Many people do not eat more or less than they need to maintain their ideal weight. When they exercise, they eat more; when they eat a heavy meal at noon, they feel no need to eat a heavy dinner. Their appetites are regulated by their physical requirements and are in balance.
With other people, though, eating habits are not in balance with their bodies’ needs. The compulsive cake-snacker, the teenager who lives on fast foods, the habitual second-helping eater are all victims of habit—and habit can be changed.
Emotional factors play an important part in overeating and under-eating. People who feel lonely and unwanted often eat a great deal because it is one of their few pleasures. Women with small children frequently overeat simply out of boredom or to calm their anxiety. Worry and tension, or the desire for attention and sympathy can cause under-eating too.
Deep psychological problems, often signaled by disastrous eating habits, call for the help of a specialist. But for most people the will to change and the knowledge of how to do so are sufficient reasons to alter their diet and reduce or gain weight.
EATING A BALANCED AND NUTRITIOUS DIET
Below are some common health goals and habits you may have and the balanced diet you should follow to achieve them
If you decide to lose weight, here are a few simple hints to start with: Try not to snack between meals, but if you do, eat low-calorie fruits or raw vegetables. Remove temptation—if the ice cream you usually eat is not in the house, you won’t eat any. Learn to recognize the high-calorie foods and go easy on them at mealtime. Avoid alcoholic beverages and soft drinks containing large amounts of sugar. Introduce new, low-calorie foods into your diet slowly, and if you really don’t like them, drop them.
Try eating cereal and fruit with no sugar added; you will be astonished at how quickly you can lose the taste for superimposed sweetness. Try black coffee or plain unsweetened tea for a change. Remember that it’s not a tragedy if you leave the table feeling slightly hungry. In fact, it is proof that you are doing something right!
Except when you are eating, don’t think about food. If you feel hungry, take a walk or clean the house. If you feel really hungry, have a glass of water (0 calories), or one cucumber (under 20 calories), or a cup of tomato juice (under 45 calories). Teach your body to accept nonsweet, nonstarch, nonfat foods, and after a while your system will respond by learning to like them.
Three Square Meals a Day
If you are accustomed to three meals daily, don’t change your eating pattern—but do pay special attention to breakfast. A good, high-protein breakfast will eliminate that mid-morning slump and reduce your hunger for lunch. In fact, nutritionist now say that the first meal of the day is the most important. Make sure that it includes fruit or juice, skim milk in some form (yogurt, for instance), meat or an egg (omit the egg if you are on a low-cholesterol diet), and whole-grain cereal or bread.
As for your other meals, make sure they are adequate but not huge. Don’t overeat at any meal, because you will only increase your body’s expectation for even more at the next round. Many people find they are happier with four or five small meals each day, rather than three large ones. You might experiment with a light lunch and dinner, plus a nourishing snack in the mid afternoon and another in the evening.
BALANCED DIETARY REQUIREMENTS
The nutrient the human body’s needs at different stages of its growth and development are different and to help you see the nutrients needed at various stages of development, below are the balanced diet required for these different stages
Balanced Diet Requirement for Children
Infants have their own special needs, and their diets are determined by those needs. The question of when milk should be supplemented with cereals, vegetables, meat and solid foods will be determined by the baby’s growth and digestive abilities.
From the time the doctor says that your child can eat everything, his diet will be much the same as that of the normal adult, except that the child needs more milk and the extra energy that high-calorie foods provide. But don’t encourage your child to eat sweets. Too much sugar may take away your child’s desire to eat regular meals and ruin his teeth. Bread and cheese are far more nourishing than a chocolate bar.
Balanced Diet Requirement for Adolescents
During their rapid growth in adolescence, boys and girls need extra milk, protein and vitamins. It is essential that they eat a balanced diet, supplemented by additional food and milk between meals to fuel their growing bodies. Good dietary habits are especially important at this age.
Two good sources of protein should be served at every meal—for example, an egg and a large glass of milk for breakfast. For lunch, there should be meat or fish or a cheese dish, plus a large glass of milk. Dinner should include a main course of fish, meat, eggs or cheese with another glass of milk. Between meals, milk should be drunk to make a total of four glasses a day. Milk not only supplies protein but is the best source of calcium and phosphorous, which are essential for building bones.
Vitamins should be provided by serving fruits and vegetables; both green and yellow vegetables should be included. Liver, which is an excellent source of all the vitamin B group, should be eaten once a week. A daily addition of vitamins A and D is helpful during the active growth period. Some margarine is fortified with vitamin A, and milk usually supplies vitamin D.
Iron is needed to ensure rich red blood cells. Girls who are beginning to menstruate may require additional iron to replace what is lost in the menstrual blood. Some foods rich in iron are: lean meat (especially liver, heart and kidneys), leafy green vegetable, egg yolk, whole grain and enriched bread and cereals, potatoes, oysters, dried fruits, peas and beans.
Balanced Diet Requirement for Pregnant Women
The pregnant woman must supply her own body with good nourishment and at the same time eat foods that will build her baby’s bones and tissues. It is essential that pregnant women pay particular attention to their diet, under the supervision of a doctor.
The fact that you are ‘eating for two’ does not mean that you must eat twice as much during pregnancy. If your pre-pregnancy weight was normal, you should expect to gain only about 10 kilograms, averaging some 1 kilograms per month. Underweight women should try to gain more. The overweight have to be careful not to gain so much that they become awkward and breathless.
A diet of not more than 2,000 calories is adequate for the average woman. But if the weight is not a problem, you should be more concerned with the quality of what you eat than with the number of calories consumed. Your meals should consist mainly of meats and other protein foods, vegetables, fruits, fruit juices and milk.
About a quart and a half of fluids a day is sufficient, and this amounts include everything liquid—soups, coffee, juice, water, milk. To be sure that you get the proper nutrients, however, your doctor may recommend a vitamin supplement.
Balanced Diet Requirement for Older People
Retired and aged persons tend to burn fewer calories and to need fewer fats and carbohydrates than younger people. At the same time their bodies may require additional minerals and vitamins—particularly vitamin D, which helps keep bones strong and the controversial vitamin E, which some experts believe is capable of slowing the aging process. As one advances in age, a cholesterol-restricted diet becomes more important.
SPECIAL TYPES OF DIET
Some diet types are needed to suit certain life choices or physical conditions people may have. Some of these types of special diets are
Low-Salt or Low-Sodium Diet
A diet excessively high in salt often results in edema, the retention of fluid in the body tissues. For people who have hypertension (high blood pressure), fluid retention can be dangerous, and they are often put on a low-salt diet. The salt used in cooking and table salt itself are both eliminated, while salted foods such as bacon, bread and cheese are severely restricted. Salt-free diets are prescribed for pregnant women who gain too much weight and for certain cases of obesity.
There are three kinds: the least restrictive, which bars meat but permits all other types of food including fish; the more restrictive, which bars meat and fish but allows inclusion of such animal products as milk, cheese and eggs; the most rigorous form, which confines diet exclusively to plants and plant products.
For the last type of vegetarian diet, maintaining an adequate protein intake may be difficult unless the dieter is a trained nutritionist. With careful planning, and a great deal of knowledge, however, it is possible to devise a diet with sufficient protein from wheat germ, brewers’ yeast, soybeans, nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and vegetable oils.
But such a diet cannot be recommended without the advice of a nutritionist. A protein-rich vegetarian diet should contain milk products, eggs and fish, which is as rich in protein as meat.
Given the current high cost of meat and its equally high cholesterol content, a modified vegetarian diet might well appeal to overweight, cost-conscious dieters.
CAN A DIET CURE WHAT AILS YOU?
We often hear about diets that will prevent acid or alkaline stomach, cure constipation, skin disease, cancer and tooth decay; increase virility or guarantee long life. Some special diets are useful and necessary. For example, diabetic diets, low salt diets for hypertension, or low-cholesterol diets to reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis.
Constipation and acne can often be relieved by eating or not eating certain foods. But, by and large, it is necessary to determine first whether your symptoms are the result of some nutritional lack or whether they are organically caused. Your doctor should be consulted before you make a drastic change in what you eat.
While a weight-reducing diet may not cure your particular ailments, the experience of some successful dieters has shown that a proper diet will make you feel better and enjoy a fuller life.
DIETING CAUTIONS TO CONSIDER
If you are considerably overweight or have symptoms that indicate a physiological problem, see your doctor before attempting to diet. She will determine whether a disease is associated with your weight problem and will help you to devise a diet designed specifically for your needs.
Weight Reducing Drugs
Never take them without a doctor’s prescription. They can be dangerous, addicting, or simply a waste of money.
Your Water Intake
The body needs adequate water and other fluids. Decreasing the amount of water you drink or sweating it off in a sauna may cause a quick loss of weight, but it is an illusory loss. You will regain the weight as soon as you replace the water that you have eliminated. Insufficiency of liquids will play havoc with your heart, circulatory system, and kidneys.
DO YOU NEED TO GAIN WEIGHT?
Fat people are always overweight, but thin people are not necessarily underweight. How can you tell if your weight is normal for you? Use our ideal weight calculator to determine.
If you are 10 or 15kg below your ideal weight, and if your body is bony, with only a thin covering of muscle tissue on your back, buttocks, and thighs, you are very likely underweight.
Let your doctor decide whether your extreme thinness is due to ill health or to your failure to eat enough of the right kinds of food. If she thinks that your diet is inadequate, she will be able to guide you to the calorie-rich foods suitable for your needs.
Concentrate on high-calorie foods such as cream soups, mayonnaise, cereals with milk or cream and cream-rich desserts. But be sure to check first with your doctor about the cholesterol problem because you will probably be eating large quantities of whole-milk food and eggs.
Peas, potatoes, and lima leaves provide more carbohydrates than the leafy vegetable you may have been eating, but don’t give up salads. They help with digestion, and because of all the starches and sugars in your new regimen, you will need to maintain some bulk in your diet.
Try not to eat sweets, they only increase the possibility of tooth decay and give you few nutrients beyond the sugar they contain. Snacks such as fruit, peanut butter and eggnog furnish protein, minerals and vitamins as well as calories.
Be sure to watch your weight. If you find that you are developing a sweet tooth and adding pounds rapidly, slow down—and check with your doctor. He may wish to modify your diet.
Would you like to learn how to use healthy eating to prevent diet-related illnesses?
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Sources and References
Reader’s Digest Family Health Guide and Medical Encyclopedia
Physiology, Edema by Daniella Lent-Schochet and Ishwarlal Jialal
Be Healthy in Pregnancy: Exploring Factors That Impact Pregnant Women's Nutrition and Exercise Behaviours by Caroline Moore, Feng Xie et al
Arteriosclerosis: A Primer for "In Focus" Reviews o