Everybody knows a healthy eating pattern is essential for good health and prevention of chronic diseases. In today’s’ fast-paced world, it can be very challenging to stick to a well-balanced diet. Many have fallen into a pattern, they do not have time for breakfast, skimp on lunch, eat a big dinner and nibble until bedtime. We starve our bodies when we need the most energy and overeat when doing nothing.
Eating just one or two meals a day can be harmful and such eating patterns ensures the storage of calories as fat which is totally responsible for the fact that so many people are bigger than they should be. Studies have shown that it is far better eating 5 to 6 mini-meals through the day than stuffing one or two big ones. When you eat big meals and overload, you actually stretch the stomach muscles and a continuous pattern of overeating leads to weight gain. The American diet contains way too much fat, sugar, protein, and too little carbohydrates.
Too much protein in today’s’ modern society, our diet has undergone a radical shift from plant-based foods towards foods derived from animals; meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Consumption of animal foods has been rising steadily and today’s’ statistics show that 70 percent of the protein consumed is derived from animals, and 30 percent comes from plants.
The problem with animal-derived protein is the amount of fat it comes with. The most popular ones are nearly more fat than protein. About 80 percent of the calories in steak and hamburger are fat calories and not protein. Since our favorite protein foods come laden with saturated fat and cholesterol, their over-consumption is a risk to the health of our hearts and blood vessels.
The average person eats 2 to 4 times more protein than is really needed for good nutrition. If you want to de-fat your diet, preserve your health and maintain a high energy level, eat more healthy vegetable proteins and less fatty animal foods.
Fat is fattening
Our daily nutritional requirement for fat is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. The average person consumes about 8 times that amount. Fat supplies two times more calories than the same amount of protein and is more fattening than sugar or starch. Fat is the most fattening nutrient and is the leading cause of deadly diseases; cancer and heart disease.
Although animal fats tend to be highly concentrated, coconut and palm oils are in fact more saturated. These oils happen to be the two of the most popular fats used in processed foods because they are cheap and do not turn rancid readily.
Monounsaturated fats like olive oil and peanut oil do not have adverse effects on blood cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats such as corn, sunflower, soybean, and safflower can also help encounter the cholesterol-raising effects of saturated fats.
Last but not least, is the substances found in fish oil, called omega 3 long-chain fatty acids. It is known to be even more effective than vegetable oils in decreasing the risk of heart disease. We should eat fish at least 2 times a week, especially fatty fish like sardine, salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and lake trout which are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Fish is a good source of protein without the high saturated fats found in meat products.
Sugar – empty calories
Sugar accounts for far too large a share of our daily calories. (4 calories per gram of glucose) Eating sugars in large amounts in snacks and beverages supply unnecessary calories and few nutrients. Most of the sweetened snacks we eat are also high in fat, which adds to their nutritional emptiness. There is no question that eating large amounts of empty calorie foods such as candy and other sugary sweets causes a rapid deposit of fat in the body tissue.
Carbohydrates, our number one energy source
Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms, the most common ones are sugars, fibers, and starches. If you are looking for health-enhancing sources of carbohydrates, you should choose from carbohydrates rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods and legumes. Whenever possible, choose whole grain foods that contain more fiber and nutrients than the “refined” foods.
Carbohydrates are the number one energy source for the body and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Contrary to popular belief, starchy foods in themselves are not fattening, but it’s the fact we add to them that can turn them into high-calorie foods.
How can we improve our eating habits?
Include a wide variety of foods to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs. Check the Food Guide Pyramid to help you choose the recommended daily servings for each major food groups.
Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables will fill you up without overdosing on calories. They are an excellent source of vitamins and contain high nutrient values.
Think high-fiber when buying bread, cereal, and baked goods. The recommended daily consumption of fiber is about 30 grams per adult. To get the full benefits that fiber can offer, you should eat a variety of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables on a regular basis.
Eat less. Focus on portion size. Cutting back on portion size is a good way to help you eat fewer calories and eating more mini-meals through the day will keep your metabolism up. It will also keep you from being hungry and overeating at the next meal.
Our lifestyle and environment encourage us to eat too much and to eat too many wrong foods. Today, food quality has dissipated and eating habits have gone downhill. Most people never take into consideration what they eat. They eat whatever they want, whenever they want and do not care if it’s a balanced meal or not. High calorie and high-fat foods have become daily eating habits and the results are obvious; a population affected by serious health problems.
We can not change the world but we certainly can change our lifestyle!
Feature Image: Havard Health Publishing