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Start With Small Changes

You don't have to go cold turkey. In the end, you want to achieve a long-term healthy lifestyle. Small changes over time are the most likely to stick. "If you want to eat more vegetables, then try to add one more serving by sneaking it in," suggests Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. "Add bits of broccoli to something you already eat like pizza or soup. If you need more whole grains, add barley, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice to your soup."

When you think about what you need to get more of, the other things tend to fall into place, Moore says. "If you have some baby carrots with lunch or add a banana to your cereal in the morning, you're going to feel full longer." You won't need a food that's high in sugar or fat an hour later, she adds.

Also, look for healthier versions of what you like to eat. If you like luncheon meat sandwiches, try a reduced-fat version. If you like the convenience of frozen dinners, look for ones with lower sodium. If you love fast-food meals, try a salad as your side dish instead of french fries.

"Pick one or two changes to start with," Moore says. "Once the changes have become habits, which usually happens in about two to four weeks, then try adding one or two more. In six to 12 months, you'll find that you've made substantial changes."


    Unsalted pretzels
    Low-fat yogurt with fruit
    Unbuttered and unsalted popcorn
    Broccoli, carrots, or cherry tomatoes with dip or low-fat yogurt
    Apple slices with peanut butter
    Graham crackers
    Gingersnap cookies
    Low- or reduced-fat string cheese
    Baked whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa
    Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk


The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend finding your balance between food and physical activity. Consuming more calories than you expend leads to weight gain. More than half of all Americans don't get the recommended amount of physical activity. To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood, engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day on most days of the week. Children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes a day on most, and preferably all, days of the week.

To manage body weight and prevent gradual weight gain, people should exercise about 60 minutes at a moderate to vigorous intensity on most days of the week, while not exceeding recommendations for caloric intake. Sixty to 90 minutes may be needed to maintain weight loss.

The more vigorous the activity and the longer the duration, the more health benefits you'll get. But every little bit counts. Here are some examples of easy ways to work exercise into your day:

  • Take a 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch, and dinner to reach the goal of 30 minutes per day.
  • Park your car in the farthest spot when you run errands.
  • Take a family walk after dinner.
  • Walk your dog.
  • Do yard work.
  • Wash your car by hand.
  • Pace the sidelines at kids' athletic games.
  • Ask a friend to exercise with you.
  • Run around and play with your children for 30 minutes a day.
  • Walk briskly at the mall.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Healthier Eating by Michelle Meadows - - - FDA Consumer magazine, May-June 2005


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