Pyramid can help lead to healthy living

By Erin Kelley

July means fireworks, summer flings, flip flops, and whatever clothing worn to look good while not “sweating like a pig.” Yet those tight tops and short shorts do not appeal to the opposite sex when rolls of fat are gushing over the edges, which is why a variety of nutrition trends have taken the country by storm to help whip even the least healthy body into shape.

Although low-carb diets are waning, there are other trends that seem to be picking up in popularity including whole-health diets, back-to-basics eating plans and exotic dietary influences, according to WebMD’s diet and nutrition trends page. With all the new nutrition information constantly being advertised, Kristina Adams, a health educator at the Carle Weight Management Center, said is good place to start individual improvement.

“Individuals need to look at their own tolerances for different foods,” she said.

Adams advised that people start off figuring out healthier eating and exercising possibilities for themselves with the help of

If that plan isn’t as successful she said that people should consider either individual counseling or group consultations offered through a variety of locations in the area, including Carle Clinic.

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“Most people need some sort of accountability,” Adams said, “which is why individual or group consultations work for a lot of people.”

The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an organization in United States Department of Agriculture, produces dietary guidelines like the food pyramid to advance and promote dietary guidance for all Americans. The organization also conducts applied research and analyses in nutrition and consumer economics, according to their Web site.

“ is based on the 2005 dietary guidelines for Americans,” said Dave Grotto, spokesperson for American Dietetic Association.

The pyramid is becoming more useful because it now offers individual recommendations to a point, he said. There is a great difference between what a 80-year-old woman and 12-year-old boy should be eating both in calories and in servings. The pyramid allows you to look at age, gender and whether one is physically active before getting daily proposed intake values.

However, there are some limitations, Grotto said. People with challenges to their health like Parkinson’s disease or diabetes need to visit a registered dietician for suggestions on eating habits and intake.

Grotto also writes for Nation’s Restaurant News and has found that restaurants are picking up on the trend of healthier eating and giving options such as whole gains and smaller portions.

People can help control some of what they are eating when going out for a meal by asking how their food is prepared and requesting adjustments. Diet control is given up when eating out because all the factors can’t be monitored as they could at home, Grotto said.

“The good news is that people can eat healthy at home or in restaurants,” he said.

Besides the six-basic elements of the food pyramid, the guidelines also include discretionary calories, also known as “extra” calories that are a percentage of the daily calorie intake that come from added sugars, alcohol or solid fats. Calories coming into the body through eating and lost through exercise are very important to consider when dieting or just trying to at healthier, Grotto said. But there are other things to consider beyond calories like the type of food that is being consumed.

A person could eat only French fries for their daily calorie intake, and although one might think that sounds like a pretty good idea, people require more than one food.

“We are omnivores by design so that is why the pyramid was developed,” Grotto said. “One food group is not superior to the other.”

The pyramid also has suggestions for daily exercise. Exercising daily is important for everyone to work into their hectic schedules, said Adams. To consider how much exercise is needed, each individual needs to determine if they are trying to achieve weight loss, maintain weight loss or promote health.

According to the most recent studies, people should exercise 30 minutes a day if they are looking to keep up their health. The American Heart Association tells us that people should workout between 20 to 30 minutes a day in the target heart rate zone to keep the heart healthy as well, Adams said.

For those interested in losing weight, they should try to achieve 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Also, if people are trying to maintain their weight loss they need to work out for 60 to 90 minutes everyday. All the different categories published by different experts sometimes confuse people, Adams said.

“Any little bit (of activity) done daily will help,” she said.

Most people find it is more manageable to find time to workout for 20 minutes at a time then setting aside a whole hour a day to hit the gym. These little bits of activity are still beneficial, Adams said. Although you may not notice it as much as if you were to spend an hour at the gym, the activity does make a difference.

The nation is not becoming more physically active, Grotto said. People need to focus on getting more physical activity into their lives and there need to be other ways to encourage this.

“Although there is a figure running up the side of the pyramid, this is not causing people to go out and join a health club,” he said.

Experts think that high-impact aerobic workouts and elaborate home gym equipment is something of the past, according to WebMD. The current health trends that are becoming popular are back-to-basics exercise plans, function fitness, mind/body workouts and using the “buddy system” when exercising.