Diet Tips From Around The World


green apple wrapped in a tape measure( — When it comes to weight control, it seems as though every country has some great tips on staying lean and healthy, while Americans seems to perpetually be struggling to keep their waistlines in check – and with it, the risks for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even some cancers. Does everyone else know something that we don’t?

First, some of the very basic global golden rules for eating healthy:

• Fabulous foreign food doesn’t have to be fatty
• Eat proper portion sizes
• Take it slow — no matter what you’re eating

“There is no real mystery as to why Americans are gaining weight. We have a body that needs roughly 2,200 calories a day to survive, and a food industry that insists on producing and pushing 3,700 calories a day. Do the math and you’ll see what’s going wrong,” says Steven Jonas, MD, PhD, a professor of preventive medicine at State University of New York at Stonybrook, and author of 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines.

If you examine the global pantry item by item, you may be surprised to learn that diets all over the world contain pretty much the same foods. The choices, whether you’re in Madrid, Spain or Atlanta, basically consist of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

The difference? How we deal with those foods.

The Problem With American Eating Habits

1. Lack of Food Enjoyment. Among the worst of the typically American eating habits, say experts, is our unwillingness to celebrate each meal we eat. Ironically for a culture that uses food to celebrate so many things, dinnertime is less about the food and more about filling our bellies — and doing so quickly. By comparison, Jonas says, a meal in any of the Mediterranean countries could take two hours or more. Yet frequently, less food is consumed than at the American dinner table.

“I think the one thing that strikes every American who travels abroad, to France, to Italy, to Spain, to Greece, is how each meal is a kind of celebratory event to be savored and enjoyed,” says Jonas.

2. Too Much Unhealthy Snacking. Additionally, studies show that few cultures snack as much as Americans. After all, our country not only gave birth to fast food and the “coffee break,” but to the commercial snack food industry.

Folks living in Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and Africa are far less likely to eat between meals. That means they automatically avoid many of the foods that cause us to gain weight, such as baked goods loaded with trans fats, candy bars high in saturated fat, and sugary, empty-calorie sodas.

“When other cultures do snack, they choose healthy items such as fresh fruit, or fiber-rich whole grains, or nuts, all of which help their health in other ways as well,” says Jonas.

3. Too Much Food. Period. From Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, Jonas says portion sizes are notoriously smaller everywhere than on the American plate.

“Americans have lost touch with what it feels like to be ‘full,’ having replaced that feeling with one of being ‘stuffed’ — one reason our portion sizes are now so large,” say Heller.

4. Lack of Exercise. Finally, experts say it’s time for American’s to spend less time in those bucket seats and more time on our feet.

As Mireille Guiliano, author of Why French Women Don’t Get Fat, points out, while Europeans typically walk to the bakery, the butcher shop, and the vegetable stand for food that is prepared every day, Americans often load their groceries into the trunk of their car, and try to park as close to the store as possible.

“Walking is the most simple, the most inexpensive exercise there is,” says Guiliano. “Besides what it does to your waistline, it is also exercise for the mind because it gives you time to relax, to think, to dream, and to look at the sky or the buildings or at nature. So it has many other effects that go with the French lifestyle of body and mind.”

Country-To-Country Weight Control Tips

From Africa:

Add more nuts to your diet — even consider them as part of your main meal. In at least one African nation, Gambia, peanuts frequently make up the basis of a meal; a favorite dish being tomato and peanut stew. While we consider stews fattening, they are enjoyed daily in this culture. The trick is to load the pot with vegetables, spices, and, of course, nuts, which can replace meat or poultry as a source of protein. And does it work? Well, not only do the Gambians have virtually no weight problems, they also have the lowest international incidence of all types of cancer.

From the Mediterranean:

The message here: Eat from the source! If Americans took away any lesson from the famed, heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, it was to replace saturated fats with healthier fats, like those found in olive oil. The message we didn’t seem to get: In most European cultures, folks not only cook with olive oil, they actually eat the olives. This “whole foods” approach to diet not only allows them to reap the benefits of the oils, it fills their bellies with a heart-healthy food.

Cultures including the French and the Greek also augment the benefits of red wine by eating the grapes — a typical “dessert” in many European countries.

Tip: If you do drink wine, or any alcoholic beverage, do like the French and drink it only with meals. On an empty stomach, alcohol goes right to the brain, dissolving those inhibitions that might otherwise keep you from diving into a bowl of potato chips or eating way too much of your entree. Drinking on empty can also drop blood sugar, bringing on ravenous hunger and causing you to overeat.

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Working Out With Diabetes

African American Black Couple Working Out In Park On Grass

People with type 2 diabetes may eventually find that they have lost mobility, either because a limb has been amputated or they otherwise need to use a wheelchair. While this change can make it hard to think about exercise and fitness, but successful diabetes management is still a priority — and still requires at least 30 minutes of activity five days a week.

Even if you have lost a limb, the other joints in your body still need to be active, so your goal is to manage diabetes and also keep the rest of your body in motion.

Joints get stiff if you don’t move them, says Patrice Winter, a physical therapist at George Mason University and in private practice in Fairfax, Va. “Joints are like a well-oiled machine. They need to be active.”

First Steps to Diabetes Exercise

Many people with diabetes who have impaired mobility will have to start with the basics before they can begin — or get back into — an exercise routine. This means focusing on range of motion and building up the strength of your heart and lungs so you can exercise. Winter says this is easier for people who begin their fitness training before surgery or loss of mobility.

Ideally, says Winter, you will be referred to a physical therapist or certified trainer who can help you plan a suitable fitness program and get you started with the first steps. You can also go online to find suitable programs; one is called SilverSneakers. Check with your health insurance to find out which types of rehab services and supplies are covered.

During rehab, you will also learn how to use your prosthesis or wheelchair. This may be a workout on its own! Once you have developed some strength, you will be able to move on to more strenuous exercise.

Exercise Strategies

Here are some strategies you can try if you want to get back into an exercise routine:

• Find a passion. Winter says that although loss of mobility feels like a limitation, the key to finding your way back to fitness is to ask yourself a counterintuitive question: “What did you like to do when you were little?” Almost every type of physical activity that thrilled you as a child can be managed with a wheelchair or a prosthesis — with some creative modifications — and it is exercise that you enjoy that will ultimately become a long-term part of your life. Here are some of the childhood-to-adulthood translations:

 – Basketball. Join a wheelchair league. This works on your core muscles and arms as well as improving cardio-pulmonary endurance.
 – Bicycling. People with prostheses can use bicycles (stationary or otherwise) with modifications.
 – Swimming. Once your stump is healed and you have the strength to get in and out of a wheelchair or to be mobile with your prosthetic, you can get back in the water.

• Chair-based exercise. “Patients who have diabetes and are in a wheelchair still have upper body strength,” emphasizes Amy Kranick, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the adult diabetes program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. This means that you can try weight training, chair yoga, chair tai chi, resistance bands, and other types of seated stretching and conditioning exercise programs.

• Lifestyle changes. Even while you are building a new fitness routine, you will have to support it with changes in diet and in your approach to managing your blood sugar. Loss of mobility is a reality check for many people living with diabetes, says Winter. “If someone is [undergoing an] amputation and says, ‘I am going to do what I have always done’ and they don’t have a good understanding of the disease, they will lose the other leg,” she warns. Work with a dietitian or nutritionist who can help support your goals for long-term fitness.

Coping With Emotional Issues

Winter advises being true to yourself as you plan your fitness routine. For example, if you are a private person and have always hated working out in public or at the gym, find a way to exercise at home instead of letting well-meaning family members or friends push you into a gym or pool membership. Physical therapists and trainers can come to your home, and some programs have videos that will give you home-based instruction for fitness.

And if you are angry about your situation, this is normal. The reality is that many people who lose mobility become angry, says Winter. While anger is an expected response, it does not further your goals. Seek therapy if you find that anger or despair is making it hard to get moving.

Losing your mobility doesn’t mean giving up on fun and exercise. Use your creativity and connections and get started on a fitness plan!