Updated Oct. 30, 2008 - You probably already read about the numbers - measurements that predict health and well being as they relate to metabolic syndrome. Someone metabolic syndrome has any three of the following traits:
- Increased waist circumference
- High blood cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL-cholesterol; and,
- Elevated blood glucose
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But the myth about these traits is that our genes set the numbers associated with them. What is true is that our food choices and daily habits play important roles.
Here's how to make healthier choices in those areas.
Excess body fat can lead to an increased risk of abnormal blood sugar and metabolic syndrome.
To reduce excess body fat, you need to increase your calorie awareness -how many calories you eat compared to how many calories you burn every day. Learning how to estimate calories and food portions can help you bring your health into balance.
There are two ways to figure out the amount of calories you are eating: counting calories and estimating healthy food portions.
- Read food labels to estimate calories.
Look for the "serving size." You'll find it just below the large words "Nutrition Facts" on all food labels. Then, look for the number of calories for that serving size. If you're eating double the portion, you'll double the number of calories.
- The Plate Method
If counting calories isn't your thing or you don't have access to labels, the Plate Method can help. Fill one-fourth of your plate with a starchy food (such as beans or sweet potato) and one-fourth of your plate with a serving of meat (size of a deck of cards). The other half of the plate can be filled with lots of vegetables. The Plate Method is an easy way to help you get your portions in check.
Here are a few tricks to eat fewer calories and stay satisfied:
- Eat foods that are filling but have fewer calories for the amount eaten, like broth-based soups, cut fruit and cooked or raw vegetables.
- Don't bring home hihg-calorie snacks. Sure, you deserve treats now and then - but instead of keeping high fat, high-calorie foods at home, buy one portion at a time so they aren't around to tempt you.
- Drink zero-calorie beverages, you're ahead of the calorie game. Enjoy water, seltzer or "diet" drinks most often.
- Exercise to Balance the Equation. The other side of your calorie awareness is to engage in physical activity. To learn more about getting motivated and how to gauge what your activity level needs are, visit mypyramid.gov.
For more on metabolic syndrome, read "Metabolic Syndrome: It's A Matter of Numbers."