December 1, 2009

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Article

Costly Fare

What You Eat Could Hurt Your Health and Your Wallet

By Candace M. Little

December 1, 2009

We’ve all seen billboards with a slim woman advertising liposuction, the infomercial promising an easy weight-loss tool for as little as four easy payments of $19.99, or the Internet’s banner ads offering the secret to losing inches of belly fat in just one week. With so many good options, what is the best way to lose our holiday weight after the New Year? Well, we could start by not putting it on in the first place. Unfortunately, a busy lifestyle doesn’t always support a healthy lifestyle, some-thing Maria Lichty at Healthy Utah can attest to. She educates state employees on ways they can make healthy food choices. “Our society is always on the go,” Lichty says. “People skip meals because they are busy. When they do have a minute to eat they usually choose foods that are fast, cheap and that will fill them up. Unfortunately, these foods are usually not healthy.” If getting fat (which may lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease) isn’t motivation enough to eat right and exercise—what about rising health care costs? Lichty says obesity and its associated health problems are contributing to cost increases. But, here’s the unsurprising, but good news: many of these issues, Lichty says, can be prevented by making positive health behavior changes. Pay attention. Allow yourself time to eat and enjoy food. Try to avoid eating in the car, at your desk or in front of the television. Focus on the food and pay attention to when you are full. Eat breakfast. Eating a meal at the beginning of your day is important because it gets your metabolism going. A faster, active metabolism burns more calories and less fat is bundled. Limit caffeine. Not everyone reacts the same to caffeine, but diets high in caffeine can cause anxiety, restlessness, headaches, irritability and sleep problems. If you depend on caffeine for energy, consider eating breakfast and small, healthy snacks throughout the day, getting enough sleep, and exercising to increase your energy level. Watch out for high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Check your food labels for HFCS and be more aware of how often you are eating foods containing it. Because HFCS extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, it has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods. Many beverages and other processed foods made with HFCS and other sweeteners are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Consuming these products frequently can promote obesity. Avoid trans fatty acids and saturated fats. They can increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total LDL (or bad) cholesterol. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are unsaturated and are considered the heart healthy fats. You can find them in olive oil, nuts, avocados, fish and flax seeds. Keep healthy snacks at work. By snacking throughout the day, you will be less hungry at mealtimes and less likely to overeat. Some healthy snacks you could have at work are nuts, plain low-fat yogurt, string cheese, fruit, vegetables with hummus, oatmeal, cottage cheese, whole grain crackers, nut butters for apple slices and trail mix. Having healthy snacks on hand can prevent the temptation to eat fast food or unhealthy snacks from a vending machine. Shop smart and eat out less. By preparing healthy meals and snacks at home, you can not only save money, but can also save yourself some belly fat. Buy produce that is in season, visit the farmer’s markets in the summer, grow a garden and stock up when items are on sale. Healthy Dining-out Tips from Healthy Utah Educator Maria Lichty • If the restaurant offers free bread or chips, ask the server to remove them. They are more tempting if they are on the table. • Split an entrée, take half of it home or order an appetizer as a meal. Restaurants usually serve larger portion sizes than what many nutritionists consider healthy. • Ask for dressings and sauces on the side. • Avoid foods that are fried, smothered, loaded, super-sized or covered in cream sauces. • Drink water instead of soda.
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