Getting back on track with a healthy diet

Have you or your kids put on a few extra pounds of late? Are you continually trying new diets but nothing seems to work? If you find yourself avoiding mirrors, it’s time to drop the idea of dieting and adopt a healthy attitude toward eating, instead. For real and lasting change, make eating well a part of your lifestyle. It’s less painful than you think.

Don’t make food off limits

A sure route to having a healthy eating plan backfire is to ban certain foods altogether. Of course, you don’t have to stock your shelves with chips, sodas and frozen pizzas, but stating that certain foods are off limits isn’t wise. We tend to want what we can’t have, especially when we are hungry.

“It’s important to not make certain foods are off limits, rather follow the easy rule of everything in moderation,” said Dr. Kelly Follett, pediatrician at The Memorial Hospital.

Also, avoid classifying foods as good or bad or healthy and unhealthy. Instead, consider what certain foods do for you. Learn how lean meats are proteins that give you sustained energy over time, how vegetables are virtual powerhouses of nutrients and how candy and doughnuts are sugars that taste good but really make your body work hard for nothing in return.

Finally, avoid using food as a reward and forcing kids to clean their plates. The first ties foods to emotions, a bad set-up. The second teaches kids to ignore their body signals that tell them they’re full.

“Offering treats as a reward sends a confusing message to children,” Follett said.

If your usual approach to losing weight is skipping meals, remember that doing so often results in more weight, not less. Skipped meals lead to low energy, and by the end of the day you are naturally very hungry and tend to overeat or binge.

A few simple guidelines

“A great way to talk about healthy eating with kids is called ‘traffic-light-style eating,’” Follett said.

Teach your kids about healthy eating using traffic light colors. Green foods are foods you should eat every day, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and beans. Yellow-light foods should only be eaten weekly, as in white breads, burgers and juice. Red-light foods are foods kids should eat monthly or less, namely doughnuts, sodas and chips. It’s a good plan for adults, too.

Another easy guideline to follow is offered on www.choose

MyPlate.gov. Simply match your dinner plate to the website’s plate and you are on your way to healthy eating. That is, divide your plate into four sections: label one fruits, another vegetables and the last two grains and proteins. Add a serving of dairy on the side.

“ChooseMyPlate.gov has some great tips for healthy eating from managing portion sizes to understanding food groups,” Follett said.

With www.choose

MyPlate.gov, half the plate is fruits and vegetables, making the meal rich in fiber. Fiber is an important element in our diets.

“I see a lot of kids who are struggling with constipation issues. Adding extra fruits and vegetables to meals, offering high-fiber snacks, buying high-fiber cereal and using brown rice instead of white rice are all some easy changes to get more fiber in your diet,” Follett said.

About health, not looks

Too often, we want to lose weight to look better. That’s fine, but often it is short lived and doesn’t instill real lifestyle changes. Changing our habits for the long term, not just to look good for a big event, is what gives lasting results. That’s why it’s best to think about eating well and exercising for health reasons first. Plus, we feel better. Research shows that inactivity and being overweight can cause physiological changes in the brain that increase the likelihood of depression.

There are many physical health risks tied to being overweight. Make it a point to positively change a few of your eating habits. You’ll look better and feel better, but most importantly, you’ll improve your family’s health.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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