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Make smart choices for a healthier you in 2013

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to lose weight, choose a plan that helps you make healthy lifestyle changes instead of following the latest diet craze. That's advice from LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

“The best way to attain and maintain a healthy weight is to stay within your energy needs by choosing foods wisely from within all food groups and to be physically active,” Reames said.

No matter the source – whether carbohydrate, fat or protein – calories do count when it comes to weight management.

“You need to follow a healthy eating plan because dieting can rob your body of the nutrients and energy it needs,” Reames said.

Nutritionists recommend eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk products. Recent research shows that these health-promoting foods are poorly represented in the American diet.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate educational campaign offers a healthy approach to eating and provides guidance on choosing the recommended servings from each food group. Go to for more information.

Read this press release about Choose My Plate.

Reames said choose whole-grain products such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, brown rice or oatmeal. Eat fresh fruit or fruit canned or frozen without sugar. Steam vegetables or eat them raw. Select nonfat or low-fat dairy products and lean meat and poultry without skin.

“Lifestyle change in your diet and physical activity is the best first choice for weight loss,” Reames said. “Reduce your intake by 500 calories or more a day. The healthiest way to reduce calorie intake is to reduce added sugar, fat and alcohol, which all provide calories but few or no essential nutrients.”

Reames offers these tips to establish a healthy relationship with food:

– Drop the diet mentality. Depriving yourself now can make you overeat later.

– Learn to recognize your body’s cues about when you are hungry and when you are full.

– Tune into your emotions. Are you using food for comfort, as a reward, as a distraction from boredom or to help resolve feelings of anger or sadness? If so, look for other ways of coping with problems instead of eating, such as taking a walk, playing with your pet or calling a friend.

– Don’t skip meals. This leads to overeating later.

– Eat food portions, not helpings. Use Choose My Plate and nutrition facts information on food labels to learn serving sizes.

– Try to eat more vegetables and fruits each day. Experiment with new ways to prepare vegetables and keep cut-up veggies in the refrigerator for snacking.

In addition to these ideas about healthy eating, Reames advises making a habit of becoming more physically active.

“Physical activity offers many health benefits, including decreased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, joint problems, obesity and others,” Reames said. “Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity to reduce disease risk and 60 minutes a day to prevent weight gain. For sustaining weight loss, at least 60 to 90 minutes a day of physical activity may be required.”

The LSU AgCenter’s  set of fact sheets on Smart Choices provides current, research-based information and recommendations to help Louisiana citizens achieve and maintain a healthy weight by setting realistic goals for better health and learning to balance the food they eat with appropriate physical activity.

The LSU AgCenter is one of 10 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, protecting the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.

Last Updated: 1/6/2013 7:29:39 AM

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