Over the past few years, organizations have created more and more initiatives to make people aware of the importance of a healthy diet and acceptable weight in reducing health problems.
What is considered “healthy weight”?
Healthy weight is the weight at which the risk of having health problems is the lowest. The body mass index (BMI) is a recognized measurement for assessing the level of health risk based on body weight. It is defined as weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters squared). There are charts and calculators on the Internet to quickly determine your BMI. Refer to our links.
A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m² is considered normal or healthy. While this reduces your risk of developing health problems, it doesn’t necessarily protect you from disease. It is a great starting point, however. The objective is to maintain a healthy body weight throughout your life. Wondering how to achieve that? We have a few tips for you.
People increasingly recognize that a balanced diet is often the key to achieving a healthy body weight; choosing foods wisely is therefore critical to the human body. Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating offers guidelines to follow when choosing foods, and the daily portions required based on individual needs. The Guide recommends the following daily servings:
- 5 to 12 servings of grain products - 5 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit - 2 to 4 servings of milk and alternatives - 2 to 3 servings of meat and alternatives (such as fish, poultry, legumes)
As you can see, there is more emphasis on two of the four food groups: grain products and fruit and vegetables. These foods are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; they may help prevent certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Dairy products are important, but lower fat products are recommended. Meats and other protein sources are still an important group, but they should be the smallest serving on our plate.
A balanced meal should be planned according to the following servings: starches (rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) and fruit should each be the size of your fist; proteins (meats, peas, lentils, beans, etc.) should be the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger; as for vegetables, choose as much as you can hold in both hands; fats should be limited to the size of the tip of your thumb.
Changing your eating habits should not be a chore. After all, eating is one of life’s pleasures! Try these easy tips that can make a difference:
- Don’t hesitate to vary your foods by eating some from each group every day. Varying the flavours and textures helps enhance your daily menu.
- Choose whole or enriched grain products such as bran cereals, whole wheat pasta and multigrain bread.
- Add colour to your plate. Favour dark green or orange vegetables and orange fruits, as they provide a significant contribution of essential vitamins such as beta-carotene, folates and vitamin C.
- Eat less fat: cook with little or no fat, choose lean meats, favour chicken and fish, choose skim or low-fat dairy products, avoid rich desserts and high-fat snacks, and cut down on oil, salad dressing, butter and margarine, as well as on salty and sweet foods (snacks, chips, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks).
- Replace salt with herbs and spices.
- Take the time to eat, chew well, and take smaller bites.
Physical exercise is vital
Excess weight is associated with many health problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypercholesterolemia, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight is therefore a vital factor in decreasing your risk of developing these diseases.
In order to control your weight, you must also increase your daily energy expenditure by being more active. Changing your eating habits alone cannot perform any miracles. Exercise doesn’t have to be very difficult or complicated to be beneficial. Simply adding physical activities to your daily routine can improve your health and help you feel better overall. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling to the corner store, getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way – these are all simple ways to burn more calories. It is generally recommended to build 30 minutes or more of physical activity into each day in order to get appreciable benefits. A few ten-minute sessions per day can be enough when getting started. Over time, the body gets stronger and gains endurance. You can gradually increase the length of your physical activity based on your abilities.
Perhaps you’re aware that you have some excess weight and would like to shed a few kilos. That’s already a step in the right direction. Changing long-standing lifestyle habits may not be an easy task, but being motivated to change behaviours is a key element of your undertaking. Integrate changes one at a time. There’s no point in trying to change everything at once, as this will make the task seem insurmountable. Set attainable goals and give yourself rewards when you reach them.
Do you already have a healthy weight? Wonderful, keep up your good habits! There’s nothing stopping you from improving further, however. Good habits are developed early. By integrating them into your lifestyle, you are more likely to maintain them as you age. Take advantage of your experience to have a positive influence on the people around you: your parents, children, grand-children or friends all need healthy lifestyle habits as much as you do!