Thursday, June 7, 2012

This I Believe: Follow these healthy foodie rules to stay fit

It's a lifelong struggle -- fighting the "battle of the bulge," which only gets harder as we age. The following principles (or rules) help keep me from the excess weight, and even obesity, that has plagued some older members of my family.
Almost all of these rules get broken on a weekly or sometimes daily basis, but overall if you can try to adhere to them, you should avoid the fate of too many of our neighbors & friends -- compromised health due to poor lifestyle habits.

Healthy Foodie Rules

1. No supermarket or fast-food meat
If you don't know why this is my #1 rule, see the movie Food, Inc. (you can watch it online for free at

2. Minimize liquid calories
NYC mayor Bloomberg has it right: the #1 source of empty calories that has led to our obesity epidemic is sugary drinks. I also avoid fruit juices and anything with calories unless it's some milk (or fat-free half-and-half) in my coffee, or an alcoholic beverage. (And those have to be minimized, too....alas.)
3. Cook your food

I love to eat out, and bringing in cooked food for dinner at home is a nice labor-saving treat. But for the most part if you cook what you & your family eats, you have MUCH better control over the fat, salt and calories you consume.

4. Eat 9 servings of fruits and veggies daily
I'm pretty faithful with this one. All that fiber and vitamins are so good for digestion and overall well-being. How is it possible to eat THAT MUCH of anything? Luckily, a serving is quite small: just 1/2 cup of cut-up, cooked veggies or raw fruit, a half of a large apple, one cup of lettuce or raw spinach, etc. I have 2+ servings of fruit for breakfast and another one or two later in the day as a snack. I also snack on cut-up raw veggies (2 servings) and be sure to have 2 servings of veggies with lunch and dinner. It adds up!

5. Exercise 45-60 minutes each day

Also a non-negotiable. Find a way, even if it's taking a short walk in the morning and another one after dinner. This is easy now that we have 12+ hours of daylight.

6. Eat good fats

Dietary fat isn't bad, or isn't all-bad, at least. In fact, it's necessary for optimal health. Stick to olive oil, canola oil, peanut butter, nuts in general, fish oil (such as in salmon) and avocado as great sources of fat in your diet. But don't overdo: fat is fattening!

7. Snack smart

Try to use your snack time to get in some of the nutritious stuff your body craves: fruit, veggies, nuts andlow-fat yogurt, for example. Lay off the chips and cookies! I know this is hard. and we won't always live up to it, but try to make smart snacking your default position.

8. Monitor your health
Here I mean pay attention to symptoms and go see a doctor if weird stuff happens. Look out for spots on your skin that change shape or suddenly appear and stick around awhile. (Skin cancer is the fastest growing type of cancer in the U.S. today, thanks to our heedless sun exposure when we were younger.) If exercising inexplicably becomes harder, something might be going with your heart or blood pressure. Look into it!

9. Take it easy at restaurants
Relates to #3 above, of course -- while cooking what we eat generally turns out to be healthier, dining out is one of life's true pleasures (IMHO) and shouldn't be eliminated. But don't go hog-wild, even for the special occasions like your birthday or anniversary dinner. You probably know these things, but to reiterate: don't get the fried, "crispy" or sauteed options; avoid the margaritas and martinis and stick with wine (not always easy!); lean toward fish instead of pork, beef, or other red meats; skip dessert or at most share with at least one other person.

10. Eat breakfast every day
No exceptions! You'll jump start the metabolism to get busy burning calories, and you also won't be ravenous by the middle of the day.

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