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Fruits and vegetables are part of a well-balanced and healthy eating plan. There are many different ways to lose or maintain a healthy weight. Using more fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and lean meats, nuts, and beans is a safe and healthy one. Helping control your weight is not the only benefit of eating more fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to eat less food. You can create lower-calorie versions of some of your favorite dishes by substituting low-calorie fruits and vegetables in place of higher-calorie ingredients. The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling.
Breakfast: Start the Day Right
Lighten Up Your Lunch
About 100 Calories or Less
The fruits and vegetables in the box above all have about 100 or fewer calories.
Instead of a high-calorie snack from a vending machine, bring some cut-up vegetables or fruit from home. One snack-sized bag of corn chips (1 ounce) has the same number of calories as a small apple, 1 cup of whole strawberries, AND 1 cup of carrots with 1/4 cup of low-calorie dip. Substitute one or two of these options for the chips, and you will have a satisfying snack with fewer calories.
Remember: Substitution is the key.
It’s true that fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than many other foods, but they do contain some calories. If you start eating fruits and vegetables in addition to what you usually eat, you are adding calories and may gain weight. The key is substitution. Eat fruits and vegetables instead of some other higher-calorie food.
Eat fruits and vegetables the way nature provided—or with fat-free or low-fat cooking techniques.
Try steaming your vegetables, using low-calorie or low-fat dressings, and using herbs and spices to add flavor. Some cooking techniques, such as breading
and frying, or using high-fat dressings or sauces will greatly increase the calories and fat in the dish. And eat your fruit raw to enjoy its natural sweetness.
Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are good options when fresh produce is not available.
However, be careful to choose those without added sugar, syrup, cream sauces, or other ingredients that will add calories.
Choose whole fruit over fruit drinks and juices. Fruit juices have lost fiber from the fruit.
It is better to eat the whole fruit because it contains the added fiber that helps you feel full. One 6-ounce serving of orange juice has 85 calories, compared to just 65 calories in a medium orange.
Whole fruit gives you a bigger size snack than the same fruit dried—for the same number of calories.
A small box of raisins (1/4 cup) is about 100 calories. For the same number of calories, you can eat 1 cup of grapes.
Understanding the Energy Equation
Whether you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to understand the connection between the energy your body takes in (through the foods you eat and the beverages you drink) and the energy your body uses (through the activities you do). To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you use with those you take in
Want to find out if you are at a healthy weight? Use our Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator.
Getting the Most Nutrition out of Your Calories
There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you are trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight. You could use up the entire amount on a few high-calorie foods, but chances are, you won’t get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day – those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients, but lower in calories. Pick foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products more often.
Finding Your Balance between Food and Physical Activity
Becoming a healthier you isn’t just about eating healthy – it’s also about physical activity. Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. It also helps you control body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you expend each day.
Whether you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to understand the connection between the energy your body takes in (through the foods you eat and the beverages you drink) and the energy your body uses (through the activities you do).
Energy Balance is like a scale. To remain in balance, the calories consumed (from foods) must be balanced by the calories used (in physical activity). To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you use with those you take in. No matter which results you want, eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help you reach your goal.
Be sure to visit our Physical Activity for Everyone section for ideas.
For more information about calories expended in common physical activities see Table 4. Calories/Hour Expended in Common Physical Activities from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.
Some of this information was adapted from the following source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. 6th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005. and Finding Your Way to a Healthier You: Based on Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight – at least 300 million of them clinically obese – and is a major contributor to the global burden of chronic disease and disability. Often coexisting in developing countries with under-nutrition, obesity is a complex condition, with serious social and psychological dimensions, affecting virtually all ages and socioeconomic groups.
Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with reduced physical activity, have led to obesity rates that have risen three-fold or more since 1980 in some areas of North America, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, Australasia and China.The obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies; this increase is often faster in developing countries than in the developed world.
Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for serious diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. The health consequences range from increased risk of premature death, to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life. Of especial concern is the increasing incidence of child obesity.
The rising epidemic reflects the profound changes in society and in behavioural patterns of communities over recent decades. While genes are important in determining a person’s susceptibility to weight gain, energy balance is determined by calorie intake and physical activity. Thus societal changes and worldwide nutrition transition are driving the obesity epidemic. Economic growth, modernization, urbanization and globalization of food markets are just some of the forces thought to underlie the epidemic.
As incomes rise and populations become more urban, diets high in complex arbohydrates give way to more varied diets with a higher proportion of fats, saturated fats and sugars. At the same time, large shifts towards less physically demanding work have been observed worldwide. Moves towards less physical activity are also found in the increasing use of automated transport, technology in the home, and more passive leisure pursuits.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity is commonly assessed by using body mass index (BMI), defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres (kg/m2 ). A BMI over 25 kg/m2 is defined as overweight, and a BMI of over 30 kg/m2 as obese. These markers provide common benchmarks for assessment, but the risks of disease in all populations can increase progressively from lower BMI levels.
Adult mean BMI levels of 22-23 kg/m2 are found in Africa and Asia, while levels of 25-27 kg/m2 are prevalent across North America, Europe, and in some Latin American, North African and Pacific Island countries. BMI increases amongst middle-aged elderly people, who are at the greatest risk of health complications. In countries undergoing nutrition transition, overnutrition often co-exists with undernutrition. People with a BMI below 18.5 kg/m2 tend to be underweight.
The distribution of BMI is shifting upwards in many populations. And recent studies have shown that people who were undernourished in early life and then become obese in adulthood, tend to develop conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes at an earlier age and in more severe form than those who were never undernourished.
Currently more than 1 billion adults are overweight – and at least 300 million of them are clinically obese. Current obesity levels range from below 5% in China, Japan and certain African nations, to over 75% in urban Samoa. But even in relatively low prevalence countries like China, rates are almost 20% in some cities.
Childhood obesity is already epidemic in some areas and on the rise in others. An estimated 22 million children under five are estimated to be overweight worldwide. According to the US Surgeon General, in the USA the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has trebled since 1980. The prevalence of obese children aged 6-to-11 years has more than doubled since the 1960s. Obesity prevalence in youths aged 12-17 has increased dramatically from 5% to 13% in boys and from 5% to 9% in girls between 1966-70 and 1988-91 in the USA. The problem is global and increasingly extends into the developing world; for example, in Thailand the prevalence of obesity in 5-to-12 year olds children rose from12.2% to 15-6% in just two years.
Obesity accounts for 2-6% of total health care costs in several developed countries; some estimates put the figure as high as 7%. The true costs are undoubtedly much greater as not all obesity-related conditions are included in the calculations.
Overweight and obesity lead to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. Some confusion of the consequences of obesity arise because researchers have used different BMI cut-offs, and because the presence of many medical conditions involved in the development of obesity may confuse the effects of obesity itself.
The non-fatal, but debilitating health problems associated with obesity include respiratory difficulties, chronic musculoskeletal problems, skin problems and infertility. The more life-threatening problems fall into four main areas: CVD problems; conditions associated with insulin resistance such as type 2 diabetes; certain types of cancers, especially the hormonally related and large-bowel cancers; and gallbladder disease.
The likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes and hypertension rises steeply with increasing body fatness. Confined to older adults for most of the 20th century, this disease now affects obese children even before puberty. Approximately 85% of people with diabetes are type 2, and of these, 90% are obese or overweight. And this is increasingly becoming a developing world problem. In 1995, the Emerging Market Economies had the highest number of diabetics. If current trends continue, India and the Middle Eastern crescent will have taken over by 2025.Large increases would also be observed in China, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the rest of Asia.
Raised BMI also increases the risks of cancer of the breast, colon, prostrate, endometroium, kidney and gallbladder. Chronic overweight and obesity contribute significantly to osteoarthritis, a major cause of disability in adults. Although obesity should be considered a disease in its own right, it is also one of the key risk factors for other chronic diseases together with smoking, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. In the analyses carried out for World Health Report 2002, approximately 58% of diabetes and 21% of ischaemic heart disease and 8-42% of certain cancers globally were attributable to a BMI above 21 kg/m2.
Effective weight management for individuals and groups at risk of developing obesity involves a range of long-term strategies. These include prevention, weight maintenance, management of co-morbidities and weight loss. They should be part of an integrated, multi-sectoral, population-based approach, which includes environmental support for healthy diets and regular physical activity. Key elements include: