New year, new fad? No!

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  12/18/2007 2:37:20 AM

Holiday News You Can Use Distributed 12/14/07

Don't start the New Year with the newest fad diet. Instead, choose a plan that helps you make healthy lifestyle changes, advises LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

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

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, published every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, emphasize that no matter the source – whether carbohydrate, fat or protein – calories do count when it comes to weight management.

It is important to follow a healthy eating plan because dieting can rob your body of the nutrients and energy it needs. Reames recommends using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid for a healthy approach to eating.

“MyPyramid provides guidance on choosing the recommended servings from each food group. It helps you develop a healthy eating plan you can follow for a lifetime," Reames says.

The dietary guidelines 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.

Be sure to 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, lean meat and poultry without skin.

The guidelines also recommend reducing calories by 500 or more a day. The healthiest way to reduce calorie intake is to reduce intake of added sugars, fats and alcohol, all which provide calories but few or no essential nutrients.

The nutritionist offers several 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 portions of foods, not helpings. Use MyPyramid 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.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend 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 Smart Portions Healthy Weight Program 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.

For additional information about the Smart Portions Program and MyPyramid, contact an LSU AgCenter extension agent in your parish. For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter homepage at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
On the Internet: USDA’s MyPyramid eating plan:
Contact: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929 or
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or

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