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Eating for Life

Overcoming obstacles to good nutrition

Staving off middle-age spread requires portion control and plenty of exercise

Updated: 2008-03-19T17:41:18Z

By Jill Wendholt Silva

The Kansas City Star

There are plenty of potholes on the road to good nutrition. Even experts agree willpower alone is not enough; we need to work to remove obstacles standing in the way of a healthier, more active lifestyle.

OBSTACLE:
After a long day at work, you find it hard to get a meal on the table so you wind up eating whatever is on hand. Too often that means pre-packaged processed foods high in fat and calories.
Causes
There aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Energy in equals energy out; in other words, if you eat more than you expend, you will gain weight - whether those calories come from eating carbohydrates, protein or fat.
Solutions
Plan ahead. Eating well should be a daily priority, and the best way to control what is in your food is to cook. If you don't cook, consider taking a cooking class or buying a beginner's cookbook.
Keep a food diary. This can help point out weaknesses and ways to avoid them in the future.
Take time to read food labels, and stock your pantry and refrigerator with nutritious foods.
Eat as many whole foods as possible. Fruits and vegetables fit the bill. Same goes for whole grains.
You know it's working if...
you're sitting down to a well-balanced meal at least three times a week and you're able to tally five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

OBSTACLE:
You eat out often so it's hard to control the nutritional content of your meals.
Causes
As the pace of our lives continues to quicken, Americans have resorted to eating out with increasing frequency.
Solutions
Learn to find lean options by asking employees at restaurants you patronize to disclose the calorie content of dishes.
Skip the appetizer and dessert. Consider ordering an appetizer and a salad as a main course. Eat only half your meal and ask the waiter for a takeout container for the rest.
Don't order dessert each time it is offered.
You know it's working if ...
you're planning ahead and saving up for indulgences.

OBSTACLE:
You're not sure what a portion size is.
Causes
Americans' sense of a reasonable portion has expanded along with our bulging waistlines. A single serving of fries at a fast-food restaurant has ballooned from 2 ounces in 1950-1970 to 6.1 ounces in 2002.
Solutions
Learn to gauge an appropriate serving size. See Size Matters story.
You know it's working if ...
supersize portions look too big.

OBSTACLE:
You'd like to exercise more but there are few sidewalks in your neighborhood.
Causes
Our communities are built for car rather than foot traffic.
Solutions
If finding a place to exercise is difficult in your neighborhood, try advocating for sidewalks, parks and community centers. Take your advocacy a step further and demand standards for school lunches, healthy options in the work cafeteria and access to farmers markets.
To keep yourself motivated, walk or work out with a spouse, friend or neighbor.
Join a gym.
You know it's working if ...
you're getting toned and fit. Remember muscle weighs more than fat.

GET ACTIVE: Most adults should get an hour of vigorous exercise most days of the week. If an hour at a time seems to much to schedule break it down into three 20-minute segments a day. Health benefits begin to accrue at as little as 30 minutes per day.

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