|With all the diets that come in and out of fashion, we are exposed to seemingly ever-shifting dietary standards. Is a lean-protein diet better than a high-fiber diet? What about fats? How much sugar is OK?
Even after the USDA revamped the old reliable food pyramid in 2005, the Harvard School of Public Health said those new recommendations were mired in antiquated thinking and issued its own guidelines (see “How To: Eat Healthier”).
Dr. Jon Floriano, a family physician in Middlefield, suggests a solid dose of common sense. " style="background: #FF0000" />“The longer I practice medicine, the more I realize a healthy diet is about balance,” he says. “People live busy,
stressful lives and typically don’t take the time to listen to their bodies or to have a sensible variety of foods on hand.” Since there is no one-size-fits-all formula, and caloric needs change as you age, being attuned to your body’s needs is key to healthy eating, according to Floriano. Focus on what it feels like to be stuffed and uncomfortable, so you can avoid it. Be conscious of when your body feels like it needs more vegetables or fiber, and try to avoid knee-jerk binging on junk food.
“Our culture tends to direct us outward for answers to what can make us better,” Floriano says. “But the real answer is usually found within ourselves. Diet is a great place to start.”
How They Did It
When Chardon artist and farmer Beverle Krueger stopped smoking several years ago, she began reaching for high-calorie foods in place of cigarettes. The result of her eating habits left her obese and less able to teach her art classes and care for her animals.
“I knew I had to do something,” she says.
So last February, the retired nurse, started working with her doctor to change her diet, and the pounds began melting away. Over the summer, she also joined the Geauga Fitness Challenge offered by the Geauga YMCA and University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center. Now, Krueger attends meetings a few times a month to learn about healthy eating.
“It’s really interesting how much we eat without realizing it,” she says, “and just how much of that is unhealthy.”
Since beginning the program, Krueger has eliminated fast foods, soda, and prepackaged prepared foods high in salt and sugar. By October, she’d already lost 30 pounds.
“I’ve even given up chocolate cake,” Krueger says with a laugh, adding that once a month she lets herself splurge on a milk shake or piece of pie. “But I go right back to being good again!”
How To: Eat Healthier
Following the USDA’s revamping of the Food Guide Pyramid in 2005, the Harvard School of Public Health created this Healthy Eating Pyramid, which its says reflects the best available scientific evidence about the links between diet and health:
• Daily eExercise: This sits at the base of the pyramid, since it so strongly factors in staying healthy.
• Whole gGrain fFoods (at most meals): The body needs energy, and whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat bread) are the best option.
• Plant oOils: Nearly a third of our daily calories are from fats, and plant oils such as olive, canola and peanut oils are good sources of unsaturated fats.
• Vegetables (in abundance)/fFruit (2 to 3 times per day): A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can combat everything from stroke to cancer to high blood pressure.
• Nuts, lLegumes (1 to 3 times per day): They are excellent sources of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Many kinds of nuts contain healthy fats.
• Fish, pPoultry and eEggs (up to 2 times per day): Fish can reduce the risk of heart disease. Poultry is a good source of protein low in saturated fat. Eggs get a bad rap, but they’re better for you than a doughnut or other high-calorie breakfast food.
• Dairy or cCalcium sSupplement (1 to 2 times per day): You need it for strong bones, but don’t overdo it, especially when it comes to cheese.
• Red mMeat, bButter, wWhite rRice/pPasta, wWhite bBread, pPotatoes, sSoda, sSweets (use sparingly): Red meat and butter are packed with saturated fat. Why are the staples of white flour and potatoes also at the tip of the pyramid? They cause quick increases in blood sugar that can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
Source: Harvard School of Public Health; www.hsph.harvard.edu