Nutrition 101: How to Eat Healthy Most health experts recommend eating a balanced, healthy diet to maintain or lose weight. But what is a healthy diet? The basic components of a healthy diet include the right amount of: Protein (found in meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs and beans) Fat (found in animal products, sweets, Plant Oils (Olive, Peanut Flaxseed, and "junk" food) Carbohydrate (found in fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, grains and peas, beans and other legumes) Vitamins (such as vitamins A,B,C, D, E and K) Minerals (such as calcium, potassium and iron) Water What Are Calories? Of these six nutrients, only carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide calories. A calorie is a measurement, just like a teaspoon or an inch. Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the extra calories as fat. Even a fat-free food can have a lot of calories and can be stored as fat. What Are Proteins? Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of body tissue such as the skin, the internal organs and muscle. Proteins are also the major components of our immune system and hormones. Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids -- 22 are considered vital for health. Of these, the adult body can make 14; the other 8 (called essential amino acids) can only be obtained from what we eat. Proteins are found in all types of food, but only meat, eggs, cheese and other foods from animal sources contain complete proteins, meaning they provide the 8 essential amino acids. Your daily diet must contain enough protein to replenish these amino acids. Thus, if you are vegetarian and do not eat food from animal sources, you need to eat a variety of plant proteins in combination to ensure that you get enough of the essential amino acids. How much protein people need on a daily basis varies. Experts recommend that approximately 12% of your total daily calories come from protein. That equals 40-70g per day for the average healthy adult. However, over the course of a day, the average American diet includes almost double the protein needed to help maintain a healthy body. Using the chart below, you can easily calculate how much protein your body needs. Protein Needs Suggested Daily Grams of Protein Per Pound Sedentary adult 0.4 Recreational athlete 0.5-0.75 Competitive athlete 0.6-0.9 Teenage athlete 0.9-1.0 Building muscle 0.7-0.9 Athlete restricting calories 0.7-1.0 Most the body can use (upper limit) 1.0 Is Any Fat Healthy? A certain amount of fat in the diet is good and necessary to be healthy. However, nutrition experts agree that most Americans should eat less fat than they currently do especially saturated fats. Research shows that excessive intake of fat, especially saturated fat, and cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Eating too much fat also causes excess body weight, since a gram of fat has about twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates (see below) and proteins. (There are 9 calories per gram of fat compared to 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates.) Fat is made up of compounds called fatty acids or lipids. Depending on their chemical structure, these fatty acids are called monounsaturated, saturated or polyunsaturated. Saturated fats are the "fattest" fats and are the unhealthiest fats to eat. Thus, problems with too much dietary fat come when 10% or more of your daily calories come from saturated fats such as those found in meats, dairy products and butter. This practice can lead to high blood cholesterol levels, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Each person will need a different level of fat in their diet - they should use primarily fats with Omega 3, 6, and 9 Fatty Acids. These are found in both Monounsaturated Fats, and Polyunsaturated fat. Fish supply omega-3's, as do ground flax meal, flaxseed oil, and many nuts (almonds, walnuts and others). Omega-6's are found in most vegetable oils, like corn and safflower as well as Olive Oil. Since we tend to use these oils in cooking and processed foods, most of us usually get plenty of omega-6's. Eating fish a few times per week and snacking on nuts regularly will give your body the fat it needs. If you do that, you can ease into eating foods with healthy fats and not fear the fat grams on food or supplement labels. Remember that you're doing your body good by eating these foods. With an active lifestyle, there's no need to fear the fats. Monounsaturated Fat is an organic compound, especially an oil or fatty acid, containing only one double or triple bond per molecule. Foods containing monounsaturated fatty acids may decrease the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood and include olive, peanut, canola, and avocado oils. Monounsaturated fatty acids like Peanut Oil, Olive Oil (MUFA) help lower LDL cholesterol, the kind that can build up on arterial walls and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Polyunsaturated Fat is composed of long-chain carbon compounds, especially fatty acids, having two or more double bonds between the carbon atoms. Foods containing polyunsaturated fatty acids help reduce blood cholesterol levels and include sunflower, soybean, sesame seed, and corn oils and cold-water fish such as salmon. Flaxseed Oil is primarily made up of Polyunsaturated fat. It has omega-3 fatty acids which are highly protective against heart disease. Flaxseed oil and fish oil are two concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, which has been shown to be beneficial in both heart disease and breast cancer. lignans are phytochemicals which are found in omega-3 rich Flaxseed oil. Usually the manufacture will list if it has been added. There's some evidence that lignans (natural estrogen-like chemicals) reduce the incidence of cancerous prostate tumors as well. Important Note: Oils & Fat especially Polyunsaturated oils must not be heated highly or exposed to light. Do not use them for cooking. When purchasing these types of oils - including Olive Oil purchase them in large steel containers or dark black glass, or dark black plastic. Light and oxygen can easily damage the Omega 3, and Omega 6 fatty acids in these oils. Always get oils which have been freshly "Cold Pressed or First pressed", and make sure the oils are not processed beyond this. No preservatives, chemical additives etc. Use Organic Oils as well. Fresh ground natural nut butters which are filled with both Polyunsaturated, and Monounsaturated fat must also be unprocessed, though these can be exposed to light as the nut butter itself protects the oils. What Are the Unhealthy Fats: Trans Fatty Acids: Hydrogenated fats found in margarine and shortening, and processed foods made with these fats, contain trans fatty acids (TFAs) that act much like saturated fats in raising heart-disease risk. For this reason, the American Heart Association's latest dietary guidelines combine both saturated fat and TFAs into one category and recommend we limit intake to less than 10% of calories. Where do TFAs come from? Margarine and shortening are liquid vegetable oils made creamy when manufacturers convert some of the unsaturated fats into saturated ones. To do this, hydrogens are added to the long strings of carbon atoms that make up the fat molecule, hence the term "hydrogenation" or hydrogenated vegetable oils. Hydrogenation hardens a liquid vegetable oil so it looks, feels, and acts like butter. Consequently, the processed oil doesn't ooze out of cookies or corn chips, spreads on an English muffin, and is the current fat of choice for frying everything from chicken to french fries at most fast-food restaurants. These benefits combined with improved shelf life, low cost, and the "100% vegetable oil" on the label promising a low-saturated fat alternative to butter were primary reasons why margarine has sold two to one over butter for years. But hydrogenation does much more than just add a few hydrogens here and there. It generates unnatural fats by altering the form of up to one third or more of the remaining unsaturated fats, so their natural "cis" shape is transformed into an abnormal "trans" shape. These unsaturated trans fatty acids are the problem. TFAs, in amounts typically consumed by Americans, alter basic metabolic pathways, and raise total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) in much the same way as saturated fats. Large amounts also might lower HDL-cholesterol levels (the "good" cholesterol). Any or all of these changes increase heart-disease risk. The potential health risks of TFAs wouldn't be an issue except that we're eating a lot more of them than we think. Up until the turn of the century, the naturally occurring TFAs in meat and dairy products comprised a small portion of the diet, just a few grams a day. Today, Americans average about 10 to 20 grams of TFAs daily. While even these moderate intakes pose a health risk, it is easy to consume 20 grams just from snack foods alone and daily intakes of up to 100 grams are possible if a person regularly eats potato chips, cookies, crackers, or fried fast foods. Do not consume anymore then 10% of your daily calories from both Trans Fatty Acids and Saturated fat combined. This adds up to 200 calories or 20 grams of both combined for a 2,000 calorie diet daily. The evidence against TFAs is so convincing that a movement is in progress to require manufacturers to list TFA levels on food labels, just as saturated fats are now. To cut back on TFAs: Read labels and avoid foods that contain "partially hydrogenated vegetable oils." Also avoid foods fried in fast-food restaurants, from doughnuts to french fries. If you must use margarine, choose diet or whipped margarine that contain less TFAs than tub margarine (though tub margarine does contain less TFAs than stick margarine). Look for brands that state no TFAs, or that list water and/or liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredients. Make your own spread by whipping a stick of butter with a half-cup of canola oil, then store in the refrigerator. Use sparingly. This blend is lower in saturated fat than butter and is trans-free. Better yet, switch to olive oil and use it sparingly. Saturated Fat: A fat, most often of animal origin, that is solid at room temperature and whose fatty acid chains cannot incorporate additional hydrogen atoms. An excess of these fats in the diet is thought to raise the cholesterol level in the bloodstream. Avoid Saturated fat, and keep it below 10% of the daily calories consumed from fat. This includes Trans Fatty Acids: Combined you should be consuming no more the 200 calories or 20 grams for both TFA, and Saturated Fat. What Are Carbohydrates? Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is a sugar that is the primary means of energy for all of the body's cells. There are two types of carbohydrates -- simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars -- they are found in refined sugar, and in fruits. The refined sugars in candies and snacks can be very unhealthy. Complex carbohydrates are the starches -- they are found in beans, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. They are considered very healthy mostly because they are digested by the body slowly and provide a steady source of energy. They do not provide a burst of energy "the sugar rush" experienced with simple carbohydrates. The American Heart Association recommends that Americans decrease the amounts of refined sugars (simple carbohydrates) and increase the amount of complex carbohydrates to 55% of the total daily calories consumed. Fruit and Vegetable simple sugars are ok to consume and healthy as well. Avoid white refined sugar, or white bread - these types of Carbohydrates can spike Insulin levels leading to a host of diseases including Diabetes. What Is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) and is an essential nutrient your body needs for many important functions, such as producing new cells. If you eat too many foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol or you have an inherited condition, the cholesterol levels in your blood may climb to unhealthy levels. This increases your risk for hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which in turn can lead to life-threatening illnesses, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, or stroke. Your body gets cholesterol from two sources: from the foods you eat and from your liver. Although many foods contain cholesterol, your liver actually produces up to 80% of what you need. The maximum level someone seeking to be healthy should consume is no more then 300mgs of Cholesterol per day. Some people especially bodybuilders or strength training athletes may use foods with higher levels of Cholesterol such as eggs, meats, and fish - however the level these people use should carefully be followed while on their own routine. They should carefully research before they attempt to do so and always speak with an Athletic Certified Nutritional Expert or professional in Training Nutrition. What Are Vitamins? Vitamins help with chemical reactions in the body. In general, vitamins must come from the diet; the body doesn't make them. There are 13 vitamins essential to the body. They are divided into two categories: soluble (vitamin C and all the B vitamins) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). The fat-soluble vitamins are more easily stored by the body. Thus, you do not need large amounts of these vitamins since they can easily become toxic and cause a variety of problems. Those attained from multivitamins are the ones which can become toxic. Those acquired from Fruits and Vegetables are safe. Those found in meats - especially organ meats, such as liver can become toxic when consumed by people in large amounts. Pay close attention. Because the water-soluble vitamins aren't stored for long in the body, we must consume them daily. And, although taking large doses of these vitamins isn't necessarily dangerous, it may be wasteful as the body eliminates the excess water-soluble vitamins in the urine. What Are Minerals? Minerals, like vitamins, must come from the diet; the body doesn't make them. Many minerals are vital to the proper function of the body and must be taken in relatively large amounts (such as calcium, potassium and iron.) Others, like trace minerals (zinc, selenium, and copper), are only needed in small amounts to maintain good health. Again these are non toxic when consumed naturally in fruits, and vegetables. Those found in meats - especially organ meats,such as liver can become toxic. I suggest getting minerals and vitamins from the foods you eat. Vitamin Supplements are often of poor quality, and from poor sources. Occasionally more manufacturers are creating Whole food supplements which come from natural sources, and these are certainly beneficial. What Is Sodium & Electrolytes? Electrolytes are a chemical substance which, when dissolved in water or melted, dissociates into electrically charged particles (ions), and thus is capable of conducting an electric current. The principal positively charged ions in the body fluids are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The most important negatively charged ions (anions) are chloride, bicarbonate, and phosphate. These electrolytes are involved in metabolic activities and are essential to the normal function of all cells. Concentration gradients of sodium and potassium across the cell membrane produce the membrane potential and provide the means by which electrochemical impulses are transmitted in nerve and muscle fibers. Electrolytes are often lost during intense exercise especially through the sweat glands. They should be replenished if training exceeds 60 minutes or more of intense aerobic training. Sodium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It is also an electrolyte, which means it carries an electrical charge when it is dissolved in blood. Sodium helps regulate the water balance (the amount of fluid inside and surrounding the cells) and electrolyte balance of the body. Sodium also plays an important role in nerve and muscle functions. Almost all foods contain sodium naturally or as an ingredient, such as table salt (sodium chloride) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) added during processing or cooking. Many medicines and other products also contain sodium, including laxatives, aspirin, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Too much sodium in the diet may raise blood pressure in some people. For those who already have high blood pressure, a diet high in sodium may further increase their risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage. High sodium levels can worsen congestive heart failure (CHF) and can increase the amount of water retained by the body, leading to swelling of the legs and hands. Taking in more than 4 grams (g) of sodium per day causes problems for some people. The maximum level someone seeking to be healthy should consume is no more then 2,500mgs per day of Sodium. How Does Water Promote Health? Although it has no food value, the body can't survive without water - it is essential in keeping the brain adequately hydrated. Water always has been and always will be the most important nutrient in our diets. Second only to oxygen. Water is needed the most out of all the 40+ nutrients used by all bodies. It is needed to maintain homeostasis, it is the most abundant solvent or medium in the human body, it's important in regulating cell volume, nutrient transport, waste removal, and body temperature. It's distributed both in intra- and intercellular compartments and accounts for up to 80% of our body weight at birth and up to 70% of our adult body weight. Our bodies can't store excess water for future times of need, so daily intakes are essential for almost all body functions, including digestion, absorption, circulation, excretion, transporting nutrients, building tissue, and maintaining body temperature. It also is well-established that fluid needs vary depending on a variety of factors, such as climate, age, exercise level, and body weight. The average adult loses about 10 cups of water on a typical day. Most people need roughly eight to 12 cups of fluid a day. More specifically, the International Sports Medicine Institute in West Los Angeles suggests a person drink 2/3 ounces per pound of body weight each day if they are active (12+ glasses for an active 150-pound person) and 1/2 ounces per pound if they are not active (9+ glasses of water for a 150-pound sedentary person). Phytochemicals What Are They? Phytochemicals: Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants. They are not nutrients, but they do have important functions in the body. Examples of phytochemicals include: Antioxidants (some nutrients, like vitamin C, are also antioxidants). Enzyme stimulators. Estrogen (phytoestrogens). Estrogen blockers. Compounds that bind potential cancer-causing chemicals. Suppressors of cancer cells are beneficial chemicals made by plants. Phytochemicals can protect against aging, infection, cancer, and heart disease, explains Johanna Lampe, RD, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. They act as antioxidants that reduce cell damage, stimulate the immune system, and fight bacteria and viruses. They can reduce blood pressure, regulate cholesterol and hormones, and prevent stroke by keeping platelets from sticking together. "The combination of these biologic processes, rather than any one mechanism, influences disease risk," Lampe explains. "Every vegetable and fruit has a unique profile of photochemical exerting beneficial effects on our bodies to prevent disease," says David Heber, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA. So far, more than 25,000 different photochemical have been discovered in fruits and vegetables. Researchers are now discovering that these chemicals work in concert, orchestrating natural harmony in body systems. To keep our bodies finely tuned, the best diet is one featuring a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. How Much Nutrients Do I Need to Stay Healthy? A healthy general diet should consist of: 60% to 70% carbohydrates 12% to 15% protein 25% to 30% fat, with no more than 10% saturated fat The Food Pyramid published by the USDA makes it easy to envision just how much of each food type you should eat. This is just a general guide. Some may choose to add 1, 2 or even 3 or 4 servings of any individual group onto what is already listed. It all depends what you are trying to accomplish. For weight loss the general guide is just fine to follow. Each section of the pyramid represents a food group; the size of the group corresponds to the number of recommended servings. The base of the pyramid represents the grain group. These are carbohydrate-rich foods: bread, cereal, rice and pasta. You should eat 6-11 servings per day of these foods. The next tier of the pyramid includes vegetables and fruit. You should eat 3-5 servings per day of vegetables and 2-4 servings per day of fruit. These are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The next level is protein: dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. You should eat 2-3 servings per day of foods from the milk group and 2-3 servings per day of foods from the meat, egg, bean, and nut group. The top level of the pyramid is fats, oils, and sweets; these should be used sparingly. The pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get all of the nutrients you need, and, at the same time, the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight. If you're watching your weight, eat the minimum number of recommended servings. If you need to gain weight, eat the maximum number of servings or tailor the servings to your individual needs. And, keep in mind as to what constitutes a serving. Most serving sizes are smaller than you think. Be sure to read the food labels carefully to determine the accurate portion size. Serving size is listed right above "Calories" on the back of the food usually. Also, try to choose nonfat and lean foods as often as possible. For example, choose nonfat or 1% milk instead of 2% or whole milk; lean meat instead of fatty meat; and breads and cereals that are not processed with a lot of fat (especially Trans Fatty Acids). But you don't have to completely avoid all foods that have fat, cholesterol or sodium. It's your average intake over a few days, not in a single food or even a single meal that's important. If you eat a high-fat food or meal, balance your intake by choosing low-fat foods the rest of the day or the next day. Read the food labels on everything you eat to help you "budget" your intake of fat, cholesterol and sodium over several days. How to Read Food Labels Just about every packaged food made in the U.S. has a food label indicating serving size and other nutritional information. The "Nutrition Facts" food labels are intended to give you information about the specific packaged food in question. Measurements of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals are calculated for a "typical portion." But, reading these labels can be confusing. Below is an example of a Nutrition Facts label, along with explanations of its components. Serving Size: Serving sizes are based on the amount of food people typically eat, which makes them realistic and easy to compare to similar foods. This may or may not be the serving amount you normally eat. It is important that you pay attention to the serving size, including the number of servings in the package and compare it to how much you actually eat. The size of the serving on the food package influences all the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label. For example, if a package has 4 servings and you eat the entire package, you quadruple the calories, fat, etc. that you have eaten which is listed on the side. Calories and Calories From Fat: The number of calories and grams of nutrients are provided for the stated serving size. This is the part of the food label where you will find the amount of fat per serving. Nutrients: This section lists the daily amount of each nutrient in the food package. These daily values are the reference numbers that are set by the government and are based on current nutrition recommendations. Some labels list daily values for both 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets. "% Daily Value: shows how a food fits into a 2,000 calorie/day diet. For diets other than 2,000 calories, divide by 2,000 to determine the % Daily Value for nutrients. For example, if you are following a 1,500 calorie diet, your % Daily Value goal will be based on 75% for each nutrient, not 100%. For fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, choose foods with a low % Daily Value. For total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, try to reach your goal for each nutrient. Calories Per Gram: This information shows the number of calories in a gram of fat, carbohydrate and protein. Ingredients: Each product should list the ingredients on the label. They are listed from largest to smallest amount (by weight). This means a food contains the largest amount of the first ingredient and the smallest amount of the last ingredient. Label Claim: Another aspect of food labeling is label claims. Some food labels make claims such as "low cholesterol"" or "low fat." These claims can only be used if a food meets strict government definitions. Here are some of the meanings: Controlling How Much You Eat One of the key ways to maintain a healthy weight is to control your portion sizes. Research has shown that Americans often underestimate how many calories they are consuming each day by as much as 25%. What Does Serving Size Mean? Use the list below to gain a perspective on how much food a recommended serving size really is; it may be much smaller than you realize. According the USDA, 1 serving equals: 1 slice of whole-grain bread 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes 3-4 small crackers 1 small pancake or waffle 2 medium-sized cookies 1/2 cup cooked or raw vegetables 1 cup (4 leaves) lettuce 1 small baked potato 3/4 cup vegetable juice 1 medium apple 1/2 grapefruit or mango 1/2 cup berries 1 cup yogurt or milk 1 1/2 ounces of cheddar cheese 1 chicken breast 1 medium pork chop 1/4 pound hamburger patty A good guideline to help you understand portion sizes is to translate the abstract information represented by the serving size into something visual that's easily remembered. So instead of trying to memorize lists of ounces, cups and tablespoons, simply compare the serving sizes of particular foods to familiar physical objects. For example, a single serving of: Vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist Pasta is about the size of one scoop of ice cream Meat, fish or poultry is the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm (minus the fingers). Snacks such as pretzels and chips is about the size of a cupped handful Apple is the size of a baseball Potato is the size of a computer mouse Bagel is the size of a hockey puck Pancake is the size of a compact disc Steamed rice is the size of a cupcake wrapper Cheese is the size of a pair of dice or the size of your whole thumb (from the tip to the base) The best way to determine the amount of food in a given serving is to look at the Nutrition Facts label and measure it out. Although this may not be practical or that much fun, if you are able to take the time, you will soon be able to "eyeball" the amount of food and know whether there is too much or too little. For example, filling a measuring cup with the proper sized portion of vegetables, rice, etc. and then emptying it onto a plate will help you learn what these serving sizes look like. Take note of how much of the plate is covered; this will help you in the future, even if you only do it once. Simply by having and implementing this knowledge, you will have taken an important step in managing your weight. Other ways of developing and maintaining proper portion control include: At home: Use smaller dishes at meals. Serve food in the appropriate portion amounts and don't go back for seconds. Put away any leftovers in separate, portion-controlled amounts. Consider freezing the portions you likely won't eat for a while. Never eat out of the bag or carton. Don't keep platters of food on the table; you are more likely to "pick" at it or have a second serving without even realizing it. At restaurants: Ask for half or smaller portions. Eyeball your appropriate portion, set the rest aside, and ask for a doggie bag right away. Servings at many restaurants are often big enough to provide lunch for two days. If you have dessert, share. At the supermarket: Beware of "mini-snacks" -- tiny crackers, cookies, and pretzels. Most people end up eating more than they realize, and the calories add up. Choose foods packaged in individual serving sizes. If you're the type who eats ice cream out of the carton, pick up ice cream sandwiches or other individual size servings. Focusing on Fat Why Is it Important to Reduce Fat Intake? High fat intake contributes to excess body weight, since a gram of fat has about twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates and proteins. Whether you are trying to lose weight, lower blood cholesterol levels or simply eat healthier, you'll want to limit total fat intake. 65 grams per day is acceptable for a 2,000 calorie diet. For those using a 2,500 calorie diet, or a 3,000 calorie diet you may wish to increase the fat depending on your specific activity and diet. Why Do Most Diets Focus on Reducing Fat? Fat gets all of the attention for many good reasons. Consider these facts: Fat (especially saturated fat) can raise cholesterol levels in the blood. A high cholesterol level is a leading risk factor for heart disease. In addition, some fatty foods (such as bacon, sausage, and potato chips) often have fewer vitamins and minerals than low-fat foods. (Note: Protein sources, especially red meat and dairy products, often contain fat. Lean meat, fish, poultry without skin, beans, tofu, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, low-fat cottage cheese and tuna fish packed in water are good, low-fat sources of protein.) As mentioned, fat has about twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates and proteins. A gram of fat has about 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein has about 4 calories. In other words, you could eat twice as much carbohydrates or proteins as fat for the same amount of calories. If you must eat fat - follow the Nutrition 101 guide on which types to eat. Primarily your diet should be Monunsaturated Fat - about 60% of your healthy fat. Another 30% should come from healthy polyunsaturated fat like Flaxseed Oil. The remaining 10% "can" be Saturated or Trans Fat - however you may wish to simply ignore these all together, and have the additional 10% delegated to Polyunsaturated Fat. This allows the Omega 3 and 6 in both Mono, and Poly fats to be much more even. Will I Lose Weight if I Eat Low-Fat Foods? It's true that a diet high in fat can lead to weight gain. But it takes more than just eating low-fat foods to lose weight. You must also watch how many calories you eat. Remember, extra calories even from fat-free and low-fat foods get stored in the body as fat. Many times people replace high-fat foods for high-calorie foods, like sweets, and gain weight rather than lose weight. Reducing fat does not mean "avoiding" or ignoring healthy fat such as nuts, seeds, and good oils. It means becareful, and keep these as the minimal limit - in this case 65 grams for a 2,000 calorie diet. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. You can achieve this goal by exercising and by eating less fat and calories. Exercise burns calories. Consult with your doctor before starting an exercise or diet program. How Much Fat Should I Eat? A low-fat style of eating is important for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting total calories from fat to less than 30%. That's about 65 grams of fat or less a day if you eat 2,000 calories a day. You may choose to eat a 2,500 calorie diet and in that case you must adjust the percentages for weight loss purposes. About 70 - 80 grams for a 2,500 calorie diet. How Can I Know How Much Fat I am Eating? Learn about the foods you eat. Fat and calorie listings for individual foods can be found in nutrition books at your local library and on food packages. By read this article you'll be primed and educated on the fundamental requirements. Read nutrition labels on food packages. Nutrition labels show the number of grams of fat per serving. They also show the daily percentage of fat provided in each serving. In other words, if the daily percentage of fat per serving is 18%, each serving provides 18% of the total fat you should eat for the day. Choose a brand that has a lower fat percentage. (The daily percentage value is based on a number of calories listed on the nutrition label, usually 2,000. Your calorie needs may be higher or lower.) Where Do I Start? Eat a variety of lower-fat foods to get all the nutrients you need. Don't eat just one type. Watch your calorie intake. Remember, "low fat" does not always mean "low calorie." Eat plenty of plant-based foods (such as grain products, fruits and vegetables) and a moderate amount of animal-based foods (meat and dairy products) to help control your fat, cholesterol and calorie intake. Increase your physical activity to improve heart health and lose excess body fat. What Goals Should I Try to Meet? Decrease the total amount of fat you eat to 30% or less of your total daily calories. For a person eating 2,000 calories a day, this would be 65 grams of fat or less per day. Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day. Decrease saturated fat (animal fat, butter, coconut and palm oils) to less than 10% of your total calories per day. Again you may wish to completely avoid these, and simply increase Polyunsaturated healthy fats. Tips For Reducing Fat Intake When selecting foods: Learn about the foods you eat by reading nutrition labels. Look for "low-fat," "nonfat" and "reduced-fat" claims on food packages. Focus on total fat, rather than individual items. When selecting food, balance those with a higher fat amount against those with a lower fat amount to stay within your fat total or "budget" for the day. Also read the ingredients - check for hydrogenated oils, and avoid them. Choose lean meats, fish and poultry. Limit these to 5-8 ounces per day when trying to lose weight. Other good low-fat sources of protein include dried beans and peas, tofu, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk 1% or (Skim Milk), low-fat cottage cheese and tuna fish packed in water. Enjoy low-fat (no more than 3 grams of fat per ounce) or nonfat cheeses and spreads. Try low-fat or fat-free versions of your favorite margarine, salad dressing, cream cheese and mayonnaise. Stay within the serving amounts. Try not to binge and use up all your servings of fatty foods at once. When preparing foods: To reduce fat - Trim all visible fat and remove the skin from poultry. Refrigerate soups, gravies and stews, and remove the hardened fat before eating. Bake, broil or grill meats on a rack that allows fat to drip from the meat. Avoid frying foods. Sprinkle lemon juice and herbs/spices on cooked vegetables instead of using cheese, butter or cream-based sauces. Try plain, nonfat or low-fat yogurt and chives on baked potatoes rather than sour cream. Reduced-fat sour cream still contains fat, so you must limit the amount you use. When dining out: Choose simply-prepared foods such as broiled, roasted or baked fish or chicken. Avoid fried or sautéed foods, casseroles, and foods with heavy sauces and gravies. Request that your food be cooked without added butter, margarine, gravy or sauces. Request salad with low-fat dressing on the side. Select fruit, angel food cake, nonfat frozen yogurt, sherbet or sorbet for dessert instead of ice cream, cake or pie. Getting Started: Losing Weight for the Long-Term Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy. Before you get started on a weight loss program, consider the following tips. They should help you reach your goal of obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight. Set the Right Goals Setting effective goals is an important first step. Most people trying to lose weight focus on just that one goal: weight loss. However, the most productive areas to focus on are the dietary and exercise changes that will lead to long-term weight control. Successful weight managers are those who select two or three goals at a time that they are willing to take on. Taking care of your body is more then merely a "physical" activity. It is a mental challenge. Visualizing yourself as reaching your goal for a few minutes daily will certainly help. It is a lifestyle change which must take place - all aspects of your life. If you smoke - quit, if you consume alcohol, quit. Building discipline begins one step at a time. Begin with small steps and work your way up the rungs of the ladder. You can't skip rungs and effectively succeed. Most people who skip rungs lose their balance and fall of the ladder. Those who do skip steps and make it usually regain the weight they lose, and return to an unhealthy lifestyle. Losing weight and attaining health in the long term requires discipline, but also the desire to care for one's body. It is a mental challenge, so educate yourself - build and strengthen your mind. Keep in mind that effective goals are specific, attainable, and forgiving. For example, "exercise more" is a wonderful goal, but it's not specific. "Walk five miles everyday" is specific and measurable, but is it attainable if you 're just starting out?" Walk 30 minutes every day" is more attainable, but what happens if you're held up at work one day and there's a thunderstorm during your walking time another day? "Walk 30 minutes, five days each week" is specific, attainable, and forgiving. Reward Success (But Not With Food!) Rewards that you can control can be used to encourage you to attain your weight control goals, especially those that have been difficult for you to reach. An effective reward is something that is desirable, timely, and contingent on meeting your goal. Rewards may include treating yourself to a movie or music CD or taking an afternoon off from work or just an hour of quiet time away from family. Keep in mind that numerous small rewards, delivered for meeting smaller goals, are more effective than bigger rewards, requiring a long, difficult effort. Balance Your (Food) Checkbook This means that you should monitor your eating behavior by observing and recording some aspect of your eating behavior, such as how many calories you eat in a day, how many servings of fruits and vegetables you eat per day, how often and for how long you exercise, etc., or an outcome of these behaviors, such as weight. Keeping a diet Diary is very effective. Doing this can really help you determine how you are doing and what you need to do to meet your weight control goals.