the end of a workout2.

    Best bets 
    • Walk to and/or from work - or at least some of the way if you can. Brisk walking elevates your breathing and heart rate.
    • Take the dog for a walk - borrow one if you have to!
    • Go dancing. Hitting the dance floor is a great way to get your heart going!
    • Take the stairs, and walk up escalators - it's great for your calves, thighs and butt.
    • Practice some strength training to firm and slim your body.

    Before and after work
    To improve your heart and lung function, do some aerobic activity where you increase your heart rate for at least 20 minutes.

    Walking
    How about a brisk walk to or from work? Or to the grocery store for those two items you need. Walk the dog, or borrow a neighbor's if you don't have one.

    Dancing
    is a great form of aerobic exercise. You can get your daily fitness requirement simply by hitting the dance floor. Slip on your dancing shoes and get down and boogie!

    Swimming
    is another excellent aerobic exercise - why not check out your local pool times? If you have kids, take them as well (and another adult, so one of you can watch the kids while the other swims laps). It will keep them entertained, and help you get fit.

    Exercise during your break

    Need to fit exercise into your breaks? You can meet your target with just three 10-minute activity breaks throughout the day. Instead of taking the elevator to the mail room, try the stairs. Take the long route to the water fountain - whatever it takes to stay active.

    Spend 10 minutes (or longer if possible) doing some weight training exercises to build up your strength. It will help you firm and tone up. Keep some small handweights, or even cans of food in a convenient drawer. Click here to read about strength training.

    Arms
    For your biceps, hold a dumbbell or 1lb can of food in each hand. Stand up straight with your arms by your sides, the palms of your hands facing forward, and your elbows tucked into your sides. Slowly raise your hands to your shoulders, keeping your elbows still tucked into your sides. When you reach your shoulders, slowly lower your hands back down to your sides. Repeat ten times. As you get stronger, build up the number of times you do it. Remember to control your movements and go slowly.

    To tone the backs of your arms (triceps), find a low table or something you can lean on that will support your weight. Sit on the table edge (facing away from it) with your hands holding the edge. Bend your knees in front of you, so your legs are at right angles to the floor. Lift your buttocks off the table and slowly lower yourself toward the floor, bending your elbows to 90 degrees so you are a couple of inches off the floor. Push yourself back up to a sitting position, but don't rest your buttocks back on the table - continue the movement for ten repetitions, rest and repeat three times. Rest if you need to, and start again. As you get stronger, try to build up the number of repetitions and sets. To make it more difficult, extend your legs out in front of you so they are straight.

    Abs
    Not all stomach exercises require lying on the floor in order to strengthen your muscles effectively. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Suck in the lower part of your stomach - imagine you are drawing in your navel to the center of your spine (you are trying to make your waist as tiny as possible while keeping your muscles tight). Hold your muscles tight for 30 seconds and remember to breathe. Relax, and then repeat again. You can put your hand just inside your hip bones to make sure that you are holding your stomach tight. Strengthening these muscles will make it easier to hold your stomach in and will make you look slimmer.

    Strong stomach muscles are also beneficial for your back as they reduce the chances of injury. Read Back exercises to help avoid injury.

    Legs
    Your calves and buttocks can both be improved by taking the stairs. Try taking a few extra flights during your break time.

    Quick stretches before you exercise
    If you're doing strength training exercises it's important to stretch your muscles before you start and when you have finished. Read Stretching to see what you should do.

    These exercises can be done at work or at home and are easy to fit into your day without feeling you are taking time for a "workout".

    Sources

    1. American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (6th Edition), 2000 Encyclopedia
    2. Endorphins. 2001. www.encyclopedia.com
     
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    Week 6

    Snacking


    If you find yourself getting hungry before the next meal, it may be a good idea to have a snack to prevent you from overeating later. A little careful planning may be needed to find the right snack. Here are some interesting facts:

    Banana -
    An average banana has 62 calories (mainly from sugars) and only 0.2 g of fat. It is a perfect low-fat, quick energy fix, and is high in fiber. A frozen banana smoothie makes a great snack.

    Bagels (wholegrain)
    - A good energy source; contains complex carbohydrates (these release sugar slowly into the bloodstream to preventing energy dips), and has a low fat content. Cover them with a fruit preserves and you are adding only 16 calories per teaspoon.

    Bowl of cereal and milk
    - Lay off sugar sweetened cereals and choose a bowl of bran flakes (64 calories & 0.4 g fat), cornflakes (71 calories & 0.1g fat) or whole wheat cereals (140 calories & 0.8 g fat). These are high in fiber, vitamins, folic acid and iron, and low in sugar. Add some low-fat milk (240 calories & 2 g fat per bowl) for a high-calcium, high-protein snack.

    Fruit (fresh) -
    High in fiber and low in calories and fat, fruits are high in vitamins, notably vitamin C (citrus, kiwi fruits) and vitamin A (apricots, mangos). They also help maintain the body's fluid balance - an orange is over 60% water.


    Fruit (dried) -
    Although dried fruits (prunes, apricots, raisins) tend to be higher in calories, and have less vitamin C than their fresh counterparts, many are much higher in fiber, calcium and iron.

    Jell-0 -
    A dish of Jell-O contains only 76 cal (nearly all due to the sugar it contains) and no fat. Although it has very few nutritional attributes, Jell-O can help you feel full (good if you're on a weight-loss diet) and it is over 84% water.

    Peanuts -
    An average bag of peanuts (2oz) has a whopping 300 calories and 25g fat. However, only 14% of this is saturated (bad) fat. The rest of the fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which help lower cholesterol levels. Peanuts are also rich in protein. But beware, salted peanuts are very high in salt so go for dry roasted instead.

    Reduced-fat fruit yogurt -
    High in calcium such like many of its whole-fat counterparts, an average 6oz cup of plain low-fat yogurt has around 90 calories and 1g fat2.

    Easing your conscience

    Fun-size chocolate bar - Average fat/calories: 12g/150 calories2. Not good, but if you have to have one as an occasional treat, take comfort in the fact that it contains 1.4 g of protein - almost double that in a banana.

    Package of reduced fat chips
    - High fat/calories: 5.9g/136 calories. However, you would only have to eat two large sticks of celery to get the same amount of fiber with a lot less calories.
    As you can see, snacks don't have to be laden with fat and salt to be enjoyable. There's nothing wrong with indulging in a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, but make it only an occasional treat rather than a regular habit.

    Sources

    1. Bender AE and Bender DA. Food tables and labeling. Oxford University Press, 2000
    2. Pennington, JAT. Bowes & Church?s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 17th Ed. 1998
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    Snacking and boredom eating


    You know the story; you're sitting in front of the TV and crave a little something to eat, so you have a cookie, then another, and another; suddenly before you know it, the whole package is gone.

    How can you beat the boredom munchies?

    Identify your danger times
    Make an effort to think about everything you eat during the day. How often are you eating when you are not really hungry? Is there a time when you are most likely to snack - when is this? Mid-morning? Mid-afternoon? Early evening? After your evening meal? When you are watching TV? When you are sitting at your desk?

    Every time you catch yourself heading for the vending machine or the cookie jar take two minutes to think about how hungry you really are. Give yourself a score between 0 and 10, where 0 is starving and 10 is completely stuffed (5 is neutral - neither hungry or full). Make a deal with yourself that you won't have a "little something" unless you can honestly score yourself at 3 or below, i.e., you have a strong urge to eat.

    If you're bored, you are probably looking for something to do, rather than really needing something to eat. Try having a glass of water instead - it still involves getting up to do something, but has none of the calories and it may improve your concentration. What's more, according to the National Kidney Research Fund, 75% of hunger pangs are in fact thirst1.

    If you need more flavor, add a squeeze of fresh lemon or fruit juice. Need something warm? Try a hot drink - go easy on full-fat milky drinks, but an ordinary tea or coffee has only a few calories, and a fruit or herbal tea, none at all.

    If you are bored of the task you are working on, move on to something else. If you are at home go for a walk, do your paper work, read a book, play with the kids, watch a movie... make a deliberate choice to do something else other than eat.

    There is nothing wrong with having a snack when you are hungry or to keep your brain supplied with energy, but make a point to only eat when you are hungry.

    If you are looking for something to snack on while watching a movie, swap the chips and candy, for popcorn. Make sure you make it yourself, rather than going for the store bought kind as it will be a lot lower in fat and sugar or salt. Use a small amount of olive oil to pop the corn in, so that the fat you are eating is mono-unsaturated - or "good" - fat.

    If you are in need of something sweet, dried fruit is a great choice as it is very low in fat (however, it is still high in sugar). Try dates, apple, mango, cranberries, raisins, figs or apricots. Instead of tortilla chips, have rice cakes or pretzels, and exchange creamy dips for salsa or bean-based dips.
    Get into the habit of snacking on fruit. Keep some close at hand when you are at work and at home. Opt for raisin bread or a low fat muffin, rather than donuts, regular muffins and croissants.
    When you're grocery shopping, make an effort to avoid your usual 'snack' food. Try to make healthier choices instead, or even do without. If it isn't in the house, you can't eat it. Take healthy snacks to work with you so you don't need to make a trip to the store or vending machine for your fix.
    For more tips on what makes a healthy snack, check out 'Snacking'.

    Sources

    1. National Drink Water Day Fact Sheet. National Kidney Research Fund. www.kidneyresearchuk.org

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    Week 7

    Don't feel guilty about diet slip-ups


    A small slip in your diet plan doesn't mean disaster.
    You're on a diet; you've lost a few pounds and your clothes feel looser; you're fitter and healthier than before. Suddenly a bag of chocolate chip cookies calls to you. You are drawn closer and closer to them and vow to "just have one, as a treat". But soon this turns into two, three, four. You hate yourself for giving in, but decide to polish off the whole bag anyway, because the damage is done. The next day you might feel disappointed, even disgusted with yourself.
    This is a common experience when dieting. Diet lapses and relapses are bound to occur and are nothing to be ashamed about. However, when we slip up, many of us have feelings of guilt that can be very stressful and destructive.

    Stress symptoms when dieting

    One study found that women who attempt to restrict their food intake have higher levels of stress than those who do not. The women in the study produced a high amount of the hormone cortisol, which is released when you are stressed. Too much cortisol can cause serious health problems (for example, bone loss, decreased fertility or heart disease). This study suggested that to enjoy healthy eating - rather than monitoring or restricting food intake (dieting) - is the best way to achieve a healthy weight1.
    However, diet stress can build up so much for some people that they become obsessed with losing weight. They can feel hopeless in general and believe that they will only be happy and successful if they are thin. It might be that they feel too fat even though people say otherwise, and feel ashamed of themselves after eating. Daily weighing yourself and skipping meals are other symptoms of diet overload, which may develop into an eating disorder. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to tell someone (a friend, family member, counselor, doctor) how you are feeling2.

    Manage your weight without restrictive dieting

    A study at Baylor University, College of Medicine, showed that obese people who used only restrictive dieting to lose weight regained the weight later on, whereas people who only exercised had smaller weight losses but kept the weight off3. However, combining a healthy diet (15% of calories from protein, not more than 30% from fat, and the rest from carbohydrates) with around 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three or four times a week is the best way to lose weight and keep the weight off permanently4.
    This study also indicated that the occasional slipup isn't that important; for example, eating badly two or three times a week out of 21 meals, means blundering only 10% of the time - the other 90% you are sticking to your healthy weight loss program, which means you can achieve your target weight just as quickly as someone who has adhered to their diet rigidly5.

    Sources

    1. McLean JA, Barr SI & Prior JC. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001: 73(1); 7-12
    2. What is an eating disorder? The Eating Disorder Foundation.
    3. Skender ML, Goodrick GK et al. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1996:96, 342-6. 1.
    4. Cheskin LJ and Kahan S. Low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets led to greater weight loss than a low-fat diet in moderately obese adults. Evidence Based Medicine (2008)13:176.
    5. McManus1 K, Antinoro1 L and Sacks F. A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. International Journal of Obesity 2001; 25:1503-1511.

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    Food and mood


    Feeling down-in-the dumps? Have no energy? Could your diet be responsible?
    In an effort to understand the relationship between food, mood and behavior, a team of scientists carried out a study at the most unlikely of places, an adult prison in Britain. Eighty-two young offenders were given nutritional supplements containing vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Their behavior was compared to 90 inmates who were given an inactive placebo. The results were startling. The number of disciplinary incidents involving individuals taking the supplements dropped by over 25 per cent. And the reduction for serious incidents was even greater - a decrease of 37 per cent. (British Journal of Psychiatry, 20031)

    The researchers had found that antisocial behavior could be reduced by adding vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to the diet.

    The link between food and mood is strong and there is considerable evidence that shows how deficiencies or excesses of certain dietary components can cause both physical and mental symptoms.
    Neurotransmitters help the brain communicate. They work by sending varying chemical signals to nerves in the brain: different neurotransmitters send different signals. The varying signals affect the way we feel and the many moods we experience. Important mood neurotransmitters:
    Serotonin
    - The "happy" neurotransmitter. Too little serotonin can lead to depression.
    Dopamine - The "feel good" neurotransmitter that provides feelings of enjoyment. It is also involved in memory, attention and problem solving, and addiction. Norepinephrine - The "alertness" neurotransmitter. Like dopamine, it can help focus attention.
    Epinephrine - The "get-up-and-go" neurotransmitter. It helps you respond to pressure and get motivated.
    The above neurotransmitters are made from essential amino acids - the small building blocks that make up proteins. These amino acids can only be obtained through food. Other vitamins and minerals are needed to convert the amino acids into neurotransmitters and these include B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and iron.
    Choosing the right foods and avoiding others can help improve your mood: 1) Eat nutrient-dense foods.
    Foods such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholewheat cereals, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meat and fish, and beans can help boost your intake of vital nutrients.
    2) Boost your B vitamins.
    They are vital to the functioning of the body, and low levels of vitamin B6 may be linked to depression. B vitamins can be found in fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrains, lean meat and poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, soy beans, bananas and leafy green vegetables. 3) Beat fatigue.
    Tiredness can result from iron deficiency, especially if you have had recent blood loss or a diet low in iron. Iron-rich foods include red meat, liver, red kidney beans, chickpeas, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
    4) Increase serotonin production.
    Mood-boosting serotonin requires the amino acid tryptophan which is found in many protein foods including chicken, turkey, milk, cheese and soy beans.

    5) Cut the caffeine.
    Sure caffeine has its moments, but unfortunately there are drawbacks. Caffeine is a stimulant and as the effects wear off you start to feel withdrawal symptoms and need another dose to pick you up. Too much caffeine can make you feel anxious, nervous, jittery and depressed. It can also cause insomnia. Look at how much caffeine you are consuming and don't just think about your coffee intake. Think about tea, chocolate, cola and coffee consumption. If you are having six or more cups a day you should think about cutting down. You may want to cut down gradually as you can develop withdrawal effects such as headaches if you go cold turkey.

    6) Avoid refined and excess sugar.
    Sugary foods provide instant energy and a bit of a high. However, they are often followed by a low and a slump in energy. Keeping your blood sugar levels steady will help improve concentration, alertness and memory.   7) Eat little and often.
    Regular eating will help maintain blood sugar levels. Make time for breakfast and eat at regular intervals. Don't be afraid to snack between meals if you are hungry. Try foods such as nuts and seeds, rice cakes and hummus, bread sticks, fruit, vegetable sticks and pretzels.
    8) Include plenty of essential fatty acids.
    Omega-3 and 6 fats are essential for good brain health - a number of studies have found deficiencies in these fats among violent offenders1. Most people eat sufficient omega-6 fats, but not enough omega-3. To get enough you should be eating two portions of oily fish - trout, salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines - a week. Alternative sources include pumpkin seeds, walnut oil, Columbus eggs and flax seeds. For more information, read 'Essential fatty acids - what are they, why do you need them?'. 9) Stay hydrated.
    Dehydration can cause fuzzy thinking and a lack of concentration. Make sure you are drinking enough. Aim to drink around 8 cups of water a day.
    10) Keep zinc levels topped up.
    Zinc appears to be critical for good mental and emotional health. It is important for metabolizing essential fatty acids and is also needed for serotonin production. Low levels of zinc are associated with a wide range of symptoms including depression and anxiety2, 3. Good sources of zinc include brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, whole grains, lamb, oysters and herring.

    Eating a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to get all the nutrients your brain and body need. However, if you are not able to obtain all the components you need, supplementing your diet with a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement and a fish oil capsule may help.

    Sources

    1. Food groups to encourage. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
    2. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health.
    3. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health.
    4. Eat well to stay motivated. American Council on Exercise.
    5. Kirk T. Role of Dietary Carbohydrate and Frequent Eating in Body Weight Control. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2000;59: 349?358.
    6. Gesch CB, Hammond SM, Hampson SE, Eves A and Crowder MJ. Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2003; 181: 22-28.
    7. Are you getting enough? American Dietetic Association. Visited October 9 2008. 1. Geary A. The Food and Mood Handbook. 2001. Pub, Thorsons.
    8. Nowak G, Siwek M, Dudek D, Zieba A and Pilc A. Effect of zinc supplementation of antidepressant therapy in unipolar depression: a preliminary placebo-controlled study. Polish Journal of Pharmacology. 2003; 55: 1143-7.
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    Week 8

    Restaurant meals


    Eating out doesn't always have to mean feasting on high fat meals. You can eat healthy meals at restaurants.
    Eating out can be a great way of spending time with the family, your friends, or having some time for yourself. However, eating healthy meals may seem impossible with menus offering arrays of foods laden with fat and calories.

    An occasional meal with creamy sauces and a rich dessert needn't be a problem, but a regular diet of such foods can be. A little thought and planning can make restaurant meals tasty and healthy too.

    Choose your restaurant carefully and plan to eat where there are a variety of menu alternatives. Some menus make healthy choices difficult, although increasingly more chefs are paying attention to healthy options. Get to know the menu language - how is each dish cooked? If necessary, ask for dishes to be prepared and cooked differently to suit your needs. Choose lean meats, fish and poultry and ask for them to be grilled, roasted or baked - not sauteed or fried.1

    Order a range of steamed, roasted or boiled vegetables; add some rice or potatoes; and ask for sauces to be served on the side. Order what you want and don't worry about those with whom you are eating. Skip a course if you want to; no one else will notice.
    If you don't feel too hungry, choose an appetizer as a main course and ask for extra bread and a salad.

    A glass of wine is often a tasty accompaniment to any lunch or dinner, but try to avoid drinking alcohol at lunchtime or you may find it difficult to stay awake later in the day (not to mention the extra calories). If you drink occasionally, try to enjoy a glass over a dinner meal. Health experts even suggest that a glass or two of red wine can be healthy for your heart.2

    Desserts need not always be bad. Everyone should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day1 and fruit-based desserts such as fruit salad, cobbler or a baked apple are good choices. Alternatively, a fruit or vegetable-based starter or appetizer can help you reach your target. You could try vegetable or minestrone soup, fruit or vegetable juice, raw vegetable antipasto and a salsa or yogurt dip or a wedge of melon.

    Avoid eating your largest meal at the end of the day. Select a variety of foods rather than sticking to the same choices. One high-fat meal is not bad, but many high-fat meals are very bad.

    Sources

    1. Tips for eating out. American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org
    2. Alcohol & your health: Weighing your options. Mayo Clinic Food & Nutrition Center. www.mayoclinic.com
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    Healthy eating for a hectic lifestyle


    Eating out or cooking at home? Follow our practical tips.
    A hectic lifestyle can often mean you are better friends with the pizza delivery guy than the one at the local fruit and vegetable market - or that you eat out more often than you make a home-made meal. If this sounds like you, read on. Here are a few best bets to help make sure you get your vitamins and don't suffer from fat overload.

    Whatever your preference, most carry-out food is high in fat and salt1. It is also frequently low in fiber, folic acid, calcium and vitamins. To combat this, vary your choice of carry-out or fast food to improve the range of nutrients in your diet.

    Choose the leanest things on the menu to trim fat from your meal. Have plain rice or noodles instead of the fried versions. Get rid of pepperoni or extra cheese on your pizza, and have extra vegetables instead. Avoid anything that is deep fried or crispy, and steer clear of oily dressings and mayonnaise2.

    Try to have some salad with your meal - and not the mayonnaise-coated types. All supermarkets sell a variety of pre-washed greens, so you only have to open the package.

    If you are eating out, here are a few suggestions:
    Chinese/ Thai
    Select Avoid
    vegetable/noodle soups spring rolls
    stir-fry/steamed dishes with lean meat/fish satay
    seafood dishes battered meals/tempura
    rice paper rolls fried rice/noodles
    steamed/boiled rice/noodles coconut milk dishes
    chicken or lean beef salad prawn crackers
    chilli sauces
       
    Indian
    Select Avoid
    vegetable/seafood curries coconut milk
    lentils, dahl ghee
    plain rice samosas
    Deep-fried meals
       
    Mexican
    Select Avoid
    chilli con carne cheese/sour cream toppings
    taco nachos
    tortilla fried tortilla
    enchilada with beans
    bean-based dishes
    burrito
       
    Italian
    Select Avoid
    minestrone soup Italian sausage
    antipasto - no fatty meats garlic bread
    pasta with tomato/lean meat sauces pasta with oil or cream sauce
    green salad lasagna
    tiramisu

    Other words to look out for are grilled, baked, poached and broiled. These should all be low in fat. If your dish comes with fries, see if you can substitute this with a baked potato or extra vegetables2. Make sure you have some vegetables or greens with your meal to increase your vitamin intake. Hold back on the alcohol if you are trying to lose weight because it contains empty calories that have no nutritional value. If you want dessert, choose fruit, yogurt, sorbet, or perhaps share one dessert with someone else.

    It takes only a bit of planning to cook well at home, if you want food in a hurry. Lack of time and stress from work can prevent you from preparing meals, but there are lots of quick, easy dishes to do - including many that use the microwave. Frozen vegetables, for example, require little preparation; put a bowl in the microwave and heat for 5 minutes - instant vitamins! Or try a baked potato: wash, stick with a fork and microwave for about 8 minutes. Serve it with a low calorie spread or dressing, and include a salad or some baked beans.

    If you find yourself wanting fast food and you are cooking for yourself, try to steer clear of pre-packaged convenience foods. They are typically high in salt and do not contain nearly as many nutrients as meals cooked from scratch. Instead of salt, season with herbs and spices. Garlic and chili will add lots of flavor to a dish. Use substitutes for butter and margarine, or leave them out altogether. Try to grill, bake or broil your food -stay away from frying. Finally, read the labels on foods when you are out shopping: choose well, and the cooking will be easier.

    Sources

    1. Tips for eating out. American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org
    2. Obesity Resource Institute. www.aso.org.uk
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    Week 8


    A new you?


    After the excesses of the holiday season, the new year is the ideal time to make new resolutions and promises to yourself. Unfortunately, these are often abandoned by February. So how can you turn good intentions into real achievements?
    • Be realistic - small steps are easier than giant leaps
    • Be positive - think about how you will feel when you have realized your goal
    • Make it matter - chose a resolution you really want to achieve
    • Be specific - a clear goal, such as "I'll lose 10lbs by 14 March" instead of "I'll lose weight", is much more effective
    • Be creative - don't stick to the usual resolutions; think broadly about what would make you happier and more content?
    • Don't give up - one slip-up doesn't constitute failure
    • Start with a clean slate - don't let previous failed attempts put you off
    • Go public - tell other people what your goal is
    Getting fit and losing weight are probably two of the most common - and most quickly abandoned - New Year's resolutions. When the initial fitness frenzy wears off and you can't be bothered to hit the gym, abandoning your resolutions happens all too quickly.

    If this sounds familiar, don't despair. There are steps you can take to help you cope with the ups and down of new resolutions. And, there are also lots of easy activities you can do to improve your well-being.

    Think about what your ultimate goal is and how much time you can dedicate to your new resolution. If you want to get fit and plan to do so by going to the gym three times a week, be sure the location is convenient and that the opening hours suit you. Otherwise you are not going to stick to this for long. It simply won't work with your lifestyle.

    You need to make a resolution that you will be happy fitting into your life on a regular basis. Joining a sports team or participating in a weekly class is a great way of making a place on your calendar for exercise. If you know that on Monday evenings you play softball, then you will keep it free for softball. Since you know others are relying on you, it becomes much more difficult to back out.

    New resolutions should be something you really want to do. There is no point in trying to lose 10lbs unless you are clear as to why you want to do it and you are really committed to doing so.

    Think about the year as a whole - not just January and February. What do you want to achieve this year? Running a half marathon or learning how to cook authentic Thai food? Or maybe taking control of your finances or visiting somewhere you have always wanted to go? Any resolution that fulfils your ambitions or makes you happier and more content is an admirable goal.

    Don't panic if your resolution doesn't go exactly to plan. Slip ups are to be expected, but don't let them give you an excuse to quit -- one chocolate fudge brownie doesn't mean your weight loss plan is over. Start fresh tomorrow and try to stick to your plan again. Going public and sharing your goals with your friends and family can also help you stay motivated and on course.

    Not all resolutions have to involve huge changes. There are lots of simple steps that can improve your well-being. For example:
    1. Cut back your alcohol intake
    2. Do some exercise -- start by walking more
    3. Cook more often so you can control your calorie and salt intake
    4. Learn to read food labels so you can avoid foods high in calories, fat and salt
    5. Have an early night -- try and get to bed early at least one night each week
    6. Stretch your mind -- learn something new, such as a new language or skill
    7. Learn relaxation techniques and find which work for you
    8. Think about what makes you happy and make time for it
    The new year is a great opportunity for new resolutions; is it time to for a new you?