Diet For Optimum Weight and Health
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A Diet For Healthy Weight

If you want to create a diet-plan for optimum nutrition and weight control, pay attention to these four elements.

1. Calorie Control

Calorie-Counting

Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is largely (but not exclusively) a matter of controlling your calorie-intake. This doesn't mean carrying around a calorie-calculator everywhere you go. But you should be aware of the calorie content of your regular foods, as well as your calorie needs. One highly effective strategy for maintaining calorie-awareness is to keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink, together with the relevant calories, then add up your score. Do this for 14 days, and I guarantee it'll improve your calorie control. For details of calorie content in foods, see Calories in Food

The Digestive System

Our food digestion system (mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine) helps us to obtain energy and nutrients from food. Carbohydrate, fats and protein are each digested differently within the gastrointestinal tract, but surplus calories from these nutrients are ALL converted to body fat.

Eating Plans Must be Realistic

The most effective type of calorie-controlled diet is one you can live with: meaning, an eating plan that lets you live a relatively normal life and eat normal foods in a normal way. For example, a diet program containing family-friendly foods may be more convenient for you than one which insists on special "diet foods."

Eat "Calorie-Dense" Foods Sparingly

A sensible calorie-controlled diet-plan should permit all foods, as long as the overall calorie total is within desirable limits. That said, some foods are calorie-dense, meaning a lot of calories are condensed into a small volume. Calorie-dense foods are typically high in fat and/or sugar, like pastries, rich ice-cream or a candy bar. A few bites and you've eaten 50 or 100 calories but hardly any nutrition. By comparison, an apple is calorie-light and nutritious. And while it takes many bites to eat an apple, you take in only 80-90 calories. Calorie-dense food is useful as an energy boost to counteract low blood-sugar levels, and it's fine as an occasional treat, but it's not ideal when trying to lose weight.

Know Your Energy Needs

An adult person burns about 2500 kcal daily or just over 100 calories per hour on average. The rate may slow down to 60 during sleep and may increase to 150 during normal daytime activity.

To MAINTAIN your weight, calculate your calorie needs and use the resulting figure as a guide to how much you can eat. To LOSE weight, reduce your daily calorie needs by 500 calories per day. This should allow you to lose 1 pound per week. To do this, click Calorie Needs for Women or Calorie Needs for Men or see Quick Estimate

Alternatively you may choose to increase your calorie expenditure by taking more physical exercise. An hour of brisk walking burns about 400 calories. Assuming you eat no more calories than are needed to maintain your weight, this walking routine should help you to lose roughly one pound of body weight, every 9 days.

See also: Limits of Calorie Counting

2. Nutrition

A healthy body works more efficiently (eg. loses weight more easily) than an unhealthy body. This is why nutrition is so important for weight management as well as general health.

Need for Healthy Foods to Lose Weight

It's worth remembering that 20 minerals, 13 vitamins and fiber (none of which contain any calories) are essential for health. Their presence or absence can also change the rate at which energy is produced or calories burned. When foods cannot be metabolised properly because they lack the necessary minerals and vitamins, their energy becomes unavailable to our body and is stored as fat until we get the necessary minerals and vitamins at some later time. In the meantime we feel hungry and eat more. This too turns into fat unless minerals and vitamins are also provided.

Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods

So make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet from nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, oily fish, oats, beans, nuts and seeds, and avoid wasting your daily calorie allowance on "empty-calorie-foods" (which contain calories but no nutrition), like regular sodas, alcohol, sweets and candy.

3. Exercise

Regular physical activity not only burns calories, it also helps to speed up metabolic rate, which means we burn calories faster even when we stop exercising. (An hour of exercise keeps our metabolic rate elevated for 12-16 hours. ) It also maintains strong bones, and protects us against a wide range of conditions, such as: cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, some cancers, insulin resistance and diabetes, to name but a few. It also triggers the release of the so-called "happiness chemicals", called endorphins, which improve our mood. Finally, regular workouts help to actually reduce our appetite. Bottom line: keeping fit is a very effective way to maintain a healthy weight.

4. Lifestyle and Eating

This is the difficult bit! After all, it's easy to start a weight loss diet, but persevering with it is what counts. For example, if you overeat because of boredom, simply reducing your calorie intake is not likely to work. The instant you feel bored, chances are you'll break your diet. Instead, you need to tackle the cause of your overeating (the boredom), not the symptom (the candy bar/ice-cream).

The best weight control strategy here means doing two things. (1) you need to change your daily routine. (2) you need to get support to help you follow your diet when problems occur.

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Next: Quick Guide to Calorie Needs When Losing Weight
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