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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eating for Optimal Health -- Nutrition Basics

Eat Breakfast

Certainly every meal is important, but the first meal after a long night's rest is crucial in many ways. It's the first shot of energy to rev you up and get your day started. It's a great opportunity to eat your first servings of calcium-rich dairy foods, fruits, and whole grains--common ingredients in morning meals. A good breakfast also helps you steer clear of high fat/sugar vending machine fillers.

Don't Skip Meals

Missing meals on a regular basis is a bad idea no matter what your reason. No time? Make time. Trying to lose weight? This won't work. Skipping meals leads to overeating later in the day. In addition, the body becomes very efficient to prevent starvation. Translation: your metabolism slows down and stores more fat. Finally, without the continuous energy food supplies, you become run down and more susceptible to sickness. The solution: During the day try to eat every 3 to 4 hours. That means breakfast, perhaps a snack, lunch, a snack, and dinner.

Eat Protein With Your Carbs

No need to avoid carbs altogether, just don't over do it. Pairing protein-rich foods with your carbs makes this task easier. Carbohydrates provide much-needed energy to your body; however they are digested quickly leaving you feeling hungry soon after eating. Bagels and muffins for breakfast, candy bar snacks and large portions of pasta and rice at lunch and dinner become an unending cycle resulting in hunger pangs and the need for a pick-me-up. Proteins digest more slowly therefore you feel satisfied longer. The solution: Enjoy complex carbs in moderate amounts and along with low-fat protein. Instead of a bagel and cream cheese, try an English muffin with peanut butter. Instead of a candy bar, how about dried cranberries and almonds. Instead of a big bowl of pasta, dish out three-quarters a cup of pasta along with a grilled chicken breast.

Break Down Your Dish

Chances are your dinner (or lunch) plate looks a bit like this: a pile of meat, chicken, or fish and a pile of rice, potatoes, or pasta and on a good day maybe a smidgen of veggies or a salad on the side. Well its time to put your math skills to work. Divide your plate into three parts. One quarter is for the protein of the meal--meat, chicken, beans, etc.--three ounces or about the size of the palm of your hand. One quarter is for the starchy foods--rice, potato, corn, etc.--about a half cup. And the remaining half should be loaded up with fruits and veggies. With the exception of the starchy vegetables like corn, peas, and potatoes, veggies can be eaten as often as and as much as you want. They help fill you up but contribute few calories.


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