18 October 2010

Live longer by eating healthier

It is World Food Day on 16 October. Did you know that by changing what you put onto your plate you could add years to your life?


Did you know that by changing what you put onto your plate you could add years to your life? 

Research has proven that healthy eating habits can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and even depression. In a bid to educate South Africans ahead of World Food Day on 16 October, dietician Dr Amanda Claassen, from Virgin Active’s newly acquired unit Virgin Life Care dispels a few myths about healthy eating. She says eating healthy is not about ruthlessly following a nutrition regime, or starving and depriving yourself of all your favourite foods.

Claassen says if you eat healthily 80% of the time there is room for that slice of cake that you have been dying to sink your teeth into. “You should make room for your favourite treats, just get the proportions right”. She adds that you can then make up for it later by adding some extra physical activity to your day like a brisk walk at lunchtime.

She says people often don’t understand what is meant by the term healthy diet. “A healthy diet first and foremost means regular healthy meals covering foods from all the various food groups. Avoid the starvation 'quick-fix' diets that give limited food selections - these have negative health effects in the short-and long-term. A healthy diet should make you feel energetic, boost your concentration and support the ‘healthy body – healthy mind’ feeling”.

Claassen offers the following tips on how to eat smart and follow a healthy diet:

  • Moderation is key, it’s in the math:  if what we eat is more than we burn per day, those kilograms will pile on.  Cut on your portion sizes (especially those high-calorie treats) by sharing with a friend, using smaller plates, and sticking to ‘small’ instead of ‘supersized’ meals.  Also let second helpings die a silent death.
  • Start with breakfast: A healthy breakfast can jump-start your metabolism, which you should then maintain by eating small, healthy meals throughout the day.  This will also help in controlling your appetite.  Don’t skip breakfast, it will cause you to crave unhealthy snacks later.
  • Five-a-day: Bulk up your meals by trying to add five portions of fresh fruits and/or vegetables each day (1 portion of fruit = tennis ball size; veggies = ½ cup).  The fruit and veggie food group is the lowest in calories. They are also packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fibre.  Use fruit as a snack, and add tasty salads and chunky veggie soups to your meals to fill up without adding extra calories.
  • Trade refined sugars for complex carbs: Choose carbohydrates rich in fibre, especially whole grains, they are more filling and provide longer-lasting energy.  Include sweet potato, brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta, legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, butterbeans, baked beans, etc.), oats, ryevita crackers, bran, and low fat muesli.
  • Fish/Meat/Poultry: Ensure you have lean cuts of meat, and start replacing some meat dishes with fish (grilled or steamed instead of fried), or have sushi when eating out.  Skinless poultry can be cooked or roasted using low fat marinades, lemon, herbs and spices.  Reduce the meat in your meat dishes and add legumes.
  • Fat facts: We all need fat in moderation to be healthy.  Welcome the plant fats to your plate like canola, olive and avocado oil, avocado pear, peanut butter, olives, nuts, and seeds. However, because they are high in calories you need to use them sparingly if you’re trying to lose weight.  Limit the bad fats such as saturated animal fat (cream, fatty meats, sausage, butter) and transfats (hard brick margarine).  Check labels for lower fat options containing three to five grams of fat per 100 grams product.
  • Dairy products: These are important to provide enough calcium and other valuable nutrients.  Go for low fat or fat free options of milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and cheese .
  • Save on salt: Most of us eat more than the recommended 1 teaspoon per day.  Remove the salt pot from the table and only add salt in moderation to food during preparation or to salads.
  • Water whizz: Water is needed to keep you hydrated, and cleansed from toxins.  Aim for at least 6-8 glasses of clean / safe water every day. Try rooibos tea or low calorie drinks (in moderation) as alternatives,
  • Alcohol intake: Keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories and bad for the waist line. The recommendation is not to exceed two drinks per day or per occasion, more than this is detrimental to your health. ‘Stretch’ your alcoholic drinks by opting for low alcohol wines or beers, dilute drinks with water or ice and sip them slowly.

For more about following a healthy balanced diet, visit Virgin Active’s website or call 0860 200 911


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