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3 Diet Changes for Health

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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The road to better health can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. But with every small step you take and each healthy decision you make, you do get closer to your goal of improved health, and one of the most effective ways to do this is by eating a balanced, healthy diet.

Diet changes for good health

Think of streamlining your nutrition profile in stages. These three diet changes will not only set you on a healthier path, but will also create incentive to make further adjustments — and before you know it, you’ll feel confident that you can make the right food choices to maintain good health.


How Small Diet Changes Make a Difference


Being fit and healthy doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in a slice of birthday cake or bowl of ice cream. It just means that you don’t do it every day.


“I always say as long as you do the right thing most of the time, you will be successful in being healthy,” says Tara Harwood, RD, a dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “Doing the right thing most of the time means implementing simple dietary changes, which will add up by the end of the week.”


Diet Change No. 1: Cut Back on the Booze


It’s amazing how quickly calories add up, especially those you drink. And the empty calories in alcoholic beverages can be the first place to start cutting back.


Limiting alcohol consumption can improve both your diet and your overall health. “While drinking in moderation has been found to have a few beneficial effects, drinking more than this amount can have negative effects on health,” says Harwood. “It’s recommended that men drink no more than two drinks per day, and women drink up to one glass per day.” Alcohol consumption — even just one drink — can weaken your diet discipline and lead to overeating, eating unhealthy food, and drinking more than the recommended amount.


To avoid these poor-health pitfalls, set guidelines that make it easier to stick to your alcohol limit. “Make a rule not to drink during the week or buy just enough for one serving per evening,” Harwood suggests. “Remember, alcohol has calories, and if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s best to opt for water instead.”


Diet Change No. 2: Opt for More Vegetarian Meals


You may love hamburgers and barbecue, but aim for at least a couple of vegetarian meals each week. A vegetarian meal can be delicious, filling, and less expensive than a meat-based meal.


“A vegetarian meal that isn’t cheese-based is lower in calories and packed with disease-fighting benefits from the additional fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that are all found naturally in vegetables,” says Harwood. “A diet high in vegetables can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and certain types of cancer.”


If you don’t feel satisfied with an all-vegetable dish, opt for vegetarian recipes with meat-free protein choices, such as beans — garbanzo beans, pinto beans, black beans, and more — and lentils, suggests Debora Robinett, RD, a registered dietitian in Tacoma, Wash.


“Beans, split peas, soybeans, and lentils offer low-glycemic carbohydrates with fiber and quality protein,” explains Robinett. They also stabilize blood sugar, fill you up, and improve energy levels. Robinett suggests trying a lentil soup packed with vegetables for a hearty, healthy vegetarian meal.


Diet Change No. 3: Pack Healthy Snacks


When mid-afternoon hits and you’re starting to get hungry again, you may be tempted to visit the vending machine. Avoid this unhealthy food habit by packing your own healthy snacks to bring with you.


Here are a few healthy snack ideas that are easy to pack for work or when you’re on the road:

  • Fresh vegetables with hummus dip
  • Fresh fruit
  • Seeds and nuts — make your own mix of choices such as sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, and almonds
  • A container of yogurt
  • A few whole-grain crackers
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Vegetable juice
  • A packet of instant oatmeal
  • Popcorn (without added salt)
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Homemade trail mix with whole-grain cereal and dried fruit


Keep a stash in your desk or bag so that you can grab a quick and healthy snack as soon as you feel your belly start to rumble. And make snacking a regularly scheduled activity, says Robinett. “Eating about every three to four hours allows you to maintain energy and focus, as well as lose weight or maintain ideal body composition,” she says.


All it takes to start changing your life is a few basic first steps. Before you know it, you’ll be in the habit of making healthier choices for every decision you face.


          Last Updated: 10/05/2010


8 Reasons Women Should Lift

If running and yoga are the cornerstones of your fitness plan and you aren’t seeing the results you want, try resistance training. Here are eight reasons why weights rule the gym!

 By Kellie DavisJan 14, 2014

Maybe you’ve thought about lifting weights. Maybe you’ve even done some dumbbell curls or picked up a barbell. Every time you hit the iron though, you feel unsure, insecure, and a little fearful.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the horror stories: lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it’s dangerous, it’s bad for your joints, and once you have muscle, you can’t stop lifting or it will all turn to fat. It’s all BS, and it feeds into stereotypes that are keeping too many women from experiencing the profound benefits of resistance training.

It’s time to put that fear and uncertainty aside. The fact is lifting weights does none of those awful things. What it does is help you to live in a healthier, stronger body.

When you sit down to list your fitness objectives, you may be surprised to learn that that strength training will not only help you reach them, but may reach them faster than performing cardio exercise alone.

Yoga and the treadmill can have their place, but they’re not enough. Here are eight reasons you should prioritize strength training in your fitness regimen!


More Effective Fat Loss

Think weightlifting only benefits those who want shirt-ripping arms? Think again.

Although many people consider weightlifting only a means to add size, when contrasted head-to-head against cardiovascular exercise, resistance training comes out on top in the battle to burn calories.

The huge advantage to weight training is your body’s ability to burn fat during and after exercise.

Think weightlifting only benefits those who want shirt-ripping arms? Think again.

After a heavy bought of strength training, you continue to consume additional oxygen in the hours and even days that follow. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.

When your body uses more oxygen, it requires more caloric expenditure and an increased metabolic rate.


More Muscle, More Calorie Expenditure

As you increase strength and lean muscle mass, your body uses calories more efficiently. Daily muscle contractions from a simple blink to a heavy squat contribute to how many calories you burn in a given day.  Sitting burns fewer calories than standing; standing burns fewer than walking, and walking burns fewer than strength training.

The more muscle contractions you experience during a day, the more calories you’ll burn. If you have more lean muscle mass, you’ll have more muscle contractions and thus burn more calories.



As you increase strength and lean muscle mass, your body uses calories more efficiently.

As you build muscle, your body begins to take a nice hourglass shape. Though endurance exercise can help you lose weight, that weight comes in the form of both fat and muscle tissue.

If you’re losing both fat and muscle, you can lose those lovely curves as well. Strength training can help create and sustain them.


Quality Sleep

Strength training greatly improves sleep quality, aiding in your ability to fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake less often during the night.

A study published in the International SportMed Journal suggests that morning resistance training or high intensity training greatly affects the quality of sleep and lengthens the time of sleep the night after training.1


Increased Energy

As noted above, resistance training causes an increase in energy expenditure hours after you train. A study published by the National Institute of Health suggests that the chronic increase in energy expenditure, even after a minimal resistance training session, may favorably effect energy balance and fat oxidation.2 Rather than reaching for that early afternoon cup of coffee, grab a barbell.


Heart Health

Pumping iron can reduce your risk of heart disease and was approved as a healthy form of exercise for those at risk from the American Heart Association. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that those who lift weights are less likely have heart disease risk factors such as a large waist circumference, high triglycerides, elevated blood pressure, and elevated glucose levels.3

Another study conducted by researchers in Brazil found that though the heart rate increased in patients during heavy bouts of training, their blood pressure and resting heart rate were significantly lower the following morning.4


Bone Health

As you age, you are at risk of losing both bone and muscle mass. Postmenopausal women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis because the body no longer secretes estrogen. Resistance training is an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, and it decreases the risk of osteoporosis.

All of us want to feel strong, determined, and confident in everything we do.

A study conducted at McMaster University found that after a year of resistance training, postmenopausal women increased spinal bone mass by 9 percent.5 The earlier you begin weightlifting, the greater chance you have to maintain bone health later in life.


Stress Relief

Exercise in general is a great way to manage stress. Researchers have consistently found that those who regularly strength train tend to manage stress better and experience fewer adverse reactions to stressful situations as those who do not exercise.6

In addition, resistance-training studies on older adults show that moderate intensity weightlifting improves memory and cognitive function. Next time you need to blow off some steam, hit the weights.

Ladies, Lift!

All of us want to feel strong, determined, and confident in everything we do: from fitting into jeans, to moving heavy furniture, to playing with kids, to dealing with a stressful career.

Resistance training can benefit in all aspects of your life.  Put it in your fitness plan and feel stronger, healthier, and more confident!

  1. Roveda, Eliana, et. Al. Effects of endurance and strength acute exercise on night sleep quality.” International SportMed Journal. 2011; 12(3): 113-124.
  2. Kirk, Erik P., et. Al. Minimal resistance training improves daily energy expenditure and fat oxidation” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 41(5): 1122-1129.
  3. Magyari PM, Churilla JR. Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov; 26(11): 3113-7.
  4. Cardoso, Crivaldo Gomes, et. Al. “Acute and chronic effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on ambulatory blood pressure.” Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010; 65(3):317-325.
  5. Muir JM, Ye C, Bhandari M, Adachi JD, Thabane L. The effect of regular physical activity on bone mineral density in post-menopausal women aged 75 and over: a retrospective analysis from the Canadian multicentre osteoporosis study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Aug 23; 14: 253.
  6. Stone M, Stone Meg, Sands W. Psychological Aspects of Resistance Training.  In: Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2009. p. 229-241.


A Weight Training Routine for Diabetes

Weight training  has been shown to improve the health of people with type 2 diabetes, especially when part of an overall fitness plan.


Diabetes and Exercise: The Benefits of Strength Training

Studies have found that strength training can help people with diabetes by improving the body’s ability to use insulin and process glucose. This occurs because:

  • You experience an increase in lean muscle mass, which boosts your base metabolic rate and causes you to burn calories at a faster rate. Burning those calories helps keep your blood glucose levels in check.
  • The ability of your muscles to store glucose increases with your strength, making your body better able to regulate its blood sugar levels.
  • Your body fat-to-muscle ratio decreases, reducing the amount of insulin you need in your body to help store energy in fat cells.

Even better results have been observed when people with type 2 diabetes combine a weight training routine with regular aerobic exercise. The two forms of exercise work together to create better health benefits than either does on its own.

Diabetes and Exercise: Protection Against Complications

Strength training also can help guard against some complications of diabetes by:

  • Reducing your risk of heart disease
  • Helping control blood pressure
  • Increasing your levels of good cholesterol while reducing bad cholesterol levels
  • Improving bone density
  • Preventing atrophy and loss of muscle mass due to age

Diabetes and Exercise: Starting a Weight Training Routine

A weight-training routine involves performing movements that work specific muscle groups in the body. A strength-training workout is broken down into exercises, reps, and sets:

  • The exercise is the specific movement that works a muscle group; for example, a bicep curl or a chest press.
  • A rep, or repetition, is one completed motion; for example, one rep of a bicep curl is lowering the dumbbell and then raising it to the starting position.
  • A set is the number of reps performed together; sets are separated by a short rest period.

The American Diabetes Association’s guidelines for a weight-training routine call for:

  • Strength training two or three days every week, with at least one day off between sessions (to allow muscles to rest and rebuild)
  • At least 8 to 10 weight exercises per session to work all the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body
  • Exercises of low or moderate intensity. Low intensity involves two or three sets of 15 reps with lighter weights. Moderate intensity involves two or three sets of 8 to 12 reps with heavier weights. There should be 2 to 3 minutes of rest between sets.
  • A workout time of 20 to 60 minutes per weight-training session

Diabetes and Exercise: Practice Common Sense

To ensure good results and prevent injuries, follow these common-sense rules:

  • Get your doctor’s clearance. As with any exercise program, you should check with your doctor before starting a weight-training regimen.
  • Focus on your form. Always observe proper posture. Be sure to perform each exercise exactly as required, even if it means you need to use less weight.
  • Breathe. Exhale while lifting the weight and inhale while lowering it.
  • Allow for variety. Every now and then change the exercises in your workout or alter the number of sets or reps you are doing. Your body adapts to exercise, and your progress can plateau if you don’t keep your body guessing.
  • Ask for help. If you need some guidance, consider working with a trainer or joining a weight-training class at your local gym or YMCA.

Always give yourself time to recuperate. Don’t work out using a muscle or joint that feels painful. In other words, don’t overdo it.

TELL US: Has exercise helped you manage diabetes? Share your story in the comments below. (Note: Mobile users won’t be able to comment.)

For more diabetes news, follow @diabetesfacts on Twitter from the editors of @EverydayHealth.

          Last Updated: 10/05/2012


A Heart-Healthy Diet: Eat the Right Fats

For a heart-healthy diet, you need to be aware of what kinds of fats are good and bad for you. Trans and saturated fats are what you need to avoid.

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH


Years ago, we were told that the best way to lower cholesterol and protect the heart was to cut out fat altogether. But now we know that certain types of fats, called unsaturated fats, actually increase HDL cholesterol levels — the good cholesterol that has a protective effect on the heart. What we need less of are saturated fats and trans fats — think doughnuts, French fries, and T-bone steaks.

The Difference Between HDL and LDL Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol is called “bad” cholesterol because this type of cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease. LDL cholesterol can build up inside your arteries, mixing with other substances to form a tough, rigid lining called plaque. This plaque makes the artery narrow inside, meaning that less blood can flow through to your heart, in turn putting you at increased risk for heart attacks.

“A diet high in saturated and trans fats elevates the LDL cholesterol,” says Lisa R. Young, PhD, dietitian and adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. A heart-healthy diet avoids fats that promote LDL cholesterol, but includes HDL cholesterol-boosting fats.

High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol has the opposite effect of LDL cholesterol. “HDL cholesterol is like Drano,” explains Young. “It unclogs the system.” Instead of sticking to the artery walls, HDL cholesterol moves through the bloodstream to the liver, where it can be broken down and cleared out.

“For the good fats to include in your diet, look at the Mediterranean diet,” says Young. “Aim for a diet that is higher in canola and olive oil.” These types of monounsaturated fats, along with other plant-based oils, help keep your HDL cholesterol levels high.

Nix the Trans Fats and Saturated Fats

These are the two types of fat to avoid. Saturated fats come from animal sources like meat and dairy. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated fats that, like saturated fats, are really more solid at room temperature, Young says. “They act more like saturated fat.” Trans fats, typically found in processed foods, increase your LDL cholesterol without offering you anything in return.

“Trans fats tend to be worse than saturated fat because they’re usually in foods with no nutritional value. Saturated fats are in milk or meat, so at least you get protein, iron, and calcium,” says Young. Of course, to get these benefits of meat and dairy without the fat, choose the leanest cuts of beef and fat-free milk and yogurt.

Heart-Healthy Diet: Other HDL Cholesterol Boosters

Alcohol in moderation can keep your HDL elevated, but Young cautions not to let yourself get carried away by that welcome news: “Nobody ever got heart disease from a deprivation of alcohol,” she says.

Another booster is exercise. One study found that 120 minutes of exercise per week was enough to increase levels of HDL cholesterol, and that each additional 10 minutes increased levels further.

Dark chocolate was also found to have positive effects on HDL cholesterol levels, but again, moderation is key.

Heart-Healthy Diet: The Butter or Margarine Debate

Butter is high in saturated fat while many brands of margarine are full of trans fat. Both will increase the harmful LDL cholesterol. Young says peanut butter is a better idea. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, she suggests picking “whichever you like better, but try to eat less of it. At the end of the day, it’s a quantity issue.”



Getting Fit:The Role of Diet

What you eat affects your workout. Follow these nutrition guidelines to get your diet and exercise habits in sync.

Are you working hard at the gym but it just doesn’t seem to be enough — the weight isn’t dropping off, your physique isn’t improving, or you’re still feeling sluggish and unmotivated? Before overhauling your routine — or giving up — take a look at your diet. Your body is a complex machine that requires the right fuel — a healthy diet — to power through your workouts so you can achieve your fitness goals.

The role of diet

Diet and Exercise: Getting in Sync


To get the most from your workouts, you need to consider how fitness and nutrition work together. Deciding what you want to accomplish with your fitness plan will will allow you to formulate the best diet.


“The first thing I recommend is figuring out your goals,” says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, LD, a nutritionist and the owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Ky. “Do you want to lose weight or get healthier and more fit? For weight loss, you need to make sure you’re eating the right number of calories to match your workout schedule.” It’s simply a matter of calories in versus calories out: To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.


Diet and Exercise: Foods to Fuel Your Body


You can’t expect to make it through an intense workout without energy. Food provides energy through calories — but not all calories are equal. “You have to put good fuel in your body to make it work efficiently,” says Meyerowitz. Calories from fast-food cheeseburgers and greasy fries won’t help your body perform at its best. “Eating well is even more important when you work out regularly,” Meyerowitz adds. An active body needs nutritious calories to function properly.


A fitness diet ideally follows many of the same nutrition guidelines as any healthy diet plan. You need a balanced combination of nutrients — both carbohydrates and proteins — to power your workouts and achieve your weight-management goals. “What many people don’t realize is that your body uses carbohydrates as its first source of energy,” notes Meyerowitz. An all-protein diet will not complement a heavy workout schedule. Fifty-five to 60 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates and about 15 percent from protein. Remember that carbohydrates include many foods besides pasta and bread. Dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and quinoa are all carbs too.


Diet and Exercise: Pre- and Post-Workout Meals


Going to the gym doesn’t give you free rein to eat and drink whatever you want. And although a consistently healthy diet is important generally for the maintenance of an active lifestyle, what you eat immediately before and after a workout determines whether you’ll meet your goals for that exercise session.


Prepare your body for exercise with a healthy snack. It should provide an energy boost without adding too many calories.


Consider these choices:

  • A cup of yogurt and a piece of fruit
  • A whole-grain English muffin with a little peanut butter
  • An apple and a piece of low-fat cheese
  • A handful of unsalted nuts such as almonds or walnuts and a piece of fruit


You can try these and other healthy snacks to figure out what helps your body function at its highest level, says Meyerowitz. Though there isn’t one miracle food that can be recommended for everyone, no one should depend on junk food to fuel a workout. “These foods do not provide you with energy,” says Meyerowitz. Besides, heavy, greasy, and sugary foods require a long time to digest and can make you uncomfortable during exercise.


When choosing a snack, you should also consider calories. A snack with 150 to 200 calories should be enough to get you through a workout. If you exercise just before lunch or dinner, however, skip the snack and wait until your meal.


And don’t forget: What you eat after your workout is just as important. A great post-workout dinner choice could be a small portion of whole-grain pasta with a side salad, suggests Meyerowitz. Whatever you choose, aim for a balance of carbohydrates and protein, just as you did before exercising.


Apart from these nutrients, it’s also necessary to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration. This is especially true if you sweat a lot during exercise.


Paying attention to your eating habits and to the ways food affects your body will help you design a diet to fit your goals and fitness routine.


Nutritious foods will give you energy to work out and help you feel better before, during, and after exercise


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