News & Events

A healthy diet calls for control and moderation

April 25, 2012

By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published April 25, 2012

A big part of today's obesity epidemic has to do with our diets. Not only do we eat too much, but too much of the wrong foods.

Alliance Community Hospital Registered Dieticians Lisa Beaudis and Caroline Bevington said when it comes to diet, the biggest thing is control and moderation.

Bevington said a good diet begins with eating three meals a day, which she said the majority of people don't do.

"They're always skipping a meal and then they have that one large meal," Beaudis added. "They think, 'Well, I only eat one meal a day,' but then they're making bad food choices when they go into that one meal because they're starving at that point."

Next, the pair said the meals should be balanced, following the MyPlate example, which involves half of the meal being vegetables and fruits, a quarter protein and a quarter carbohydrates.

Beaudis stressed the importance of incorporating fruits and vegetables in each meal, though she admitted it can be difficult for people. To get in their fruits and vegatables, Beaudis suggested adding a glass of orange juice to dinner or adding fresh vegetables into an omelet for breakfast.

"I think when people see fruit at dinner and vegetables at breakfast it kind of throws them, but you can definitely incorporate all those," Beaudis said.

Another important part of the diet, Bevington said, is whole grains, which take longer for your body to digest than more refined foods. "Not only does that help your digestive tract, it's also making you feel full and better after a meal because that fullness stays with you longer," she explained.

The pair said there are also things you should avoid, such as fried foods, sweetened beverages and high sodium foods.

"We need sodium. Without sodium we would die. It's just that we have way too much sodium in our diet from all the pre-packaged stuff," Beaudis said. She added that the typical American should consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day, but most people take in at least 3,500 mg. Beaudis said that high-sodium diets can cause people to keep water weight on them, which can make it harder to lose weight.

Bevington said eating meals away from home adds to our sodium intake. She suggested cooking more at home can help cut back on sodium, as well as keeping the salt shaker off the table during meals.

The dietitians agreed one of the bad habits that help us pack on the pounds is the outrageous portion sizes we consume, particularly when we eat out.

"We got into that mentality where you must finish your plate, especially when we go out to restaurants where portions are two to three times what they should be. We're paying for that, so people feel the need to eat all that food then," Beaudis said. "That's where we're really getting hurt. The best thing we could do is get back to normal serving sizes."

The pair said when they consult with patients, their focus is normally around portion control and teaching them what a normal portion should be.

Other tips the pair offered for those wanting to get healthy:

Switch from fried foods to broiled or grilled.

Be wary of so-called healthy options. Just because it says sugar free, doesn't make it healthy.

"Anything that's sugar free they usually put extra fat in it to make it taste better. Anything that's fat free they're going to put extra sugar in it to make it taste better," Beaudis added. "So, actually, you're better off most times just eating a smaller portion of the regular item. It's going to taste better. It will cost less and it won't do as much harm."

Stay away from fad diets. They can be dangerous, tend to hurt metabolism and rarely keep the weight off.

"You want that gradual weight loss. You don't want to see more than a pound a week for most people," Beaudis noted.

For more affordable fruit and vegetable options, buy produce that is in season and visit farmers' markets.

To save time in preparing healthy foods, make all your meals for the week on Sunday and freeze them.

"People just don't want to put the time into anything," Beaudis noted. "Have your meals planned. Make your grocery list for the next two weeks and then you already know what you're going to eat. It's when people come home from work and they're starving and they don't know what to make that they just reach for the bad food options or they go to get fast food. If you have something planned as to what you're going to do each day of the week, it's a lot easier that way."

If you have to eat out, find a healthier option. Avoid fried foods and extra calories and fat in toppings such as sour cream and salad dressing.

Make small changes that you can stick with.

"You're not going to change everything at once," Bevington said. "Pick what you're most willing to give up. Myself, I don't like margarine, so I'm not giving up butter, but yet I'm not eating fried foods. So, what is it that you're willing to give up? Everybody is different. You pick what's right for you."

Along with dietary changes and portion control, they stressed the importance of adding exercise and activity.

"No matter how much you follow your diet, eventually your weight is just going to level off unless you're increasing your activity level also," Beaudis said. "Exercise will help with metabolism because the more lean body mass you have, the quicker your metabolism will go."

Beaudis added the best kind of exercise for weight loss is "one that you'll do."

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