Starting off on the right foot

It might be a good idea to plan your meals for the whole week before you go to the supermarket. You can write out a detailed list of what you will need. This can save time at the store and help you cut down on impulse buying. As you map out the menus for a day, you should try to choose something from each of the major food groups. Then, for the next day, you can pick something a little different in each group.

Eating a variety of foods assures you of getting the nutrients you need for good health. The following table lists some of the major vitamins and minerals along with their functions. Each nutrient is important for your body to perform well. One food group alone cannot provide all of the nutrients your body needs. Based on the food pyramid, this means eating at least:

  • 5 servings of different fruits and/or vegetables a day
  • 6 to 11 servings of breads, grains, or cereals
  • 2 to 3 servings of dairy
  • 2 to 3 servings of meat, fish, poultry, or beans and legumes each day

The human body is more than 60% water by weight. It is important to drink plenty of fluids every day to keep your body hydrated and functioning efficiently. Drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water and other fluids per day, except those containing caffeine if they unfavorably affect your wellbeing.

The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) are the level of intake of micronutrients, based on scientific knowledge, that are judged to be adequate to meet the needs of practically all healthy people. A common misconception is if a little is good, then a lot is better, especially in the case of vitamin and mineral supplements. Your body needs only a certain amount of micronutrients. Any excess will be excreted in your urine, or stored in your body at potentially hazardous levels. It has been said that Americans have the most expensive urine in the world because of the amount of vitamin and mineral supplements they consume.

If you eat a well-balanced diet, excess vitamin and mineral supplements should be unnecessary because they can have potential side effects.

  • Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin and night vision, but it can lead to liver damage in excessive amounts
  • Vitamin C has been found to cause diarrhea in amounts greater than 1000 mg per day in some individuals
  • Selenium may lead to tissue damage in combination with niacin, which can also cause liver damage
  • Zinc has been noted to impair immune response in large doses

Consult your doctor, dietician, or pharmacist concerning the risks and benefits of taking supplements. This includes herbal products, which should be used with caution and preferably with medical advice.

Our bodies function most effectively when they are neither too heavy nor too light. Obesity can compound low back pain and increase the pressure and pain on degenerative joints. Being overweight can affect your ability to participate in exercise, which is essential to managing chronic pain, affecting your self-image and mental attitude.

The range within each height and rate allows for fluctuations in muscle and bone mass among individuals. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

If you want to lose weight, you should decrease the amount of calories you consume and increase the amount of activity you do each day. Gradual weight loss is better for you than trying to lose weight quickly. You can:

  • Cut down on your portion sizes, and take a walk each day
  • Look at the portion sizes on the food pyramid
  • Choose foods lower in fat from each food group

If weight gain is your goal, increase the amount of calories in your diet and maintain an active lifestyle for muscle and bone strength. You can:

  • Eat five or six small meals per day
  • Choose calorie dense, healthy snacks such as trail mix, peanut butter and crackers, or granola bars
  • Schedule your meals each day, and stick to your plan
  • Always have a healthy snack with you