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Most of us have not given any real thought about what we’ve been eating during the last few months. Now is a good time to get back on track with our nutritional needs. For someone who has been eating poorly for a long time it may take several months and a lot of patience to achieve a nutritional turn around. But, if you’re serious, you should do it one meal at a time. Approximately 47.8% of African-Americans are obese compared to 32.6% of Whites. In African-American children ages 2 to 19, 35.1% are overweight. We need to change our diets to change these numbers. Being over weight affected AfricanAmericans ability to survive COVID-19.

The body needs carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water to be healthy. Without proper nutrition and exercise, optimal health cannot be attained. Carbohydrates, fats and protein supply energy (calories) necessary for work and normal body functions. Vitamins, minerals, fiber and water do not have caloric value but are still necessary for normal body functions.

Carbohydrates provide energy for work. There are a few types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates such as candy, soda pop, cakes and corn chips can rob the body of nutrients. They are commonly referred to as empty calories. Other carbohydrates such as air popped popcorn, whole grain breads, whole grain cereal, whole grain pasta, fruits and vegetables provide many valuable nutrients. Many are an excellent source of fiber. You should choose complex nutritious carbohydrates.

Fats or lipids also provide energy. Fats supply essential fatty acids and transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dairy products such as milk and cheese are basic sources of fat. So are meats and nuts. The low fat varieties are the best choices when adding these foods to your diet. Saturated fats and hydrogenated fats should be avoided. These fats are solid at room temperature. Monosaturated fats are preferred over polyunsaturated fats. Monosaturated fats are found in olive oil and canola oil.

Proteins are the main substances used to build and repair tissues such as muscles, blood, internal organs, skin, hair, nails and bones. They are part of hormones, enzymes and antibodies. Protein helps maintain normal body fluid balance. Proteins may also be used as an energy source but only if there are not enough carbohydrates and fats available. This usually happens when the body is being starved. Primary sources of protein are meats, dairy products such as low-fat milk and cheese, nuts, beans, soy products, some whole grain breads and cereals.

The average American consumes 40% fat 30% carbohydrates and 30% proteins daily. The average diet should consist of 15% fat, 20% protein and 65% complex carbohydrates. Saturated fats should make up less than 10% of your total fat intake.

The best way to change poor eating habits is to do it one meal at a time. Give yourself a week to 10 days for each meal change. Since breakfast is the first meal of the day, start there. Instead of doughnuts, coffee and snack foods on the run have a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of juice to start your day. Have a glass of juice and one or two pieces of fruit when you get up. After a shower and getting dressed have something more substantial like a bowl of whole grain cereal such as oatmeal or wheat flakes. Vanilla flavored soy drink is a good substitute drink to pour on cereal especially if you have a problem with milk. Whole grain wheat or corn muffins and whole grain pancakes are also good breakfast foods. Whole grain means 100% wheat, corn or rice products. These can be found in health food stores or in the health food section of your supermarket.

Give yourself a week to ten days to change breakfast then move onto lunch. By lunchtime your body will need a protein such as baked or broiled chicken or fish, beans, egg whites or tuna. If you eat red meat limit your intake to once or twice a week and have only lean cuts of beef. You’ll also need to have one or two servings of green vegetables. One serving equals about half a cup. Romaine lettuce salads, steamed broccoli, string beans, cabbage, collard greens and kale are all excellent choices.

Later in the afternoon have a carbohydrate food like whole grain bread, a baked potato or air popped popcorn. This will replace that late afternoon bag of chips or candy bar.

Change your dinner meal in a few more weeks. You can even make dinner two small meals. Have some protein and a vegetable for your first small dinner meal. Later have a light meal of brown rice pilaf or pasta with a vegetable on the side.

The key to eating right is planning. Write it down. You should know what you are going to eat everyday. Plan your meals and use fresh foods. Even foods stored in the refrigerator can lose nutrients. Fruits and vegetables can lose half their vitamin C after two to three days in the refrigerator. They can lose nutrients even quicker at room temperature. If you can’t buy your fruits and vegetables fresh buy frozen foods. Frozen foods retain most of their nutrients. Purchase refrigerated or frozen items after selecting your nonperishables. Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food. If you’re freezing meat and poultry in their original package, wrap the package again with plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer. Meat and poultry defrosted in your refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If you thawed your meat by other methods cook before refreezing. High acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple can be stored unopened on the shelf for 12 to 18 months. Low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables will keep 2 to 5 years if they are unopened. Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted.

When you get your food home remember heat, light and exposure to air and water can destroy some of your food’s nutrients. Good storage will help you keep your foods fresher and help to maintain their nutrients.

You should eat breakfast and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can get your metabolism going for the whole day. Eating smaller meals throughout the day will keep your energy up during the whole day.

Don’t eat too late at night. Try to eat dinner early enough to give your system 14 to 16 hours before your first meal of the day.

You will also need to know what counts as a serving. Too much good food can also cause a problem.

Grain

Whole-grain bread, cereal, rice, pasta, bagels and muffins

• 1 slice of whole grain bread

• 1/2 bagel

• About 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal

• 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, corn grits, oatmeal, cream of wheat or pasta

• 1 pancake (8 inches in diameter)

Vegetables

• 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

• 1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw

• 3/4 cup of vegetable juice

Fruit

• 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear

• 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit

• 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Dairy products

Milk, yogurt and cheese group

• 1 cup of milk or yogurt

• 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese (such as Cheddar)

• 2 ounces of processed cheese (such as American)

Protein

Beef, fresh pork, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts

• 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish

• 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans or 1/2 cup of tofu

• 2 1/2-ounce soyburger or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat

• 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts counts

Fats

• Butter, oil, margarine: 1 teaspoon

• Salad dressing: 2 tablespoons

For example:

• Meat, chicken, fish: 3 ounces or the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of a woman’s hand

• Pasta, rice, oatmeal, potatoes, cooked vegetables: half a cup, or the size of a tennis ball

• Bagel or muffin: 1 ounce, or the size of a Ping-Pong ball

• Cheese: 1 ounce, or the size of a woman’s thumb

• Butter, oil, margarine: 1 teaspoon, or the size of a stamp

• Salad dressing: 2 tablespoons, or the size of a standard ice cube

• Raw vegetables: 1 cup, or the size of a baseball

The key to eating healthy is planning.

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed write to: “Tips to be Fit,” P.O. Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or tipstobefit@gmail.com. If you’ve missed an article of “Tips to be Fit” just search for “Tips to be Fit.”

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