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Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 03:29 am

The U.S. is getting larger

Nine ways to eat better now

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Doctors, fitness professionals and nutritionists all have ideas on what men and women should and should not eat. Choosing the right foods can help save waistlines and lives.

The country is growing larger, and that has nothing to do with the population. Individuals are heavier than ever before. About one third of Americans are considered obese. No state in the U.S. has an obesity level of less than 20 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 36 states had a prevalence of 25 percent or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30 percent or more.

The obesity story is much the same in Canada, although residents of that country are slightly less obese than Americans. Statistics Canada states that from 2007 to 2009, 24.1 percent of adults in Canada were obese. Women have higher levels of obesity than men in both countries.

Although it is widely known that eating a healthy diet and exercising frequently are the key ways to maintain a healthy weight, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Some men and women find it difficult to avoid temptation and stay on track with diet. But balance and portion control are great ways to enjoy food without gaining weight.

Here are some tips.

1 Use a smaller plate.
This will trick the eye and brain into thinking you are eating a lot. A large plate seems empty with smaller portions, prompting many men and women to eat more than is necessary. Using a smaller dish can give the impression of eating from an overflowing dish.

2 Make vegetables a priority, not an afterthought.
Fill up on vegetables and make meat and other higher-calorie foods the afterthought, instead of vice-versa. In fact, two-thirds of your dish should be consumed by vegetables, with the remaining portion for a protein or starch.

3 Avoid family-style meals.
That means placing large serving dishes full of food directly on the table. It encourages going in for seconds when you really may not be hungry. It takes the brain at least 20 minutes to register feeling full. So serve yourself from the stove and wait to see if you’re still hungry before going back for more.

4 Switch to skim products.
It is widely known that dairy products are an important component of healthy living. However, whole-milk varieties tend to be heavy on calories and saturated fat. Opt for skim milk whenever possible. Today, there are ultra-pasteurized varieties of skim milk that are creamy and filling.

5 Rely on seafood protein.
Eating fish once or twice a week is an excellent way to cut calories and enjoy a food that is rich in essential fatty acids.

6 Experiment with herbs, not salt.
A lot of sodium in a diet may not be good for blood pressure and it can lead to water retention. Instead, reach for herbs to add flavor to foods. Keep a fresh selection of parsley, chives, cilantro, basil and other herbs at the ready and chances are you won’t even miss the salt.

7 Go sparingly on dressings and sauces.
You can quickly turn a healthy salad into an unhealthy meal if you drizzle on too much creamy salad dressing. Studies show that some fast food salads have more fat than other fast food fare, including hamburgers. Opt for the dressing on the side, or select among fat-free alternatives. Use only about one to two teaspoons for flavor.

8 Indulge once in a while.
Depriving yourself of everything that is tasty can lead to binge eating or overeating. Just remember to keep the portions of sweets or fattening foods modest and try not to overdo it the rest of the day.

9 Don’t forget the exercise.
The American College of Sports Medicine offers benefits of exercise beyond simply helping you to lose weight:
• Lowers risk of heart disease by 40 percent.
• Lowers risk of breast cancer by 20 percent.
• Lowers risk of depression by 30 percent.
• Lowers risk of hypertension by 40 percent.
• Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. 

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