If you struggle to achieve a healthy weight, you are not alone. The Tri-Cities was ranked the ninth most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. in 2012.
Obesity is not just about the added pounds. It also increases the risk of many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Rather than dieting, which is not successful in the long term for most people, try to focus on eating for maximum health benefits. No matter what you weigh, you will enjoy better health and feel better if you eat the most nutritious foods available.
The American Heart Association has concise recommendations for establishing healthy eating habits. These include eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean meats like poultry and fish; choosing low-fat or non-fat dairy products; and limiting red meat, sugary foods and beverages, and processed foods.
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By progressively making small changes to eat the foods that pack in the most nutrition per calorie, you can gradually lose eight while developing the eating habits to keep pounds off and maintain good health.
A realistic way to introduce these changes is to set simple, attainable goals.
Remember that each little change adds up. If you routinely eat desserts, set a goal to eat only half of what you normally eat or limit desserts to special occasions.
Cutting back on sugary drinks like soda or juice is another habit you can consider changing. Try substituting water at least once a day, or choose the sugary drinks as a treat instead of making it a daily habit.
Foods high in sugar do not contain many nutrients per calorie, so focus on including whole grain carbohydrates that do. If you hardly eat fruit, set a goal to eat one piece of fruit every day, and then increase this amount once you meet your goal.
Increase the amount of vegetables you eat. Vegetables contain the most nutrients per calorie of all the foods we eat. A goal could be to eat at least three servings of vegetables a day.
When considering a goal to set for protein intake, think about where you could substitute lower fat options or smaller portions. Most people get more protein than they need and that can be detrimental, especially if choosing meat or dairy that is high in fat.
Try to substitute a vegetable for one of the meats you normally order on pizzas. Another goal could be to eat one vegetarian or vegan dinner per week. Brainstorm ideas as a family and choose changes and goals that will work for all of you.
This Chicken and Bean Chili recipe meets all the American Heart Association guidelines.
It is loaded with vegetables that are full of nutrients and can help you feel full without adding too many calories. It also contains beans, a great source of protein and fiber. Fiber can help lower cholesterol and also aids in feeling satiated faster. Lastly, the recipe calls for chicken, a lean meat low in artery-clogging saturated fat.
Chicken and Bean Chili
Start to finish: 1 hour.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 onions, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
11/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed thoroughly to remove salt and drained
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and the cumin seeds over medium heat, stirring, until the cumin is lightly toasted and aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the onions, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Push the onion mixture to the side of the pot, add the remaining 1 tsp oil, and increase heat to medium-high. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until brown; then transfer chicken to a plate.
Add the chili powder and oregano to the pot and cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, green chilies, broth and beans. Season with hot sauce and pepper and stir. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Return the chicken to the pot, and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender.
Serve immediately with a salad and whole grain bread or cornbread. Garnish with cilantro and non-fat plain yogurt or non-fat sour cream, if desired.
Nutrition facts per serving: 355 calories; 1.6 grams saturated fat; 5.8 grams unsaturated fat; 79 milligrams cholesterol; 42 grams carbohydrates; 33 grams protein; 405 milligrams sodium; 11 grams fiber.
-- The Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance's monthly food column discusses how to reduce the risk or severity of health problems by eating better. More information at www.bfcha.org.