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Sunday, August 15, 1999
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Eat well and eat sensibly

While a balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients in recommended amounts is essential, the calorie count also forms a part of a moderate diet, says Anup Deb Nath

EATING enough and eating the right type of food are two important issues that tend to confuse people who are on the health path. Most people in their endeavour to lose weight tend to crash diet or skip meals altogether. In the long run this can actually harm your body.

It is important to eat a variety of foods as no one or two types of food can give your body adequate nutrition.A question often asked by people on a diet is what to keep in mind while planning out their low-calorie weight reducing recipes? It is important to remember to keep the three basic rules of good nutrition in mind — variety, balance and moderation — while planning out meals. This will ensure that your body gets the 40 or more nutrients required to stay healthy. It is important to eat a variety of foods as no one or two types of food can give your body adequate nutrition.

While balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients in recommended amounts is essential, the calorie count also forms a part of a moderate diet.

There are four basic food groups that are needed to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. The first group, the cereal or bread group, includes cereal, rice, wheat, bran, pasta, bread or ready to eat cereal and one should try to eat about four servings a day. A typical serving consists of one slice of bread, or three-fourths cup of boiled rice, or cereal or one ounce of ready to eat cereal. This group provides the body with thiamine, niacin and iron. It is also a good source of fibre.

The second food group is the milk and cheese group. This is the major source of calcium and also provides riboflavin, proteins and some vitamins to the diet. The serving size in this group will vary with teenagers and nursing mothers needing the highest-followed by children till the ages of 12 and pregnant women and adults who do not fit in the other categories. A typical serving in this group would consist of eight ounces of milk or yoghurt, two cups of cottage cheese or one-and-a half ounces of processed cheese.

The meat, egg and fish group is next. Nutrients provided by this group include iron, protein, thiamine and niacin. Eggs, meat, fish, chicken, nuts and lentils (dal) all come under this group. The suggested serving is two portions a day from this group and a typical portion would consist of two to three ounces of cooked meat, poultry or fish (boneless), two eggs, or one-and-a half cups of cooked lentils. For vegetarians, lentils will more than adequately provide the nutrients from this food group.

The vegetable and fruit group give us vitamins A and C as well. Four servings are needed daily from this group one serving consist of half cup of fruit or vegetable, one medium-sized orange or potato, four ounces of citrus juice or half a grapefruit. The citrus fruits in this group are rich in vitamin C while vegetables such as carrots and broccoli provide us with the vitamin A.

There is another group which is often referred to as the fifth group which consists of food stuffs such as sweets, fats and alcoholic beverages. The reasons these have been separated from the other main food groups is that they don’t contain any significant amount of nutrients but contain carbohydrates. That is why they are often dubbed as empty calorie foods. These do not give you any nutrition and, therefore, should not be used as a substitute for any of the other food group items listed earlier.

Some other basic guidelines can be followed in order to maintain the body’s nutritional level and promote health particularly while trying to lose weight.

Try to eat a variety of food. The reason for this is that no one food can provide you with all the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. The only way we can provide our body with the 40 or more nutrients that it needs is by giving it a large variety of foods.

Avoid eating fat, and saturated fat and cholesterol in out of proportion ratios. Most of us tend to eat far more fat than we really need. About 37 per cent of calories come from fat, 46 per cent from carbohydrates, and 16 per cent from protein. The recommended amount of fat is 30-33 per cent of total calories consumed daily. It is better to eat a diet which is rich in complex carbohydrates — starch and fibre and low in fat.

Try to eat food that has a high fibre and starch content. Vegetables, fruits, dry beans are all good sources of starch and fibre. These food products not only give us energy but are good sources of many vitamins and minerals as well. These are also low in cholesterol and fat while being high in protein and fibre.

Try to avoid excess of sugar. Here when we say avoid sugar it is not only the sugar you mix in your tea and coffee or the sweets you tend to eat. Sugar is present in one form or another in many foods we eat. Fruit contains natural sugar while many other food items have sugar added to them while they are being processed. Sugar does have many uses for the human body. It provides us with energy as well as calories, though it is low in nutrients. The problem occurs when people tend to go on to a diet which is high in sugar be it present in its natural form or as an additive.

Sodium is essential for the human body to maintain the balance of fluids that help nutrients pass into the cells and the waste that passes out. One-third of sodium is naturally present in food while one-third comes from processed or canned food and the remainder comes with the salt that we add in to all our food. Nutrition experts believe that a person needs about 1,100 to 3,300 mgs a day but the average consumption is about 5000 mgs a day.

Alcoholic beverages are high in calories and low in nutrients and they are, in fact, counted among the zero calorie food types. Nutrition apart, alcohol does not really benefit your health in any way. On the contrary, it can have an adverse effect on your health.

Eating well and eating sensibly will actually take you faster on to the route of the new slim you that you have wanted rather than the crash diet that you have been habitually going on. You will not only see the weight stay off but also notice a healthier more active you than any diet had made possible.Back

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