Jewish World Review March 14, 2003 / 10 Adar II, 5763

BODYFIRE: How to pick the perfect gym

By Judi Sheppard Missett | A recent study is providing important supplemental information to the Food Guide Pyramid daily nutrition recommendations, which were developed by The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In general, the 2002 study loosens the reigns on fat (bumping the daily caloric percentage up from 30 to 35) and protein, while adding daily recommendations for fiber (25 grams per day), added sugar (limit to 25 percent or less of daily calories) and exercise (one hour per day of moderate activity).

But the changes come with important caveats -- make sure it's the "right'' fat and the "right'' protein eaten in amounts that are "right'' for your activity level. For that matter, it's important to eat the right carbohydrates, grains and dairy, as well.

But let's start with fat. Before you grab that piece of bacon, note that nutritionists are recommending mono- and polyunsaturated fats, not the saturated and trans fats found in red meat and processed foods.

In fact, saturated fats should account for only 10 percent of your daily calories. Better choices include salmon, trout and halibut, which contain heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Plant foods, such as avocados, almonds, walnuts and peanuts, are good sources of monounsaturated fats.

Protein levels should fall between 10 percent and 30 percent of your daily calories, depending upon your level of physical activity. The more active you are, the more protein you need for muscle repair and growth. The trick here is selecting lean sources, like poultry and seafood, and vegetarian proteins like legumes and tofu. Avoid red meats that are high in saturated fat.

Likewise, avoid dairy products that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Instead, drink skim milk and eat reduced-fat or nonfat cheeses, yogurt and cottage cheese.

When it comes to carbohydrates, the daily caloric recommendations remain the same -- between 50 percent and 60 percent. But your diet should favor whole grains, fruits and vegetables over easily digested starches (potatoes), refined grains (white flour, white rice) and processed foods (crackers, cookies). Not only will the former provide a more sustained energy supply, but you'll get much needed fiber as well.

Which brings us to the new added recommendations. Most individuals don't come close to consuming 25 grams of fiber a day. Yet it is a great defense against heart disease and certain cancers, and can help in weight loss.

On the other hand, we consume much more added sugar than we should. Consider the fact that a single 12-ounce soft drink has the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar. Most processed snack foods deliver a double whammy of sugar and trans and saturated fats. Be conscious of food labels when selecting both your food and your drink.

And then there's exercise. Personally, I am thrilled that the revised dietary guidelines include exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight is a simple balance of calories consumed versus calories burned. Best of all, exercise doesn't have to be intense or grueling to be effective. Tasks like housecleaning, gardening and playing with your kids all count, and participating in physical activities with your children will instill good habits that will last a lifetime. Play a game of tag, toss a ball around, go for a walk, or just put on some music and dance.

Try the following simple, fun move to get your heart pumping. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Jump and cross one foot in front of the other . Next, jump again and extend one heel to the side. Continue with this jump-cross-jump-heel pattern and alternate sides 10 to 15 times. Try holding hands, switching places and adding arm movements as you go. Alternate this step with other fun dance moves, such as jumps, hops, twists, kicks and turns for an energetic aerobic dance session.

Judi Sheppard Missett is CEO of Jazzercise Inc., an international aerobic-dance instruction company. Comment by clicking here.


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