How to get in shape and stay that way in 2014

How to get in shape and stay that way in 2014.  This was the title of a story in a major Toronto newspaper. Quite rightly the approach was to stagger results over the first six months of the year rather than attempt instantaneous results. The recipe for success included the right exercise, a mind body connection including yoga and meditation and, of course, the right diet.

It was the right diet that surprised me the most because it covered material that I have always taken for granted. For February, it included the advice to add one serving of fruit or vegetables per day. One serving of fruit or vegetables? This begged the question of what are people eating if they are not consuming multiple times that quantity? Even the Canada Food Guide recommends for anyone age 19 to 50 a minimum of 7 to 8 servings per day for females and 8 to 10 servings for males.

In another part of the story was the recommendation that three meals per week should be cooked at home. Only three meals per week? Where are people eating out? Fast food establishments or fine dining? No wonder that there is an epidemic of attendant problems that that brings including obesity, ulcers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancers and osteoporosis. This is not to mention the extra cost of eating away from home.

Eating at home is beneficial for many reasons. If you are the person cooking you can have control of the ingredients used for food preparation. Therefore you can control sodium, sugar and fat content as well as portion size. You need not eat foods that have been excessively processed. With careful shopping, you can take advantage of specials as well as check lists of ingredients. The wisdom is that half your plate size should be for fresh fruit and vegetables, a quarter for whole grains or starch vegetables, such as corn and beans, and a quarter of the plate size for lean protein. In this short blog I am not getting into the theory or practice of food combining.

Eating at home has other important benefits. Home cooked meals are a chance for family to be together and share the day’s activities. There are important statistics that SAT scores for college entry are higher for the children of families that eat together, as well as building closer relationships between family members.

Slightly distressing for me was seeing the instructions on a microwave for the cooking of Kids menu items that included only Chicken nuggets, Mac and Cheese or Hot Dog. Are the microwave manufacturing companies condoning poor eating habits or are they just following a trend? Where are the green leafy vegetables, whole grain cereals, or other items of nutritional benefit? I am not sure whether the instructions on these items was for “latchkey” kids or frazzled parents with neither the skills nor desire to prepare proper food.

In any good diet, the consumption of “empty” calories should be limited or eliminated. These include “beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt such as cakes and pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies and granola bars, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, french fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, alcohol, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks and sweetened hot or cold drinks.” (Canada Food Guide)

I will admit that the tone of the article in the Toronto paper is to encourage people to take control of their health and that involves initially taking baby steps towards a path of improved health.