Judith Krengel, director of Health Promotions for the Davis County Health Department, said that with all the diet crazes in the world, losing and maintaining weight is really all about getting back to the basics.
Krengel shared tips on weight and eating nutritionally as part of Nutrition Month, held in March.
She said Americans have become use to eating larger portions than the body needs because of the plentiful food supply in this country. "All that super-sizing has contributed to America's weight problem," Krengel said, noting that McDonald's recently cut its super-sized helpings from its menu.
In actuality, she said a portion size is much smaller than most Americans eat. For example, a portion of fruit will fit in a hand, a portion of meat is only as large as a hand and as thick as a deck of cards.
Eating sensibly means eating meat sparingly, with red meat only once or twice weekly and chicken and fish sparingly. Krengel goes on to recommend vegetarian nights, with soups or bean dishes as the main course.
For nutrition's sake and to add interest to meals, they should include a variety of dishes, Krengel said.
That sentiment is echoed by registered dietician Susan Moores, a spokesperson with the American Dietetic Association, who adds that fruits and vegetables can add color to a plate, making the meal more interesting. "Think red, green and orange --fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that may prevent some cancers and lower blood pressure."
Each meal should have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. She believes the Atkins diet is so popular, not only because it's high in protein, but because its followers are encouraged to stay away from processed foods.
Krengel urges shoppers to get to know their supermarket's produce manager and to not be shy about asking what's in season. She also said shoppers should plan on going to the store two to three times a week for produce, to ensure the freshness. "Don't wash fruits and vegetables until you're ready to use them," she advises. "Some people wash fruits and vegetables as soon as they buy them, then put them away. That causes them to spoil." Krengel also advises shoppers not to buy any produce which already has spots. They'll spoil more rapidly. "Get in the habit of shopping more frequently," she said.
Krengel also advises that people get their nutrients mainly from food. "You can't expect supplements to provide nutrients. They are only supplements."
Krengel said while shopping, keep to the outside aisles of the store, where the healthiest foods are. "You'll find the dairy products, meats, produce and bakeries usually along the outside walls." Down the middle aisles is where you'll find the processed foods, which she believes are not good for the body. "Fresh is best, followed by frozen, followed by canned foods," she said. "Canned foods are really just for long-term storage. They're not good for the body. That's the problem with hydrogenated fats. They're there to preserve foods," Krengel said. She also advises that high fiber food should be a part of every diet.
Having the right food in the house is fine, but knowing how to prepare it, makes it more likely a family will eat better. "Try a cooking class. There's several to choose from and I find they motivate you to try different foods and spices," Krengel said. Moore adds, "Try a new food or recipe at least once a month."
And when the meal is prepared, sit down and enjoy it. "It takes 15 minutes to feel satiated," Krengel said. Eating a rushed meal means a person is not really tasting their food or relaxing," she said.
Krengel advises people get out of the habit of rewarding themselves with food. "It's not like we can't have anything we want on another day." Likewise, she warns parents not to use food as a reward for good behavior from their kids. "Don't associate food with good or bad behavior."
That, added with a maintained exercise program will improve the quality of life and extend a person's life, Krengel said