By Jennifer J. Wells, Hill County Extension Agent
New Year resolutions may be broken and forgotten about, but it is never to late to focus on your health and the health of your family.
Low-carbohydrate diets are everywhere these days - from the morning news and TV talk shows to magazine covers and bookstore promotion displays. These and other fad diets promise quick weight loss miracles. The miracles are short-lived for most dieters.
Like most diet crazes the current fads may work in the short term. Most plans limit calories to about 800 to 1,200 per day, not nearly enough to meet adult energy needs. These diets are so restrictive that few people can stay on them very long, as they return to their usual eating patterns the weight returns.
How do you spot a fad diet? There are six signs that can help you spot a diet disaster before it strikes you.
Rapid weight loss - Not! Studies show that slow, steady weight loss is more likely to be maintained than dramatic weight changes. Healthy plans aim for a loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you lose weight quickly, you'll probably be losing muscle, bone and water along with fat.
No need to exercise -- Not likely. Regular physical activity is essential for permanent weight control and overall good health. The key to success is to find leisure time activities you enjoy, 30 to 45 minutes three to five days a week.
Magic foods or supplements - There are no miracle foods or pills that burn or melt fat away. There is nothing that will melt fat while you sleep. There are no super foods that can magically change your genetic code. There is no scientific proof that any foods are addictive.
Bizarre quantities and limitations - Be wary of any diet that allows unlimited quantities of some foods, like grapefruit or cabbage soup. Also be very careful of diets that completely eliminate food groups. Even if you take a vitamin/mineral supplement, you could miss out on critical nutrients.
Specific food combinations -Another claim that doesn't hold water. Eating the "wrong" combinations of food does not cause them to produce toxins or turn to fat. There is no scientific evidence that combining foods or eating certain foods at certain times of day will help in weight loss.
Rigid menu - Life is already complicated enough. Limiting food choices or following rigid meal plans can be an overwhelming and unpleasant task. What you need is a realistic, flexible food plan that allows you to enjoy a lifetime of delicious nutrition.
There are five ways to help you and your family get fit in 2000. Get off the diet roller coaster and take these steps toward a healthier future.
Be active - Change the "E" word from exercise to enjoyment. There's no need for expensive health club memberships or fancy equipment. Just get physical for a total 30 to 45 minutes a day, three brisk 10 minute walks will do the trick. Fun is also the key to family fitness. Make family time active by heading to the park with a ball, a frisbee, or a kite.
Be realistic - Make small changes in what you eat. Breakfast is a tasty time to get a power surge for the day.
Be adventurous -- Expand your tastes with 5 A Day. Snacks are the smart way to get a jump start on the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables you need every day.
Be flexible - Balance what you eat thru the day. Lunches can be lighter when you are going out for a big dinner. Look for easy ways to lower fat intake.
Be sensible - Enjoy all foods, just don't overdo it. Dinnertime is the time to enjoy foods in moderation and listen carefully to your signals from your stomach. Some tricks that will help you from overeating are: try eating off of smaller size plates, start with moderate portion sizes, turn off the TV and focus on food, or eat slowly and chew carefully.
For more information on eating healthy, contact your local extension office.