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Chicago Tribune

Todays Chicago Woman

10 Healthy Eating Habits
By Charles Chua

10 Healthy Eating Habits Eating a healthy diet is critical, not just for weight loss, but for maintaining proper health. As the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute points out, a healthy eating plan reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure. Eating healthy also provides more fuel for your body, reducing your risk of developing a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

Chew Thoroughly
Chewing your food thoroughly gives your body a jump-start on breaking it down for digestion, reduces the amount of air you might gulp while eating, and gives your brain time to recognize that your body is full.

Limit Portions
Serve yourself small portions whenever possible -- you can always go back for more. This further slows you down so that your body has time to tell your brain it's full, and reduces any temptation or pressure to overeat just because the food is in front of you.

Ask for a Doggy Bag
Don't force yourself to clean your plate when dining out. If you're not hungry anymore, either share your food with a friend or take it home for leftovers the next day.

Eat Enough
You need the calories and nutrients from a well-rounded diet to keep your body working. If you "crash diet" or starve yourself to lose weight quickly, you may suffer from vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Your body might actually reduce its metabolic rate to survive, making it harder for you to lose weight in the long run.

Treat Yourself Occasionally
Allowing yourself the occasional treat makes it easier to stick to a healthy diet on a continuing basis. Once you've adapted to a healthy diet, the old unhealthy treats no longer tempt you; but you can still give yourself the gift of a sweet, healthy treat, like fruit with dark chocolate drizzled on it.

Eliminate Some Fats
Each gram of fat contains nine calories, more than twice the calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrates. That's a good reason for cutting as much fat out of your diet as possible. But not all fats are bad. As Australia's Better Health Channel points out, mono-unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids can have some health benefits. Lower your intake of saturated fats and trans fats instead.

Substitute Instead of Eliminating
A healthy diet doesn't have to feel like a prison sentence. Instead of eliminating all your favorite foods, find ways of making them healthier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the example of turning macaroni and cheese from a calorie-dense, high-fat meal into a healthier meal by adding spinach and diced tomatoes, using less butter, and using light or non-fat cheese and milk.

Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods tend to be high in calories and preservatives and low in nutrients. Eating whole-grain versions of the same foods -- bread and cereals, for example -- automatically ups your nutrient intake, giving your body more of what it needs to function well.

You might have to multi-task to get through the day, but make eating a single-tasking activity. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out in the article "Portion Size," it's easy to overeat without realizing it if you're focused on something else. Turn off the television, put down your book, and focus on enjoying each snack or meal.

Expert recommendations on just how many meals you should eat through the day vary. But if you're genuinely hungry -- instead of just experiencing a food craving -- your body needs the fuel. Allowing yourself a healthy snack between meals, like pre-cut vegetables or fruit, can help get you through the day feeling sated. You'll be less likely to grab unhealthy snacks or overeat at the next meal out of sheer desperation.