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Fitness

Tip No. 1: Drink Plenty of Water or Other Calorie-Free Beverages.

A man drinks from a bottle of water.

Drink a glass of water before you dive in to a calorie-laden snack. Sometimes thirst can be confused with hunger, so if you drink water first you may feel less hungry. Herbal tea (unsweetened) and flavored sparking water are good options if you’re craving more than plain water.

Tip No. 2: Be Choosy About Nighttime Snacks.

A woman snacks on an apple and peanut butter.

After dinner is the most common time to indulge in mindless eating. Sitting in front of the TV, you don’t pay attention to the number of calories you consume. Try forbidding nighttime snacking, or plan for a low-calorie snack (such as half a cup of lowfat ice cream or a 100-calorie pack of cookies) at a certain time.

Tip No. 3: Enjoy your favorite foods.

An apple pie.

Moderation is the key to enjoying rich foods. You don’t have to eliminate them completely, but you can try buying only a small portion of candy instead of a bag or buying one fresh bakery cookie rather than a full box.

Tip No. 4: Eat Several Mini-Meals During the Day.

Types of different mini meals to be eaten throughout the day.

It’s hard to cut calories when you’re always hungry. People who eat four to five small meals a day report less hunger and are better equipped to control their weight. Divide your daily food consumption into small meals and snacks and spread them throughout the day. Try to eat more, earlier; make dinner the last time you eat in the day.

Tip No. 5: Eat Protein at Every Meal.

Salmon steaks cook on a grill.

Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, plus, it keeps you feeling full for a longer time. Protein is also important for maintenance of muscle mass. Choose healthy proteins such as lean meats, seafood, egg whites, soy, nuts, beans, or yogurt and lowfat dairy products.

Tip No. 6: Spice It Up.

Jars of spices.

Flavorful foods can also help you feel satisfied and full. You may not eat as much if the food is full of flavor. Spices or chilies can help season your food, or try eating a red-hot fireball candy if you’re craving a sweet.

Tip No. 7: Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy, Convenient Foods.

Healthy foods stored in convenient containers.

Stock up your kitchen with healthy snacks and ingredients in advance. If you know you have the makings of a quick, healthy meal at home, you can avoid the fast-food line. Some good staples to keep on hand include whole-grain pasta and breads, frozen vegetables, lowfat cheese, canned beans and tomatoes, salad greens, and pre-cooked chicken breasts.

Tip No. 8: Order Children’s Portions at Restaurants.

A woman looks at a restaurant menu with her two children.

Ordering children’s portions in restaurants is a popular way to keep consumption to a reasonable level. Using smaller plates to make your portions appear bigger is a similar tactic. You’re more likely to feel satisfied when your plate looks full.

Tip No. 9: Swap a Cup of Pasta for a Cup of Vegetables.

Bowtie pasta salad.

Swapping one portion of starch (about a cup) for vegetables saves about 100-200 calories. Doing this for a year can lead to a full drop in dress or pants size.

Tip No. 10: Always Eat Breakfast.

A woman eats a bowl of cereal.

Skipping breakfast is a bad idea for those seeking to lose weight. Some studies show that skipping breakfast makes weight loss more difficult, since it leads to hunger and potential overeating later on in the day. Healthy breakfast choices include high-fiber grain cereals, lowfat milk and dairy products, and fruit.

Whether it’s playing football, swimming, jogging, kick-boxing or walking, active people (people who have rigorous exercise routines or play sports) or athletes need to eat a nutritious, balanced diet to fuel their body. Good nutrition, like any sporting event, has basic ground rules. Following these rules and getting plenty of practice will help active people¬† and athletes feel great!

What diet is best for active people? All active people need a diet that provides enough energy in the form of carbohydrates and fats as well as essential protein, vitamins and minerals. This means a diet containing 55-60 percent of calories from carbohydrates (10 to 15 percent from sugars and the rest from starches), no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and the remaining (about 10-15 percent) from protein. That translates into eating a variety of foods every day – grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, lean meats, and low fat dairy products. The base of the diet should come from carbohydrates in the form of starches and sugars. Fluids, especially water, are also important to the winning combination. Dehydration can stop even the most fit individual from playing his or her best game.

Are carbohydrates important for active people? When starches or sugars are eaten, the body changes them all to glucose, the only form of carbohydrate used directly by muscles for energy. Whether carbohydrates are in the form of starches (in vegetables and grains), sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruits and juices) or lactose (milk sugar), carbohydrates are digested and ultimately changed to glucose.

The body uses this glucose in the blood for energy. Most glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. During exercise glycogen is broken down in the muscles and provides energy. Usually there is enough glycogen in muscles to provide fuel for 90-120 minutes of exercise. Most exercise and sport games do not use up glycogen stores so eating carbohydrates during the activity usually isn’t needed. But for some active people, eating or drinking carbohydrates during exercise helps maintain their blood glucose and energy levels.

Most active people need not be concerned with “carbohydrate loading,” the special technique of eating a lot of carbohydrates for several days before an endurance event. Instead, focus on getting enough carbohydrates everyday. The best way to ensure plenty of energy for exercise is to eat a nutritious, balanced diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat with lots of different foods.

Do active people need extra protein or protein supplements to build muscles? No. Muscles develop from training and exercise. A certain amount of protein is needed to help build the muscles, but a nutritious, balanced diet that includes two or three servings from the meat/bean/egg group (6-7 ounces total) and two to three servings of dairy daily will supply all of the protein that the muscles need. Extra servings of protein in foods or protein supplements do not assist in muscle development. Unlike carbohydrates, protein cannot be stored in the body and any excess will be burned for energy or stored as body fat.

What should an person eat before, during and after exercise? The most important thing is to concentrate on eating a nutritious, balanced diet every day. This provides plenty of energy to grow and exercise. Here are a few tips about eating before, during and after exercise.

Before

  • Have some high carbohydrate foods like bananas, bagels or fruit juices. These foods are broken down quickly and provide glucose to the muscles.
  • The timing of this meal depends on the persons preference for eating before exercise, but researchers have found that eating something from 1 to 4 hours before exercise helps keep plenty of blood glucose available for working muscles.
  • It is also critical to drink plenty of cool water before exercise to keep muscles hydrated.

During

  • Perspiration and exertion deplete the body of fluids necessary for an optimal performance and lead to dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of cool water, at least a half a cup of water every 20 minutes of exercise. Adding a teaspoon of sugar, a little fruit juice or a small amount of powdered drink mix flavors plain water and may encourage fluid intake.
  • Usually there is no need to worry about replacing carbohydrates unless the exercise lasts over 90 minutes and is hard and continuous. When this happens, drinking a sports drink or other beverage with some sugar in it will fuel and water to the muscles being exercised.
  • Make a homemade sports drink by mixing no more than 4 teaspoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some flavoring (like a teaspoon of lemon juice) in 8 ounces of water.

After

  • If the exercise was strenuous and lasted a long time, glycogen stores may need refueling. Consuming foods and beverages high in carbohydrates right after exercise will replenish glycogen stores if they are low after exercising.
  • No matter the intensity of the exercise, it’s important to drink plenty of water and eat a nutritious, balanced meal that has lots of carbohydrate rich foods such as grains, pastas, potatoes, vegetables and fruits. A teaspoon of sugar, at only 15 calories* per teaspoon, adds flavor to these foods and may increase taste appeal.

*Note: Like all carbohydrates, sugar has 4 calories per gram, and there are 4 grams to a teaspoon.