Aim, build and choose - ABC for your health

October 28, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

Aim for fitness

Combine regular physical activity with sensible eating to aim for a healthy weight. Aim for fitness to help you avoid weight gain if you are already at a healthful weight, or, if needed, to lose weight to improve your health.

o Become physically active if you are inactive. Start by moving more and sitting less.

o Build up to moderate activities, like walking, if you are not already active.

o Find activities you enjoy - gardening, swimming, walking, sports and cycling - and do them often.

o Strive for 30 minutes or more of physical activity most days of the week. If you have children, encourage them to play and be active for at least 60 minutes each day.

o Select sensible portion sizes. Invest in a food scale if you are trying to lose weight. Reading labels helps.

Build a healthful base for your diet

Grains, vegetables and fruits should be the base of your healthful diet. Use MyPyramid ( to help you learn how to choose foods to get the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.


o Eat six ounces of grains daily, choosing different kinds of grains from different sources such as bread, cereal, pasta, rice, tortillas, cornbread or other grain-based foods. Make half the grains you eat whole grains - eat whole-wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, oatmeal or whole-grain cereals.

o Eat at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day. Select different kinds of vegetables and fruits from a variety of colors to get the most benefit. Choose any form - fresh, frozen, dried, canned or 100 percent juices - because all provide vitamins and minerals.

o It is also important to keep food safe. Take steps to make sure the food you eat is clean and safe. Wash your hands and wash surfaces that touch food often.

Choose sensibly

Enjoy your foods and eat what you want. Just don't overdo it. Choosing foods sensibly helps reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers. It also helps you manage your weight.

o Choose an overall diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat. Build your meals around grains, vegetables and fruits.

o Eat fat-free or low-fat dairy foods, beans, peas, fish, lean poultry and meat.

o When cooking, use vegetable oils and soft margarine instead of solid fats, like butter, lard, hard margarine and shortening. Limit the amount used.

o Reduce sugar consumption. Limit your intake of beverages and foods that are high in added sugars. Get the most benefit from the calories you consume by not letting soft drinks and sweet foods take the place of other foods and beverages that supply important nutrients.

o Choose and prepare foods with less salt. Eat more fresh food and fewer convenience foods, canned vegetables, canned soups, salty snacks and cured meats.

o If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. Count as a drink 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor.

Follow the ABCs for good health - aim, build and choose. Use these key words to help guide you to eat well and take action for good health.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

The Herald-Mail Articles