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Tips to Lose Weight and Improve Your Health


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Weight Loss Tips

Dietetic Intern Gayle Larsen discusses the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans with Veteran Rodney Darden. To meet with dietitian, call the Nutrition Office at 713-791-1414, ext. 4295/3976/6166.

By Gayle Larsen, MEDVAMC Dietetic Intern
Friday, July 1, 2011

New Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) were released recently by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The guidelines are the government’s nutrition advice to promote health and help reduce the risk of diseases and rates of obesity.

Since 1980, the new DGA have been released every five years and are based on the latest scientific research. The guidelines are used for many programs; for example, “Meals on Wheels,” school meals, and nutrition education.

In the United States, 72 percent of men and 64 percent of women are overweight or obese. Thus, the 2010 DGA focused on decreasing calories and increasing exercise. The Secretary of Agriculture said the obesity rates are “a crisis that we can no longer ignore.”

Most Americans need to lose weight so they can reduce the risk of developing diet-related diseases. A healthy diet can reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers.

The new guidelines focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

Many Americans do not eat the variety of foods that will provide all needed nutrients while staying within calorie needs. Several key nutrients – potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D – are of public health concern for both adults and children.

Some tips to help consumers translate the Dietary Guidelines into their everyday lives include enjoy your food, but eat less; avoid oversized portions; make half your plate fruits and vegetables; switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk; compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers; and drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Try using smaller, salad-size plates; ordering an appetizer and a salad instead of an entree; cooking at home, where you are apt to stick with more reasonable portions; and wrapping up leftovers right after you serve yourself so you cannot go back for seconds.

Start with small steps and build physical activity into your day. Park farther away from the store, use the stairs instead of the elevator, vacuum a room, or walk in the park or around the mall. You can also make it fun with music, dance, videos, or a Wii.

The new guidelines are a great place to start if your goal is a healthier you. For more information, visit this website: