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Changing Your Diet

MISSISSIPPI LINK — This time of year everybody wants to get next year off to a good start by changing old bad habits. One of the biggest changes most people start is changing their diet. To succeed you need a good plan.



By Vince Faust, Special to The Mississippi Link Newspaper,

This time of year everybody wants to get next year off to a good start by changing old bad habits. One of the biggest changes most people start is changing their diet. To succeed you need a good plan.

Changing your diet takes patience, persistence and behavior modification. Just losing weight should not be your goal. You want to lose body fat. There’s no simple or quick way to get rid of excess body fat. Once you get rid of it the only way to keep it off is to continue a program, which incorporates healthy eating with aerobic activities and resistance exercises.

Approximately 47.8 percent of African Americans are obese compared to 32.6 percent of whites. 35.1 percent of African-American children ages 2 to 19 are overweight. We need to change our diets to change these numbers.

Changing your diet to help your health takes patience, persistence and behavior modification. There’s no simple or quick way to change your diet.

To change or modify your behavior takes commitment. You must modify or get rid of old habits and develop new positive behaviors. Changing your eating habits is probably the most difficult part of developing good health.

The first ingredient to modify your eating behavior is the desire to do so. The reasons for change must be more important than those for carrying on your present lifestyle patterns. If a sincere commitment is made the chances for success become much greater.

Once you’ve made the commitment to change you must then set realistic goals. These goals should be long term and short term. Most people with a weight problem want to lose it all on a miracle program within a months or even a few days. This is unrealistic because weight problems don’t happen in a few weeks it occurs over a long period of time. Your long-term goal should be your ultimate goal. Your short-term goals should include the small accomplishments it takes to reach your long-term goal.

Developing healthy eating habits takes meal planning. You cannot change your eating habits if you leave your diet to chance. To do this you must shop wisely. Always have a list of the foods you need when you shop and never shop on an empty stomach. You also have to learn to differentiate between hunger and appetite. Hunger is the actual physical need for food. Appetite is a desire for food, usually triggered by factors such as stress, habit, boredom, smell, depression, food availability or the thought of food itself. Sticking to a regular meal plan will help control hunger and appetite.

The best way to change poor eating habits is to do it one meal at a time. Give yourself a week to ten days for each meal change. Since breakfast is the first meal of the day, start there. Instead of donuts, coffee and snack foods on the run have a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of juice to start your day. Have a glass of juice and one or two pieces of fruit when you get up. After a shower and getting dressed have something more substantial like a bowl of whole grain cereal such as oatmeal or wheat flakes. Vanilla flavored soy drink is a good substitute drink to pour on cereal especially if you have a problem with milk. Whole grain wheat or corn muffins and pancakes are also good breakfast foods. Whole grain means 100% wheat, corn or rice products. These can be found in health food stores or in the health food section of your supermarket.

Give yourself a week to ten days to change breakfast then move onto lunch. By lunchtime your body will need a protein such as baked or broiled chicken or fish, beans, egg whites or tuna. If you eat red meat limit your intake to once or twice a week and have only lean cuts of beef. You’ll also need to have one or two servings of green vegetables. One serving equals about half a cup. Romaine lettuce salads (iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value) steamed broccoli, string beans, cabbage; collard greens and kale are all excellent choices.

Later in the afternoon have a carbohydrate food like whole grain bread, a baked potato or air popped popcorn. This will replace that late afternoon bag of chips or candy bar.

Change your dinner meal in a few more weeks. You can even make dinner two small meals. Have some protein and a vegetable for your first small dinner meal. Later have a light meal of brown rice pilaf or pasta with a vegetable on the side.

Drink water at least fifteen minutes before you eat instead of with your meal. Use less butter, salt, dressings and condiments on your foods so that you gradually learn to enjoy the natural taste of food. Once you do, those fast foods and junk foods won’t be so appealing. Trust me, my favorite meals once included macaroni and cheese, biscuits or even a Stromboli. I can pass on all of them now because my body craves healthier choices. This is not to say I will never indulge in these foods but when I do they taste as good as they used to.

Many people associate certain activities with eating. Examples of automatic eating include eating while cooking, watching television, talking on the telephone and reading. These patterns are hard to break but you can satisfy that habit of nibbling by drinking a glass of herbal tea or water when these situations occur. When you do nibble while reading or watching a movie make sure the snack is wholesome like air popped popcorn seasoned with herbs.

Social gatherings like holiday outings, luncheons, cookouts and guest can sabotage the most well thought out plan. Instead of eating everything in sight once you get there have several small meals earlier in the day. This will keep you from binging at those social gatherings. Eat slowly. This will give your body time to realize you’re full and you’ll be less likely to overeat.

Your Daily Basics

Protein – 2 servings

Vegetables-4 To 6 servings

Fruit – 3 To 6 Servings

Grain — 2 To 4 servings

Dairy Products – 2 servings

This menu is low in fat, sodium and sugar. If you don’t add the fat, sodium or sugar, they won’t be part of this menu. Use herbs and other vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers and celery to season your food.

What Counts As A Serving?


Whole grain bread, cereal, rice, pasta, bagels and muffins

• 1 slice of whole grain bread

• 1/2 bagel

• About 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal

• 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, corn grits, oatmeal, cream of wheat or pasta

• 1 pancake


• 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

• 1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw

• 3/4 cup of vegetable juice


• 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear

• 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

• 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Dairy Product

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group

• 1 cup of milk or yogurt

• 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese (such as Cheddar)

• 2 ounces of processed cheese (such as American)


Beef, fresh pork, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts

• 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish

• 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans# or 1/2 cup of tofu

• 2 1/2-ounce soyburger or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat

• 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts counts


• Butter, oil, margarine: 1 teaspoon

• Salad dressing: 2 tablespoons

For example:

• Meat, chicken, fish: 3 ounces or the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of a woman’s hand

• Pasta, rice, oatmeal, potatoes, cooked vegetables: half a cup, or the size of a tennis ball

• Bagel or muffin: 1 ounce, or the size of a ping-pong ball

• Cheese: 1 ounce, or the size of a woman’s thumb

• Butter, oil, margarine: 1 teaspoon, or the size of a stamp

• Salad dressing: 2 tablespoons, or the size of a standard ice cube

• Raw vegetables: 1 cup, or the size of a baseball

Here are a few tips that can help your diet change:

  • Eat fruit and/or drink juice when you wake up instead of coffee and donuts. You should eat or drink 3 servings of fruit daily.
  • Have whole grain pancakes with pure maple syrup or other whole grain cereals instead of bacon and eggs for breakfast. You need no less than 2 servings of a whole grain daily.
  • Carry your lunch instead of eating out everyday.
  • Visit your health food store to see the alternative products they now stock.
  • Make sure you have 4 to 6 servings of vegetables daily.
  • Drink water between meals instead of soda pop.
  • Limit fried foods to once or twice a week.
  • Plan your menu for each week, make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Use canola oil instead of vegetable oil for cooking.
  • Eat at least 1/3 of your food before late day.
  • Eat 4-6 small meals throughout the day (it’s impossible to get what your body needs on 1 meal a day).
  • Exercising 3-4 times a week will help you develop a healthy body.
  • Sometimes you will eat foods you shouldn’t. This happens to everyone. The important thing to remember is that you have to eat healthy on a regular basis for the small slip ups not to affect you. It takes time to develop good lifetime habits.
  • Regular exercise should also be a part of any good weight loss program.
  • Learn to eat to live instead of live to eat.
  • Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.

Watch “Tips to be Fit” on and

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed write to “Tips to be Fit” P O Box 53443 Philadelphia PA 19105, or

This article originally appeared in the Mississippi Link


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