It's your body

just be smart

October 18, 2005|by MATT NEWTON and STEPHANIE SNYDER

You're probably sick of hearing do-good advice, "eat right," "be cool, stay in school," whatever.

But that doesn't mean the advice is wrong.

It is, of course, your body and your decision on how you treat it. In the long run, your body will either reward you, or, in a twist of fate, get "sweet" revenge.

Eat right

How do you tell you're eating a healthy diet? Just take a look at the good, old U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid and follow its guidelines, right?

Well, that depends on which pyramid you're referring to.

In April 2005, the USDA issued a new pyramid (see graphic at right). The motive was to better inform Americans how to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight.


So now that we have a new set of rules, we'll have to change around our entire diet, right? Well, not exactly. Remember that you can improve your diet step by step to help you along your journey.

First step: Go to, click under "My Pyramid Plan" and fill out three simple questions (age, gender, physical activity), after which you'll get a personalized chart detailing how much of each food group you need in your diet.

Healthy sweets

Having trouble satisfying your sweet tooth? Here are some healthy snack alternatives:

  • Spice up a banana by sticking a wooden skewer or long lollipop stick into one end. Dip it into chocolate yogurt and roll into crushed peanuts. When it's ready, stick it in a freezer until hardened. You'll end up with a delicious treat very reminiscent of a banana split.

  • Fresh fruits too plain for you? Make a delicious fruit dip by mixing a bit of peanut butter and some honey into plain yogurt. If peanut butter isn't one of your favorites, substitute jam and omit the honey.

  • For an exceptional snack, try a frozen yogurt peach bowl. Skin a peach, slice it in half and remove the pit. Next, take a scoop of your favorite frozen yogurt and place it on the peach halves. For an added treat, sprinkle on some granola.

  • If those ideas are little too bizarre for your taste, you could snack on a power bar. These are nutritious as well as energizing, unlike most energy drinks and sodas.

Go easy on the java

Which brings us to our next point: cutting the caffeine.

In a world powered by soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate, it's hard to let go. But you don't have to "quit caffeine," just cut down. Eat less chocolate (especially dark chocolate), make fewer trips to the local coffee shop, and, if you drink soda, try Sprite or 7UP, which contain little or no caffeine.

Another beverage idea: Add juice to sparkling water.

According to KidsHealth, an online health resource on children and teens (, consuming too much caffeine can lead to insomnia and nervousness and has been linked to serious conditions such as depression, anxiety and heart problems.

It also states that caffeine is, after all, an addictive drug.

Boost your energy

Think we're out of our bloody minds? Then listen to Ann Cooper, a former cruise ship chef who left that job in 1999. We spoke by phone with Cooper, the self-proclaimed "renegade lunch lady" who is dedicated to helping kids understand the importance of eating healthier

According to Cooper, you get the same energy boost from eating greens, meats and other nutritious foods as you do from caffeine.

"If you're into sports, an energy drink or soda might give you a good charge to start off, but by the time you hit the third quarter, you crash," Cooper says. "On the other hand, the fuel you get from eating right will last you an entire game."

Also, Cooper says that eating right will not only improve your performance on the field, but it will improve your overall well-being the way you feel and look, and even the way you party.

"The high fructose corn syrup in most soft drinks depletes your calcium supply and isn't digestible," she says, "so it causes you to gain weight."

Carbohydrates are our friends

And if you think cutting all carbs will help you along the way to reaching an ideal weight, think again. Avoid simple carbs, like refined white sugar, which provide short-term energy. In your diet, include complex carbs such as oatmeal, dark leafy greens and whole-wheat bread and pasta.

"The complex carbohydrates in pastas and greens are different than simple carbohydrates packed into cookies and other sweets," says Cooper. "You need complex carbs, but should avoid refined-sugar carbs."

With all this information and advice, it's time to start fresh. Why not start this Halloween season? Watch those refined-sugar carbs that you'll be encountering during your trick-or-treating extravaganza, and stick to the complex carbs. Limit your caffeine consumption. Let the new USDA food pyramid be your guide.


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