How can I lose weight?
Weight control is all about the calories you put into your body versus the calories you burn. Diet trends often focus on one food or one nutrient, promising it will be the magic bullet for losing weight and keeping weight off forever. When registered dietitians analyze a weight-loss plan, invariably it turns out that the key is reducing your intake of calories.
Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Get some physical activity every day to help your body burn those calories so you can maintain a healthier weight.
What is a serving?
We often use the words portion and serving interchangeably, but there is an important difference. A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. A serving is a standard amount used as a reference to give advice about how much to eat or to identify how many calories and nutrients are in a specific food (such as serving sizes used for Nutrition Facts on product labels).
Get to know how much you eat. Use measuring cups or a kitchen scale to measure or weigh your portions. You'll soon be able to estimate portion sizes.
Another easy-to-use tool to help you eat healthfully is the MyPlate guide, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. MyPlate uses a place setting to illustrate recommended portion sizes for the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy.
MyPlate guidelines also suggest:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
- Go lean with protein
- Compare sodium (salt) in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose foods with lower numbers
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks
- Find a balance between food and physical activity
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
- Avoid oversized portions
Organic foods versus conventional: What's the difference?
All foods come from living organisms - plants and animals. Foods referred to as "organic" are really "organically grown" or "organically produced," meaning they are grown with little or no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and have not been treated with antibiotics or hormones. Both organic and conventional farming supply nutritionally comparable foods. Factors such as climate and soil conditions, genetic differences, maturity at harvest and the way food is handled - not the type of fertilizer - affect the nutrient content of raw foods.
When shopping for organically grown foods, look at the label. Since October 2002, organic food manufacturers have used a designated seal for foods that are at least 95 percent organic. The seal indicates that manufactures followed the standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture. So which foods are better for you? You decide. The bottom line is that eating a variety of foods - whether organic or conventional - is important to health and should be a part of your overall eating plan.
What foods contain carbohydrates?
Foods containing carbohydrates include:
- Foods with added sugar
Healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low fat milk and light yogurt. Such foods contain fiber, important vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that help to keep your body healthy and fight off infections. It is important to have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats in your diet. Aim for at least 6 servings of grains (bread, cereal, rice or pasta) and 5 servings of vegetables and fruits every day.
Where can I get reliable nutrition information?
Find out more about nutrition in your everyday diet by visiting these websites:
What can I do if my child hates vegetables?
Often children who dislike cooked vegetables will eat them raw. Offer veggies with dip as part of the after-school snack. Serve vegetable juice with a celery stick. Put minced vegetables in sauces, hamburgers, soups, muffins and breads.
Set an example by eating a variety of vegetables yourself. If all else fails, be reassured that many of the nutrients in vegetables (vitamins A, C, folate and fiber) can be provided by colorful fruits, or dried beans, peas or lentils.
Family mealtimes should be encouraged as often as possible in order for children to learn healthy eating habits.
What's the difference between whole-wheat pastry flour and regular whole-wheat flour?
Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft variety of wheat, which has less gluten-forming potential than regular whole-wheat flour, and is therefore an excellent choice for tender baked goods. White whole-wheat flour is a special variety of hard wheat. Although it has a lighter color and sweeter flavor than regular whole-wheat flour, this flour contains all the benefits of whole-grain flour because it is milled from the entire wheat berry. Both types of flour are available in natural foods sections of supermarkets. Store all whole-wheat flours in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator or freezer.
How can I tempt even the pickiest of eaters in children?
Offer choice. Offering options can allow children to feel as though they are choosing to eat the food. Instead of setting the plate before them, ask in advance if they want carrots or broccoli or both, or watermelon or strawberries or both. Also, when shopping, encourage your child to find the "best" apples, head of lettuce or whichever produce item interests them.
Appeal to the senses. Offer foods that taste and smell good. Try steamed broccoli drizzled with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt. This tip works on fruit as well. For instance, dip strawberries in melted dark chocolate. This way they eat only a bit of dark chocolate, but a lot more fruit.
Remember that like adults, toddlers eat with their eyes first. You can use cookie cutters to make almost anything into an appealing shape.
Be a good role model. If you're not eating fruits and vegetables, your child probably won't either. Remember to model positive eating behaviors. Your child will be more likely to follow along and will eat right along with you.
Don't give up. If your child refuses a food, says she hates it or even spits it out, offer it again another night, and then again. Remember that food preferences change as we grow and develop, so continue to encourage them to try different foods.
Is bottled water a better choice than tap water?
A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that bottled water is not safer or healthier than most tap water. Both are equally regulated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water while bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agencies use similar standards to ensure the safety of consumable water.
Other factors may affect your choice of bottled or tap water, including environmental factors and expense. The taste of tap water may differ in various parts of the country.
Some people simply prefer the taste of bottled water, or they find themselves drinking more water if they can choose flavored bottled waters. Increasing the appeal of water can encourage greater consumption â€” a health benefit as long as the flavored waters are not hidden sources of added sugar. Also, lemon or other flavorings can be added to tap water to enhance its acceptability.
Overall, hydration is important to your health. Make sure you maintain a healthy daily intake of fluids.
Is sea salt better for me than table salt?
Sea salt is often promoted as a healthful alternative to regular table salt, but the sodium content is actually about the same. Sea salt has only very small amounts of some minerals.
If you are looking for a low-sodium option, consider salt-free seasonings and herb blends instead. To make sure a product is salt-free, check the ingredients and the sodium content in a serving. Some products are called "lite." This means it has about half the salt as normal table salt. A registered dietitian can help you determine how much sodium you should consume each day.
The difference between types of salt usually concerns the taste and texture.
Kosher salt has a coarse grain and gives a clean taste to foods.
Sea salt comes in either fine or coarse grain and has a slightly different taste, caused by other minerals it contains. Sea salt per volume has a stronger salty taste, therefore not as much is needed when cooking.
Seasoned salt is flavored with herbs and other ingredients. It has less salt content than other types of salt.
Rock salt is used as a decoration on food or to make ice cream. But it's not used in cooking because of its size.
Salts have one thing in common: all contain sodium. If you have hypertension or otherwise need to watch your salt intake, check food labels and monitor how much salt you consume - no matter what kind it is.
Canned vs. fresh: What's the difference?
Canned fruits and vegetables are good substitutes for fresh produce and sometimes may be healthier.
Fresh produce is nutritionally better when it is used within a few days of picking. Canned produce is picked and canned at its peak, so even though the heating process destroys some vitamins, the majority of the nutrients remain. And canned tomato, corn and carrot products provide higher amounts of some phytochemicals than their fresh counterparts as a result of the canning process.
Canned produce may be higher in sugars or sodium, so look for fruits canned in their own juice and vegetables without added salt.
Whether they are canned or fresh, make sure you eat 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables every day.
What does apple or pear shape mean?
Take a close look at yourself in the mirror. Are you shaped like an apple or a pear? In terms of health, being an apple shape can be riskier than being a pear shape.
If you carry most extra weight in your abdominal or upper body, that is considered an apple shape. This body shape has been known to increase the risk for some health problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels, early heart disease and high blood pressure.
Excess weight carried in the hips, buttocks and thighs is known as pear shape. This body shape doesn't appear to be as risky for most health problems. However, it may increase your risk for varicose veins and orthopedic problems.
No matter where you carry extra body weight, the best bet is to lose it. Consult a registered dietitian to develop a plan that works best for your body type.
How can I fight the cold and flu - and stay healthy?
Cold weather months often are associated with the cold and flu season. Staying healthy may be your best defense to help ward off illness.
Cold and flu bugs are viral illnesses, and the best way to combat them is to eat healthfully. Pack your daily eating plan with nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. These foods contain phytonutrients and may help enhance immunity. Eating five or more servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day is part of an important plan for healthier living. That's because deeply hued fruits and vegetables provide the wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals your body needs to maintain good health and energy levels, and help strengthen your immune system. They also protect against the effects of aging and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
It's all about colors - blue/purples, greens, whites, yellow/oranges and reds. Each of these different colors of fruit and vegetable pigments benefit our bodies in different ways.
- Blue/Purple: lower risk of some cancers, urinary tract health, memory function, healthy aging.
- Green: lower risk of some cancers, vision health, strong bones and teeth.
- White: heart health, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, lower risk of some cancers.
- Yellow/Orange: heart health, vision health, healthy immune system, lower risk of some cancers.
- Red: heart health, memory function, lower risk of some cancers, urinary tract health
Colorful fruits and vegetables do more than help protect us from those pesky cold and flu bugs. They help keep us healthy for life.
Do cranberries really have any health benefits?
Today, science not only suggests natural cranberry compounds called proanthocyanidins prevent disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, but the fruit may help prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. Other studies show cranberries may be beneficial in preventing gum disease and stomach ulcers.
Cranberries are a colorful and delicious addition to any meal. Plentiful and stored easily, they were an important food source to Native Americans who showed settlers how to mix cranberries into ground meat and fish cakes, cook them down into a sauce sweetened with maple syrup, or eat them raw. Native Americans also used the fruit to treat a variety of ailments, including diseases of the stomach, liver, gall bladder and kidneys.
Because of the fruit's natural tartness, many cranberry juices and sauces have added sweeteners, meaning added calories, so moderation is important. Unsweetened cranberry juice and cranberry capsules are also available.
Everyday cranberry inspirations include:
- Indulge in a special dessert pizza topped with Brie, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.
- Season whipped cream with juice from fresh cranberries and a little bit of sugar. Add a dollop to the top of chilled fruit soups or desserts, such as angel food or pound cake.
- Keep cranberry butter made with fresh berries on hand for spreading lightly on quick breads and muffins. For more oomph, grate in some fresh ginger.
- Try cranberry-mustard on grilled turkey or chicken panini sandwiches.
- Glaze grilled salmon with a fresh cranberry-balsamic reduction.
- Refresh after a heavy meal with fresh cranberry-ginger sorbet or ice cream.
Rediscover the joy of baking by adding dried cranberries to oatmeal cookies, yeast breads, nut breads and bread puddings.
Is peanut butter good for you?
Recurring rumors that commercial peanut butters contain trans fat have no basis in fact, according to the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Small amounts of hydrogenated vegetable oils are added to commercial peanut butters (1-2% of total weight) to keep the peanut oil from separating out, but ARS testing of 11 brands of peanut butter, including major brands and "natural" varieties, found no detectable trans fats in any of the samples. Peanut butter has oleic acid (19-27% by weight), a monosaturated fat believed to have beneficial cardiovascular effects.
Can tea help heart health?
Tea is often touted as a beverage that can promote health and help prevent a number of diseases. Green tea may help the following medical conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High cholesterol levels
- Cardiovascular disease
- Impaired immune function
Five servings of black tea per day with a heart healthy diet may appreciably reduce total and LDL cholesterol in those with mild hypercholesterolemia.
Black tea has been shown to change LDL cholesterol classification from borderline high to near optima/above optimal.
A possible mechanism for the cholesterol-lowering effect of the tea may be that tea limits cholesterol absorption in the intestine.
Is asparagus good for me?
Yes. According to the World's Healthiest Foods rating, asparagus is excellent for folate, vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin A. It also rates well for B vitamins, dietary fiber, protein potassium and folate, which is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Studies show that if we add 1½ cups of asparagus (400 mcg of folate) to our daily diets, we could reduce the number of heart attacks by 10 percent.
Why is Vitamin D called the sunshine vitamin?
Vitamin D and calcium go hand-in-hand. Vitamin D helps deposit calcium in bones and helps protect against bone disease by keeping bones strong. Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it after sunlight or ultraviolet light hits the skin. Twenty to 30 minutes of sun exposure two to three times per week is adequate. For those who are housebound, vitamin D can be obtained from foods. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D, as are cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on food packaging to see if vitamin D has been added.