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Ditch the junk in order to whip your diet into shape

By Dr. Richard N. Waldman
Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
It's no surprise that the American diet needs work. Our portion sizes are out of control, our calorie intake is too high — and it shows. More than 64 percent of adult women in the US are overweight or obese. But despite eating more, we are getting less nutrition.
Many American women are deficient in nutrients such as iron, potassium, and dietary fiber. This is understandable when you consider that the typical American gets roughly 35 percent of her daily calories from added sugars and solid fats (such as butter and shortening).
The top five sources of calories for the average adult (in order) are grain-based desserts such as cakes and cookies; yeast breads; chicken and mixed chicken dishes; soda and energy/sports drinks; and alcoholic beverages. These and other low-nutrient foods are loaded with excess calories, sugar, solid fats, and sodium. Over-consumption of these types of food contribute to some of the main causes of death and chronic illness in the US, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
To help get us back on track, the U.S. Department of Agriculture just released revised Dietary Guidelines.
They offer specific advice on how to eat a healthier diet and maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall wellbeing. The recommendations include:
  • Balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn. Depending on age and individual activity levels, women should eat between 1,600 and 2,400 calories each day.
    For example, a 35-year-old woman who gets 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise should eat roughly 2,000 calories a day. Women who move less should eat less.
  • Reduce salt intake. According to the guidelines, no one should consume more than one teaspoon or 2,300 milligrams (mgs), of salt each day.
    African Americans, children, people age 51 and older, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should consume 1,500 mgs or less each day.
  • Replace solid fats with oils such as canola and olive.
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
  • Cut back on added sugars and refined grains.
  • Drink more water and avoid beverages sweetened with added sugars.
  • Increase seafood servings in your diet by choosing it instead of some meat or poultry servings.
Sticking to these guidelines may be challenging at first, but once you become used to eating fresh, tasty, and healthy foods, it will start to become second nature. Give it a try — your body will thank you now and in the future!
To see the full Dietary Guidelines for Americans document, go to www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm.
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