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Eating Sensibly to Achieve a Healthy Weight

A positive attitude is important for successful weight management. Whether you need to lose, gain, or maintain your weight, you need to make a commitment to gradually adopt a healthier "weigh" of life. You can look at nutrition as a health investment for a long and healthy lifestyle. Whether you are 20, 40, or 55, start now to invest in your own good health. The sooner you start, the healthier you might be in the long run.

You can lose weight. The best way to lose weight is to eat less; choose foods low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and exercise regularly. High fat intake contributes to excess body weight. Being overweight might increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain forms of cancer.

How do I manage my weight?

  • Eat a variety of lower-fat foods to get all the nutrients you need. Your doctor or a dietitian can recommend the number of daily servings you should eat from each food group.
  • If weight loss is your goal, select a lower number of recommended servings. You also must watch your calorie intake. Remember, "low-fat" does not always mean "low-calorie."
  • To help control your fat, cholesterol, and calorie intake, eat plenty of plant-based foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) and fewer animal-based foods (meat and dairy).
  • Increase your physical activity to improve heart health and lose excess body fat.

Tips for reducing fat intake

When selecting foods:

  • Learn about the foods you eat by reading food labels. The label on a food package shows the number of grams of fat per serving. Look for "low-fat," "nonfat," and "reduced-fat" claims on packages.
  • Choose lean meats, fish, and poultry. Look for the words "choice" or "select" instead of "prime." Other good, low-fat sources of protein include dried beans and peas, tofu, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, and tuna packed in water.
  • Choose skim or 1 percent milk.
  • Enjoy low-fat (no more than 3 grams of fat per ounce) or nonfat cheeses.
  • Try low-fat or nonfat versions of your favorite margarine, salad dressing, cream cheese, or mayonnaise.

When preparing foods:

  • Trim all visible fat and remove the skin from poultry.
  • Refrigerate soups, gravies, and stews, and remove hardened fat before eating.
  • Bake, broil, or grill meats on racks that allow fat to drip from the meat. Avoid frying foods.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and herbs/spices on cooked vegetables instead of using cheese, butter, or cream-based sauces.
  • Try plain, nonfat or low-fat yogurt and chives rather than sour cream on baked potatoes.

When dining out:

  • Choose simply prepared foods such as broiled, roasted, or baked fish or chicken. Avoid fried or sautéed foods, casseroles, and foods with heavy sauces and gravies.
  • Request that your food be cooked without added butter, margarine, gravy, or sauces.
  • Request salad with low-fat dressing on the side.
  • Order a healthy appetizer as a meal, or share a meal with a friend.
  • Never finish your meal. Don't be afraid to ask for a "doggie bag."

Planning for a positive lifestyle

  • Write specific, realistic goals on paper. Develop short-term and long-term goals.
  • Determine a plan of action for each goal with the help and support of family and friends.
  • Keep a daily record of your food intake, as well as all feelings and any positive events.
  • Develop behavior modification strategies, such as taking 20 minutes to eat a meal, planning meals in advance, keeping all "problem foods" out of sight, and rewarding yourself with non-food items such as buying a new pair of shoes.

Exercise tips

  • Be sure to discuss the type of exercise, duration, and intensity with your health care provider.
  • Find an activity you enjoy doing and work it into your daily schedule. Set a goal of 30-60 minutes of activity most days of the week. Include muscle-strengthening exercise, such as weight training, at least twice a week. When exercising, be sure to use the large muscles in your arms and legs.

Following these simple tips can help you achieve a healthy weight and might prevent the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/11/2009...#9945