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Assess your Health and Lifestyle - Look at your Lifestyle

DK Publishing logoDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Stepping up activity - Exercise is essential for health and well-being, so try to incorporate regular activity into your daily routine. © Provided by DKBooks Stepping up activity - Exercise is essential for health and well-being, so try to incorporate regular activity into your daily routine.

Water of life - To help you get into the habit of drinking more water, carry a bottle with you or have one on your desk at work.

Photo: Regular meals - Eating three well-balanced meals every day gives your body a steady supply of vital nutrients. © Provided by DKBooks Regular meals - Eating three well-balanced meals every day gives your body a steady supply of vital nutrients.

Stepping up activity - Exercise is essential for health and well-being, so try to incorporate regular activity into your daily routine.

Photo: Essential nutrients - Always offer children fruit or raw vegetables as snacks to develop good habits from the start. © Provided by DKBooks Essential nutrients - Always offer children fruit or raw vegetables as snacks to develop good habits from the start.

Regular exercise - Whether you visit the gym, go swimming, or have a daily stroll, regular exercise is essential for good health.

Photo: Healthy choice - Quickly grilled with just a brush of oil and a splash of lemon juice, salmon steaks are an excellent source of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids. © Provided by DKBooks Healthy choice - Quickly grilled with just a brush of oil and a splash of lemon juice, salmon steaks are an excellent source of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Essential nutrients - Always offer children fruit or raw vegetables as snacks to develop good habits from the start.

Photo: Asian-style chicken - Unhealthy saturated fat is kept to a minimum in this appealing dish of lightly steamed white-meat chicken and vegetables, served with plain, steamed rice. © Provided by DKBooks Asian-style chicken - Unhealthy saturated fat is kept to a minimum in this appealing dish of lightly steamed white-meat chicken and vegetables, served with plain, steamed rice.

Asian-style chicken - Unhealthy saturated fat is kept to a minimum in this appealing dish of lightly steamed white-meat chicken and vegetables, served with plain, steamed rice.

Photo: Beneficial oils - Monounsaturated fats, which are found in abundance in canola and olive oil, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease when they are eaten as part of a healthy diet. © Provided by DKBooks Beneficial oils - Monounsaturated fats, which are found in abundance in canola and olive oil, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease when they are eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Healthy choice - Quickly grilled with just a brush of oil and a splash of lemon juice, salmon steaks are an excellent source of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Photo: Water of life - To help you get into the habit of drinking more water, carry a bottle with you or have one on your desk at work. © Provided by DKBooks Water of life - To help you get into the habit of drinking more water, carry a bottle with you or have one on your desk at work.

Beneficial oils - Monounsaturated fats, which are found in abundance in canola and olive oil, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease when they are eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Photo: Starting young - Walking is a healthy, cost-free activity that everyone can enjoy, so get children into the habit from an early age. © Provided by DKBooks Starting young - Walking is a healthy, cost-free activity that everyone can enjoy, so get children into the habit from an early age.

Regular meals - Eating three well-balanced meals every day gives your body a steady supply of vital nutrients.

Photo: Regular exercise - Whether you visit the gym, go swimming, or have a daily stroll, regular exercise is essential for good health. © Provided by DKBooks Regular exercise - Whether you visit the gym, go swimming, or have a daily stroll, regular exercise is essential for good health.

Starting young - Walking is a healthy, cost-free activity that everyone can enjoy, so get children into the habit from an early age.

Look at your Lifestyle

Take the first move toward optimizing your health.

Our aim in this guide is to explain the link between what you eat and how you feel, whatever your lifestyle or dietary habits. We will also suggest ways of achieving optimum health and well-being for yourself and your family.

As a first step, we invite you to consider some simple questions about your diet and other lifestyle factors. First, we examine every aspect of your eating habits, including how many times a day you eat, as well as what and how much you eat.

Then we look at other aspects of your lifestyle. For example, how active are you? Do you take part in any sports or exercise programs or do you get plenty of exercise walking the children to and from school or in your daily work? Finally, we look at any other factors that could affect your nutritional health, such as your use of alcohol and tobacco.


Assess your status

Once you have considered these questions, complete the quiz on How healthy is your lifestyle?. Your score will identify what you are doing right as well as pinpoint any areas where changes could be made.


The optimum number of meals a day

Do you eat three meals a day? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone’s biological clock is different, and we all have different demands on our schedules. However, your body and mind need a steady supply of energy and nutrients throughout the day, so eating three balanced meals is the optimum way to achieve a healthy diet.

Studies show that people who eat less frequently than three times a day are more likely, when they do sit down to eat or have a snack, to indulge in foods that are higher in fat and calories. If you prefer to have just two meals a day, be sure that one of those is breakfast, and avoid eating big meals late at night. Children in particular need regular meals and snacks throughout the day.


Don’t skip breakfast

Breakfast is an important meal. It breaks the long overnight fast, helping you wake up and get going; it stops you from feeling hungry later; and it helps you be more alert at school or work. If you eat before you leave home, you’ll be less likely to grab a high-fat snack on the way to work.

For a quick and healthy breakfast, have a bowl of fortified cereal with fresh or dried fruit and low-fat or fat-free regular milk or soymilk.

If you have time, make an omelet with two egg whites and one egg yolk. Serve with whole-wheat toast and low-sugar jam.

Try whole-wheat or oat-bran waffles with low-sugar syrup. These waffles are low in fat and calories and contain some fiber.

If you must eat on the run, grab a piece of fresh fruit, such as a banana or apple, some nuts and seeds, or a low-fat yogurt.


Snacking

Some people can get by on just three meals a day but, for most, snacking is a regular and enjoyable part of their daily routine. If you do snack, the key issues are what you snack on, and why you do it. Are you really hungry, eating out of habit, or just craving food?

If you really are hungry, then eat a healthy snack, rather than wait for the next mealtime. This will prevent you from becoming over-hungry, which in turn reduces the temptation to eat a nutrient-poor convenience food. A good choice for a snack includes fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, low-fat yogurt, rice cakes with peanut butter, and nuts and seeds. Stock up on healthy snacks for home, travel, and work so that you always have what you need to hand.

Snacks are particularly important for children, who are unlikely to eat enough to meet their nutritional requirements at three meals a day as they have small stomachs. Regular healthy snacks are important for maintaining energy levels.

Many popular snacks, such as chips, candy bars, and cookies, contain high levels of sugar, fat, and salt, with little nutritional value, and should be once in a while rather than an everyday habit.

The key to regulating your dietary intake is to eat only when you are hungry and to stop when you are full. When you have the urge to snack, try to decide whether you really are hungry. Are you thirsty? Have a glass of water, and see if you still need food.

Think about what is triggering your urge to eat—is it boredom or was it brought on by something you saw? Try to pinpoint exactly what it is that you are craving—and satisfy it. For example, if you want chocolate, have just one piece—and enjoy it.


Hunger and cravings

When it comes to snacking, it is important to distinguish between real hunger and cravings.


Hunger

This is a physiological response by which the body alerts the brain that nourishment is needed. If hungry, you may experience stomach discomfort or intestinal rumbling.


Appetite

This is an instinctive, physical desire to eat that occurs when you are hungry. It can be stimulated by outside influences.


Cravings

This is a psychological state affected by outside influences, such as the sight or smell of food, and by emotions, habits, moods, and imagination, rather than by hunger.


Eating fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should form the basis of every diet. Every meal should contain them, and they should be your first choice for snacks.

Vegetarians will already be reaping the benefits of these nutritious foods, but many people are not eating enough. Fruits and vegetables are fat-free, low in sodium, and provide essential nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and folate, fiber, and phytochemicals. Evidence shows that eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day may help prevent the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the risk of cardiovascular disease is reduced in people who eat more than three servings of vegetables and fruits a day. There is also mounting evidence that eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily halves the risk of developing cancer of the digestive and respiratory tracts. In addition, eating plenty of vegetables can help with weight control as they are high in fiber, which creates a feeling of fullness.

The American Heart Association, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society all recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Meeting the five-a-day target is not difficult, yet few North Americans currently do so. You may be unsure what a serving comprises. The following examples will give you an idea:

If you have cereal topped with a banana for breakfast, a small bag of carrots as a snack, and a side dish of green beans and a salad with dinner, you will easily be getting what you need.

1 medium-sized fruit, such as a banana, apple, or peach

6floz (180ml) fruit or vegetable juice

1 cup cooked vegetables.


Dairy products and calcium

Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are a prime source of calcium and are also fortified with vitamin D. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, but it is also the one most likely to be inadequately supplied in the diet. Most North Americans do not consume enough calcium, with older adults and teenagers particularly at risk for low intake.


Healthy bones and teeth

Calcium is essential for the normal growth and maintenance of bones and teeth, and calcium requirements must be met throughout life. Requirements are greatest during periods of growth, such as childhood, during pregnancy, and when breast-feeding. Long-term calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, in which the bone deteriorates and there is an increased risk of fractures . You can meet your calcium needs by eating or drinking at least three or four servings of dairy products daily.

Some dairy products, such as hard cheese and whole milk, do contain a significant amount of saturated fat, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, you should choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products that will meet your calcium requirements.

Cheese is the most common source of saturated fat in the North American diet. If you cannot imagine giving it up, try substituting a low-fat variety made with part-skim milk, such as mozzarella, ricotta, cottage, or farmer’s cheese.


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Saturated fats

Mainly of animal origin, these fats have chemical bonds “saturated” with hydrogen. A diet high in these fats is linked to raised blood cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease.


Unsaturated fats

With chemical bonds not fully “saturated” with hydrogen, unsaturated fats occur mainly in vegetable and fish oils. Monounsaturated fats occur in olive, canola, and sesame oil and help protect against cardiovascular disease. Polyunsaturated fats, found in sunflower, corn, peanut, soy, and fish oils, are needed for growth, cell structure, and a healthy immune system .


Fish and shellfish are healthy choices

These are both excellent sources of protein, which is a particularly important nutrient , and minerals . Since fish and shellfish are also low in saturated fat, they offer a nutritious, healthy alternative to meat and poultry, and should be included at least once a week in a healthy diet. Many types of oily fish, including tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, swordfish, and trout, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to confer health benefits. For example, they may improve your mood, reduce depression, and reduce inflammation in the joints and arteries. Research does show that eating such fish may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing blood pressure and also the levels of triglycerides in the blood.


At least once a week

The message is clear: if you are not already doing so, eat fish and shellfish at least once a week. When you go out to eat, order fish instead of meat for your entrée. For the greatest benefit, you should choose fish that is grilled or broiled (without butter) rather than breaded and fried, since the latter cooking method adds unhealthy saturated fat to the meal .


Benefits of turkey and chicken

In addition to being excellent sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals, white-meat turkey and chicken are lower in both total and saturated fat than red meat and should be substituted for red meat wherever possible.

However, the fat and calorie content of both turkey and chicken increase significantly when the skin or dark meat (wings and legs) is eaten. Fat content is also higher in poultry products such as turkey hot dogs or ground turkey. For example, turkey or chicken hot dogs contain around 70 percent fat, but this is still a lower fat content than a regular beef hot dog, which contains about 80 percent fat.

If you really enjoy hot dogs, try tofu and soy varieties, which are excellent alternatives to meat hot dogs.


Eating red meat

Red meat includes beef, lamb, veal, and pork, and is a major source of protein. However, it is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

People who eat red meat daily have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than those who eat it less often. This is probably related to the saturated fat and cholesterol content. A high intake may also increase your risk of colon cancer. Studies have shown that people who replace red meat with chicken and fish have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Nutritionists now encourage you to eat more fish, healthy fats, and whole grains instead of red meat, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates .

However, meat is an important source of protein, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. If you really like red meat, make a point of choosing lean cuts, such as pork loin or filet mignon, and eat them only occasionally rather than every day. In addition, trim off excess fat and use low-fat cooking methods.


Using fats and oils

Fats are found not only in foods, but are also added during preparation, cooking, and serving. They are essential to your health, but one of the most interesting nutritional discoveries of the past decade has been that not all fats have the same effect on your health.

Saturated fats, such as butter, lard, and drippings, have been identified as having the potential to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because they raise the levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream. However, we now know that other fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in plant-based oils and fish, are healthy and may protect against disease .

As a first step in modifying your diet, substitute olive or canola oil for animal fats in your cooking . Bear in mind that whichever oil you choose, fat is a concentrated source of energy, providing 100 calories per tablespoon, and should be used in moderation.


Drinking water

Water is an essential part of the diet. Humans are able to survive for several weeks without food, but for only a few days without water. Since the body has no means of storing water, you need a constant supply to replenish the fluid that is lost through sweating and urination. This means that you need to drink at least six to eight glasses of water every day, and more when it is hot or when playing sports or taking exercise. Do not wait until you are thirsty, since thirst may indicate that you are already lacking the water you need .


Limit sodas and juice

North Americans drink an average of 50 gallons (200 liters) of soda and 8 gallons (32 liters) of uncarbonated fruit drinks per person each year. Soda, sweetened iced tea, lemonade, sports drinks, fruitade, and fruit juices, while providing fluids, also contribute a large amount of calories and sugars to the diet. The huge increase in soda and juice consumption over the past 30 years is a major factor in the increased number of overweight children.


Making changes

You can save hundreds of calories each day by paying attention to what you drink during the day, and by trying to substitute plain or sparkling water or other low-calorie beverages for drinks with a high sugar content. If you make only one dietary change after reading this guide, this may be the most realistic and the most effective one that anyone can do. If you currently drink soft drinks with lunch and dinner and soda with snacks, wean yourself gradually by substituting water with one meal for about a week then slowly, over time, introduce more water or diet beverages. Try to introduce a glass of fat-free milk with snacks for a boost to your fluid levels and calcium intake.

We are urged from all sides to drink six to eight glasses of water a day for better health. For many years, it was believed that caffeinated beverages did not count toward this fluid intake because of their dehydrating effect. However, a recent study found no evidence to substantiate this belief, so beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks, which consist mainly of water, do count toward your daily fluid needs.

Adequate fluid intake is vital for everyone, but especially for the elderly, who are prone to dehydration because of a decline in their thirst sensation.


Eating away from home

The number of meals eaten away from home in North America continues to rise. According to recent research, this trend is most likely due to the increase in the number of two-career families, who have very little time for shopping, preparing, and cooking meals at home during the week.

It may be that you have to eat away from home on a regular basis because of your work schedule, lifestyle, or family life but, if you are aware of the pitfalls, you can still make healthy choices. For example, you could choose a grilled-chicken sandwich instead of a cheese-topped burger, and order small portions or share larger ones. Instead of having french fries, choose a side salad, which is nutritious and low in fat.

Restaurant meals usually contain more fat and therefore more calories than food prepared at home. Since portions in restaurants are also considerably larger than those served at home, it is a good idea to share an entrée when eating out, or to eat only part and take the rest home with you. Try to control portion sizes by not feeling obliged to eat everything on your plate, and stop eating when you feel full.

Fast-food restaurants and pizza parlors are the most frequent sources of food consumed away from home. Beware of the “super-sized” portions and special-value meals that are often offered at such establishments—for example, double cheeseburger, extra large fries, and a large soda. Deals such as this are marketed together to seem like a bargain, and therefore offer a financial incentive to consume more food than you would otherwise have purchased or eaten.

Wherever possible, select grilled, poached, baked, or broiled entrées, rather than fried, which are high in calories and saturated fat content. Order sauces and salad dressings on the side—or, if you can, avoid them altogether—and choose fruit or sherbet for dessert, or better still, skip it.


Maintaining an active lifestyle

Your level of activity depends on your lifestyle and how you regularly spend your days. For example, if your work involves standing or moving around for most of the day, or lifting, moving, and carrying heavy objects, then you have an active lifestyle. If you have young children, you may be walking a long distance daily, taking them to and from school. Alternatively, you may expend a great deal of energy on the physical aspects of caring for babies and toddlers. Domestic and leisure pursuits may also involve you in a high level of physical activity—for example, you may regularly spend time doing housework, gardening, or carrying out home maintenance and repair work.

On the other hand, your lifestyle may be predominantly sedentary: you may drive to work, sit at a desk all day, then come home and watch television or work on a computer in the evenings.


Health benefits

Keeping active will help you stay healthy and feel good. Health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a state of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. On a physical level, your health reflects how well your body functions in terms of allowing you to carry out your daily activities. But it is also a reflection of your state of mind. No matter how physically fit you are, if you do not feel good about yourself, then you are not healthy.

It is important to be as active as possible, incorporating activities into your life that keep you moving in an enjoyable and rewarding way. This is particularly important if you have a sedentary job, such as sitting at a computer for eight hours a day.


Inactive children

Children are born with a desire to be active; toddlers love to run around, climb, and explore, and this energy and love of exercise should be continued into later life. It is important for long-term health that parents encourage their children to be active, and provide the opportunity for children to fulfill this need.

Most North American children today are less active than those in previous generations. This coincides with an increase in the number of overweight children in North America . Decreased opportunities for exercise, and increased interest in sedentary activities for children of all ages, especially teenagers, have led to an increase in weight problems.

Overweight children are at risk for many of the same problems as overweight adults , and statistics show that these problems continue into adult life. Leading an active life as a family can help your child attain long-term good health.


TV and weight gain

It is well documented that the more television you watch, the more likely you are to be overweight, with all the negative implications for health that this involves.

Excessive television watching and computer use has been linked to the increase in numbers of overweight children and adolescents in North America. It is now recommended that television and video viewing and the use of computers for children should be limited to two hours per day. Therefore, it is advisable that you limit the time you and your family spend watching television or using the computer, and find more active ways of using your leisure time.

You can also try to be more active while you watch the television. For example, you could buy an exercise bike or a treadmill and use it while you view. If that sounds a little too strenuous, you could do the ironing, do light cleaning, or lift light weights as you sit on the sofa.


Health and exercise

Recent figures indicate that 70 percent of North American adults do not get enough exercise. The combination of more sedentary behaviors and increased caloric intake is believed to be the major reason for the current epidemic of obesity in North America.

Regular physical exercise provides many health benefits. It reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, helps with weight control, improves flexibility, reduces stress, and improves your overall quality of life. Many studies state that brisk walking for 30 minutes each day can reduce the risk of developing both cardiovascular disease and diabetes by at least 30 percent. Even if you do not want to take up a new exercise program, you can improve your level of physical activity by making simple modifications in your daily life. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car farther away than usual from your destination, and take a walk after dinner.


Drinking alcohol

Alcohol has very little nutritional value, and excess consumption can lead to a number of medical problems, including certain vitamin deficiencies. Alcohol also adds a significant amount of empty calories to the diet, with consequent weight gain. Beer and ale are particularly high in calories, as are cordials and liqueurs.

However, moderate drinkers have lower rates of cardiovascular disease than either abstainers or excessive drinkers. Drinking alcohol in moderation may even offset some of the harmful effects of a high-fat diet. This is exemplified by the French, who tend to eat a diet that is moderately high in saturated fat, but suffer less cardiovascular disease than would be expected. This “French paradox” may be due to the antioxidants in red wine, which may protect against the harmful effects of saturated fats.


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Antioxidants

These are substances that help neutralize the damaging effect on cells and tissues of by-products known as free radicals. Sources of antioxidants available from the diet include vitamins A, C, and E and the minerals copper, selenium, and zinc.


Smoking

Quitting smoking is the best lifestyle change you can ever make. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and many cancers; passive smoking—inhaling “secondhand” smoke—can cause pneumonia and asthma; and pregnant smokers put their babies at risk of prematurity, low birth weight, and even fetal death.

Within months of cutting down on the amount you smoke, your health will improve. Many smokers are concerned about gaining weight if they quit, but from a health standpoint, smoking is much more risky than carrying a few extra pounds in weight.

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