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Staying healthy

Nisreen Khazaal, M.D., Summa Physicians Inc. – Internal Medicine, discusses healthy diet and weight management, and their impact on the overall health of individuals.

What is your advice on starting a healthy diet?

You can begin with simple steps on your way to a healthier lifestyle. First, know your weight (have a scale at home) and set a reasonable goal of losing 1 to 2 pounds a week. There also is the need to “balance your calories.” Think of your daily calorie needs as a budget; a person should spend most of his or her calories on essentials to meet nutrient needs – foods that are high in fiber, whole grain, as well as fruits and vegetables. Use only your “leftover” calories for extras that provide little or no nutritional benefit, such as sugar. Learn to read food labels to know about serving sizes, calories and nutrition. Also, don’t forget about portion control.

Can an individual overdo it – not eat enough?

Our bodies need a certain minimum number of calories for daily activities. If a person decreases the amount of fat and calories consumed, the body will think it is in starvation mode and slow down your metabolism. You will actually lose less weight than if you ate more calories. So, eating five small frequent meals a day is better than eating just one large meal in boosting metabolism.

Isn’t it more than just cutting calories – a person needs to make sure he or she gets enough nutrition?

Yes, getting enough nutrition in your diet is important. This helps you lose fat weight but not muscle weight. By maintaining a nutrition-rich diet, people can prevent conditions such as iron deficiency, anemia, bone loss and thyroid problems.

How important is it for the entire family to eat healthy and maintain physical activity?

Parents are role models. Children are watching, and if their parents eat healthy, the chances are better they will eat healthy and continue to do so once they get into their teen years. A healthy diet becomes a lifestyle in the house, not a punishment. Make exercise fun for your children. It is a lot easier to eat a healthy diet and exercise when you begin at an early age. It can be an enjoyable family activity.