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A Nutrition Plan That Works
A Nutrition Plan That Works

A nutrition plan will only work if you personalize it to your needs and your likes and dislikes. Some recommended diet may be wonderful, but if broccoli is a big feature and you cannot stand broccoli, forget it.

The best plan is to analyze the current diet and take a close look at what goals are to be attained. Then making small, gradual changes makes it easier to migrate to a healthy eating style that can be maintained for a lifetime. The main thing is to avoid another dreadful diet. Instead, the goal should be to figure out how to eat healthfully.

It is a myth that the less one eats, the faster one will lose weight. Starving only makes a dieter hungrier, and sooner or later he or she will compensate by going on a binge. Then the dieter will feel guilty and starve himself or herself even more…and so on in cycles.

Evaluating the Present Diet

Looking honestly at current food choices will require keeping a food diary. For four days, a would-be dieter should keep track of what and how much he or she eats–including what is eaten weekend days as well as weekdays. For each meal, what was eaten and how much should be recorded, and snacks should not be forgotten. Then summarize the results:

  • Ounces of meat per day. Three ounces is equivalent to one regular hamburger, one chicken breast, one chicken leg (thigh and drumstick), one pork chop, or three slices of pre-sliced lunchmeat.
  • Servings of breads and cereals per day, preferably whole-grain. One serving is one slice of bread, one ounce of cereal, or one-half cup cooked cereal, pasta, rice, or grits.
  • Fruit. One serving is a whole piece of fruit, one-half cup juice, one-half grapefruit, one-quarter melon, one-half cup cooked or canned fruit, one-quarter cup dried fruit.
  • Vegetables. One serving is one-half cup cooked or chopped raw vegetable or one cup leafy raw vegetable.
  • Cheese per day or week. One serving is one ounce. Note whether it is low fat or regular.
  • Milk per day. One serving is one cup. Note whether it is skim, low fat, or whole.
  • Egg yolks per week.
  • Lunchmeat, hot dogs, corned beef, sausage, bacon, other highly processed meats per week.
  • Baked goods and ice cream (cake, cookies, coffeecake, donuts, etc.).
  • Servings of snack foods per day or week (chips, fries, party crackers).
  • Spreads used per day. One serving is one pat of butter or one tablespoon of salad dressing.

Guidelines for Healthy Eating

After the food diary has been kept for four days, the results should be compared to the guidelines below for a healthy diet. These are daily requirements.

  • Two to three servings of meat, for a daily total of about six ounces. This also includes eggs, though you should limit your eggs to four per week. Dried peas and beans can be substituted for meat.
  • Six to eleven servings of bread, cereals, rice, or pasta, preferably whole-grain products.
  • Two to four servings of fruit.
  • Three to five servings of vegetables.
  • Three to four servings of dairy products, which should be low fat.
  • Three or fewer margarine or other "spread" servings.
  • Minimal snacks and sweets

A healthy diet will have little obvious fat in it. No mounds of chips and crackers or pounds of cheese. (Most people don′t realize that cheese is about 75 percent fat). You won′t see gallons of ice cream either, or baskets of French fries, or bags of fast food. Even when people set out to avoid fat, most diets will still have enough to meet nutritional needs.

Eating wisely may sound very difficult to achieve, but the trick is to take it one step at a time. No one achieves perfection overnight–that isn′t possible. Instead, the aim is to establish healthy eating habits that will stand the test of a lifetime

Developing a Success Strategy

Once a baseline is outlined (the analysis of current eating habits) and a goal is set, anyone can build a sensible eating plan. Remember that no plan is cast in concrete. Chances are modifications will be necessary as the plan is implemented, based on what works individually.

At least 60 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates (that′s complex carbohydrates like vegetables, cereal, and pasta–not sugar); 10–15 percent from protein; and no more than 25 percent from fat.

Eliminating all the fun foods can make a diet unbearable. Sometimes having a small piece is better than saying no altogether to that piece of Chocolate Decadence Double Fudge Cake. Think about the amount of food eaten, not just what the choices are.

Below are some tips to make getting started easier.

Listen to Your Body

The single most important thing about eating sensibly is staying in touch with the body while eating. Some people get so obsessed with counting calories, they lose the ability to tell when they are hungry or full. Overweight people typically continue to eat when they are not hungry, especially at night.

To cope with the urge just to put something down the hatch, dieters should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Are you really hungry? Or are you bored or angry or lonely? Eating cannot help any of these other problems.
  • Are you eating in a hurry? Eat slowly to give your body a chance to absorb the food–that′s the only way it can tell you when it′s had enough! Stop eating when you feel comfortable, not when you feel full.
  • Have you reminded yourself that food is close by somewhere? If starvation feels imminent, you can always eat again.
  • What makes you hungry? How much of what makes you feel comfortable? How long does a certain type of food "stick with you"? Use your diet as a tool. Practice it. Experiment.
  • What is motivating you to eat so much? Forget that stuff about "cleaning your plate." Mothers have been saying that for centuries (along with the part about starving children). That′s a terrible way to learn how to nourish your body.
  • What do you crave? When you crave an orange, go eat one! Our bodies are very clever in telling us what they need, if we′re clever enough to listen.

Day-in, Day-out Choices

If you are determined to change your wayward ways in favor of weight watching, you must also identify your daily fat allowance. Experts recommend that the general population get no more than 30 percent of daily calories from fat. Currently, the average person in the United States gets 37–40 percent of his or her calories from fat.

Most processed food has a label showing the number of grams of fat in the food. But each individual must figure out the total grams of fat that are right for him or her.

To calculate daily fat allowance, one must identify how many calories are burned each day. The figure is 2,000 calories a day for a moderately active woman and 2,500 to 3,000 calories a day for a moderately active man. The calories burned depends on age, sex, and quotient of exercise.

The follow equations will help:

a x n = fn,

where a is the percentage at which you want to keep fat intake, n is the number of calories, and fn is the number of calories from fat. Then

fn / 9 = fa,

where fn, again, is the number of calories from fat, and fa, is the fat allowance. The number of calories from fat are divided by 9 because one gram of fat provides nine calories. Therefore, a person consuming 2,000 calories per day who wanted to keep the fat allowance to 20 percent of the diet would be allowed 44.4 gm of fat per day:

.2 x 2,000 = 400
400 / 9 = 44.4

Once this is calculated, the dieter can carefully read labels and keep fat consumption under 45 gm per day. A fat counter helps teach us where hidden fats lurk. These can often be found at the grocery checkout counter.

Listing the fat content of most foods would take a book in itself, but here are some samples. As can be seen, fat is almost everywhere:

  • One tablespoon of salad dressing (or one big pat of butter) contains 13.3 gm of fat (120 calories).
  • A large egg has 5 to 6 gm of fat per yolk.
  • Two tablespoons of cream cheese (about one ounce) has 10 gm of fat and only 2 gm of protein.
  • A quarter–pounder with cheese has about 31 gm of fat. A small quarter-pound hamburger has about 11 gm.
  • One raised donut has about 10 gm.
  • One-half cup of gourmet ice cream has 20 gm.
  • Two slices of bologna have about 15 gm.
  • One medium croissant has about 10 gm.
  • Three chocolate chip cookies have about 10 gm.
  • One ounce of potato chips has about 10 gm.

Some fairly simple measures can make a significant difference in the fat that gets into you. Here are ten from the article "Eat Right, America" published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association:

  • Drink skim milk.
  • Eat whole-grain breads. Choose one tasty enough to eat without butter.
  • Use jam, jelly, or all-fruit spread instead of butter on toast and rolls.
  • Eat more pasta, rice, and vegetables.
  • Eat lean meat, fish, and poultry. Remove skin from chicken.
  • Substitute a vegetable for a meat as an entrée.
  • Use low-fat or fat-free salad dressings. The new ones taste fine.
  • Snack on carrot sticks, unbuttered popcorn, and unsalted pretzels instead of fried chips, crackers, and cookies.
  • For dessert, choose fruit, angel food cake, or sponge cake. Use fruit purées as icing.
  • Substitute low-fat or frozen yogurt for ice cream. Try frozen juice bars.

Start with small changes. Identify a fatty food that is easy to eliminate, and do without it. Next week, pick out another. And so on. Don′t try to do it all at once.

Keep track of progress. Record the changes made and compare your current status to your goal. Reward any successes. Remember that this is a program of progress, not perfection. This is not a plan to follow until a particular goal is reached but a pattern of living to be made a habit for a lifetime. So keep it pleasant.

Getting Professional Advice

A registered dietitian is an expert who can separate facts from fads when it comes to food and nutrition. Dietitians are at work in many areas of our lives–with food companies, in sports medicine centers, hospitals, health clubs, research laboratories, day-care facilities, and senior citizens′ centers.

To locate a registered dietition in your area, log on to or ask your doctor to call the local hospital. You can also write to the National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics, 216 West Jackson Boulevard, Suite 800, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995.

Finding Balance

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet without too much fat has proven to be a challenge for most Americans. To put what they know about carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to good use–making up a healthful diet–those who want to change must understand that progress and not perfection is the purpose. Further, the overall aim is to change for the better for a lifetime, not just ride the roller coaster of food fads and trends. Listening to signals from the body and approaching diet rationally, one step at a time, bring successes that deserve recognition, no matter how small. Each one affirms the conviction that whether the focus is the part–the knee–or the whole–nutrition–they are inextricably intertwined and neither can be disregarded in understanding.

This is a section from Dr. Jack E, Jensen’s book The One Stop Knee Shop. Read the next section Troubleshooting Common Knee Problems.

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