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You can become overweight when you eat more calories than you use. A calorie is a unit of energy in the food you consume.  Your body needs this energy to function and to be active. But if you take in more energy than your body uses, you will gain weight.

Many factors can play a role in becoming overweight. Behaviors, such as eating too many calories or not getting enough physical activity are often the case. Cultural reasons such as bigger portion sizes, little time to exercise or cook healthy meals or taking the car to get places instead of walking can also add on the extra weight.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture offer these tips for healthy eating in Dietary Guidelines for All Americans.

Focus on fruits. Eat a variety of fruits- fresh and frozen –rather than fruit juice for most of your fruit choices. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you will need 2 cups of fruit each day. An example of a cup is 1 small banana, or 1 large orange, or 1 small apple.

Vary your veggies. Eat more dark green veggies, such as broccoli, kale, and other dark leafy greens. Orange veggies include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash.

Get your calcium-rich foods.  Each day drink 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk. You can get an equivalent amount of low-fat yogurt and /or cheese each day.  1.5 ounces of cheese equals 1 cup of milk. If you don't or can't consume milk, choose lactose-free milk products and/or calcium –fortified foods and drinks.

Make half your grains whole. Eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta each day. One ounce is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or ½ cup of cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta. Look to see that grains such as wheat, rice, or oats are referred to as "whole" in the list of ingredients.

Go lean with protein. Proteins are an important part of your bones, muscles and skin and are found in every living cell in your body.  Inside cells, proteins perform many functions including helping break down food for energy, building structures and breaking down toxins. Choose lean meats and poultry. Bake it, broil it, or grill it. Vary protein choices with more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

Limit saturated fats. Your body needs some fat to function properly. Fat is a source of energy, is used by your body to make substances it needs and helps your body absorb certain vitamins from food. But not all fats are the same. Some are better for your health than others. To help prevent heart disease and stroke, most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated (olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts) or polyunsaturated fats (safflower, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, or cottonseed oil.) Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that appears to reduce your risk of heart disease. Good sources of omega-3s are fatty fish (salmon, trout, herring, anchovies and sardines). Plant sources of omega-3s include ground flax seed, flax seed oil and walnuts.

Limit salt. Get less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) each day.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for all Americans state that an active lifestyle can lower your risk of early death from a variety of causes. There is strong evidence that regular physical activity can also lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression, just to name a few.

Regular activity can help prevent unhealthy weight gain and also help with weight loss when combined with lower calorie intake.

For more information on making healthy food choices, call the Government Women's Health call center at 1-800-994-9662 or visit their website at www.womenshealth.gov. At Curves we offer coaching for everyone at every workout, results at any fitness level, a method to burn fat, lose weight and increase strength. Our Curves Complete Program is an integrated 1-2-3 solution of fitness, meal plans and a weekly meeting with a certified Cleveland Clinic coach. Call us at 478-3500 for more information on the programs we have to offer. Be well!


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