People who want to eat healthier can follow several guidelines, nutritional experts at N.C. Baptist colleges say.
Kirk E. Peterson, chairman of the sports studies and physical education department at Chowan University, said there are several ways people can eat healthier.
"It's all the things our parents used to tell us," he said.
First, people who want to eat better should pay attention to how much they eat.
"It comes down to portion control," Peterson said.
Next, people should eat a variety of foods so they get proper vitamins and nutrients. "Your plate should be very colorful," he said.
People who watch what they eat and exercise stand a good chance of losing weight, Peterson said.
"I would stay away from fast food altogether," he said. "Research shows that even once a month is too much."
Peterson also suggested that people stay away from fried foods and sugar. When snacking, people should consider nuts, popcorn without butter and salt, fruits and raw vegetables.
Peterson said people on "yo-yo" diets where they lose weight only to regain it might actually be slowing their metabolic rate and increasing the chances of cardiovascular disease.
"It's hard on our heart," he said.
Peterson suggested that people see a doctor, get a physical and start an exercise program under the doctor's guidance. Such a program might include exercise three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes each.
Pauline Calloway, chair of the family and consumer science department at Campbell University, said too many people fall for "gimmicks." She suggested people follow the "My Food Pyramid" food guidance system distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
MyPyramid is meant to help people find the kinds and amounts of foods they should eat each day. The program takes into account age, gender and activity level and includes specific daily amounts from each food group and a limit for discretionary calories.
Calloway teaches a class on children's health, wellness and safety which deals with nutrition.
Calloway said she has noticed that young people are taking a greater interest in nutrition. That can be seen by fast food restaurants offering more nutritious meals, she said.
Her advice: "Stay with things that are research-based and not sales gimmicks."
Gary R. Uremovich, the director of the physician assistant program at Wingate University, agreed with Peterson's suggestions of eating healthy snacks, controlling portion sizes and eating a variety of food colors. In an e-mail to the Recorder, he added several other guidelines.
• Don't shop hungry.
"Never go to the grocery store hungry and, if possible, make a list before you go," Uremovich said. "If you're hungry while going down the snack aisle you'll be more likely to pick up those goodies. Once you have them at home it's very difficult to avoid eating them. "
• Eat slower.
"We all eat too fast. The faster we eat the more we consume," he said. "Give your stomach a chance to let you know when you are satisfied."
• Don't skip meals.
"Probably the most important meal we can have is breakfast," Uremovich said. "Studies have shown that a hearty breakfast is helpful in reducing weight. Someone has said that we should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. Try and avoid eating too close to bedtime."
• Keep a record.
"Write down what you eat and when. Sometimes we compulsively eat without really thinking about it," he said.