Nutritional Myths

Nutritional Myths

1. Cereal Is Good For You

This is what we have been told for many years now however there is now a considerable amount of evidence to prove quite the contrary. Cereals i.e. wheat, oats, rye, corn, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa can cause diseases such as diabetes type 2, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout, acne, cancer, autoimmune diseases, IBS and other intestinal and digestive problems, celiac disease, depression and the list goes on.

2. Fruit Juice Is Good For You

Commercially produced fruit juice is packed with sugar. So make your own.

3. Sunflower Oil And Spreads Are Good For You

These together with other alternatives to butter elevate the dietary omega 6 to omega 3 ratios to its current and damaging value of ten to one and can have the same damaging effects on your body as cereals. Organic butter, Extra Virgin olive oil and coconut oil are the healthy way.

4. Artificial Sweeteners Are Better Than Sugar

Saccharin and aspartame are damaging chemicals.

5. You Should Eat More Carbohydrates Than Protein

Carbohydrates in the form of cereals, bread, rice, pasta and potatoes etc are NOT good for you. Vegetables particularly green ones are the best type of carbohydrate you can eat as they are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Ideally your diet should consist of 50% protein and 50% carbohydrates. Portion size is the size of YOUR fist.

6. Too Much Protein Is Bad For You

Too much of anything is bad for you! Protein is the best satisfier of the brain’s appetite centre and raises your metabolism and curbs your hunger. It lowers total blood cholesterol and increases good cholesterol thereby eliminating excessive cholesterol. It stabilizes blood sugar and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and some cancers. It maintains, repairs and grows body tissue and is the basis of hormones, antibodies, carriers of oxygen, fat and other substances in the blood.

7. Fat Is Bad For You

Fat is good for you! Carbohydrates provide you with energy and so does fat particularly in the form of oily fish. Fat provides immune function, reduces inflammation and maintains water balance. It turns off fat storage genes and lowers blood pressure and stress levels.

8. Peanuts Are Good For You

Peanuts are a legume not a nut and contain substances that can promote allergies, auto-immune and heart disease.

9. Bottled Water Is Better For You

This is a complete and utter con! Obviously if you are in a country where the water isn’t safe then please do drink bottled water.

Don’t be fooled, make intelligent choices and cook from scratch.

Pilates for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Pilates for AS  

This is not suitable for anyone with osteoporosis – a different programme would apply

For a home programme suitable for healthy beginners which is similar to this please visit my other website

Please check with your doctor first before you start – show them this programme.

First have a look around this website and and read An Introduction to Pilates first and then read all the pages and posts on Pilates on both sites.

Programme Aim

Improve posture and mobility to the whole body

Restore balance to the spine in the three planes of movement i.e. flexion, lateral flexion and rotation

Stretch chest muscles, strengthen back muscles, stretch neck muscles, stretch muscles in between the ribs

Stretch and strengthen muscles around the hip joint.

Strengthen the core.

N.B. You may find this very uncomfortable and painful to start. If so just do one of each to the best of your ability.  Any small move you can make towards the actual exercise will help so don’t be discouraged, this is going to take time.  Remember Pilates is slow and controlled and should flow – aim for that. Don’t overdo it. It is OK for you to feel stiff and sore for a few days afterwards when you first start.

Optimum posture is the best that you can do.  Shoulders back and down, head in line with the spine, spine lengthened, pelvis* in neutral i.e. the two hip bones and the pubic bone should feel level.  Just keep trying and you will get it. Get the exercise first before you start the breathing.  Your breathing is probably inefficient at the moment as your ribs are inflamed.  Eventually your breathing will improve and that will mean your body will be getting more oxygen and nutrients and you will feel a whole load better. Engaging the core takes practice – you can practice this anywhere. Obviously this is slightly different for men!

It is a good idea to record your progress and discomfort levels.

You will need a mat to lie on, a rolled up hand towel or small pillow and wear unrestrictive clothing, I haven’t got photos for every exercise so just contact me if you are struggling.

Please do every day.  Once you have learned the exercises it won’t take long.


Warm Up (Spine flexion, rotation and lateral flexion) 3 – 5 repetition s

Standing in your optimum posture, feet straight and hip width apart, pelvis in neutral* with your shoulders back and down and relaxed, back of the neck long, chin parallel to the floor, lengthen through the spine lifting up out of your hips. With your arms down by your side and the palms facing back engage your core. Inhale to prepare, exhale and raise your arms up to the ceiling with your palms uppermost opening up the chest, inhale and bring your arms out to the side and lined up with your shoulders. Exhale and rotate to your right, keeping your hips facing forward, and inhale to return and repeat to the left. Exhale and take your right arm straight up to the ceiling, lifting out of the hips curve the arm over the head into a side bend.  Slide your other hand down the thigh. Inhale back and repeat to the other side.


Lying On Your Front

Deltoid Squeeze (Stretch the chest and neck, strengthen the back and shoulder) 3 – 5 repetitions

Lying on your front in your optimum posture with your arms down by your side with the palms up to the ceiling, lengthen through the back of neck.  Take your feet to hip width apart and drop the heels out to the side and relax the muscles in the legs. You may find it helpful to put a rolled up hand towel under your hip bones to increase the lumbar curve at the back of your waist. Pull up the pelvic floor and pull in your abdominal muscles, inhale and lift your head and chest up as far as you can and at the same time rotate the arms bringing the elbows towards each other. Exhale and return to your start position. Do not tilt the head back as you lift; keep the back of the neck long and in line with the rest of the spine.

The Cat (Stretch the muscles each side of the spine) 3 -5 repetitions

Cat StretchOn all fours in your optimum posture, wrists below the shoulders, knees and feet hip width apart with the knees directly below the hips, pelvis in neutral. Engage the core lengthen through the neck so you are looking directly down at your mat, inhale to prepare, exhale lengthen through the arms arching the back right up to the ceiling drop the head down and bring the tail bone forward without moving the legs, inhale deep into the ribs and the back in that top position and then exhale back to neutral working through the spine bringing the pelvis back into neutral last.

Lying On Your Side

chest opener bestThe Chest Opener (Stretch chest muscles, strengthen the back, improve upper body rotation) 3 – 5 repetitions

Lying on the side, hips and shoulders stacked, head must be supported with small cushion or rolled up hand towel under the ear, knees bent to 45 degrees.  Arms extended at shoulder height in front of you, hands together. Engage your core, inhale to prepare, exhale and take the top arm across the body and down towards the floor keeping the hips facing the front and following the movement of the arm with the eyes and head.  Inhale to return.


Spine Twist (Stretch and strengthen the muscles at the sides of the body. Spinal rotation)          4 – 8 repetitions

spine twistSeated in your optimum posture with your legs straight out in front of you, feet hip width apart and the toes up towards the knees. Take your arms straight out to the sides so they are lined up with your shoulders, lift up out of your hips and get your back as straight as you can with the pelvis in neutral.  Make sure your shoulders are back and down. Engage your core, inhale to prepare, exhale and rotate to one side as far as you can go keeping your hips firmly on the floor.  Inhale and return to your start position.  Check your posture again and then repeat to the other side. 

Mermaid (Stretch the sides of the body and the hamstrings at the back of the legs. Lateral flexion of the spine) 4 – 8 repetitions

Seated in your optimum posture as above with both legs straight out in front of you with your feet hip width apart and the toes up.  Place your left hand on the floor beside you for support.   Inhale to prepare, exhale and lift your right hand up towards the ceiling lifting up out of the hips and curve the arm over your head. Taking care to keep the knees down and the hips on the floor. Inhale to return. Stay on one side for your reps and then repeat on the other side.

Lying On Your Side

The Chest Opener  As above on your other side.

Lying On Your Back

Shoulder Bridge (Segmental control of the spine, stretching and strengthening spinal muscles, strengthening the legs and hips) 3 – 5 repetitions

Shoulder Bridge 1Lying on your back, knees bent, feet hip width apart and straight, pelvis in neutral, arms down by your side with the palms down, shoulders back and down. Lengthen through the back of your neck and bring your chin down.  Engage your core, inhale to prepare, exhale and pushing your feet into the floor lift up your pelvis, without tucking it, and peel your spine off the mat bone by bone until you are at your highest position.  Inhale here, exhale and start your return journey visualizing your spine as you return to your start position. Never support your head on this one.

Knee Circles (Stretch and strengthen the muscles around the hip joint, strengthen the core) 3 – 5 repetitions in each direction.

knee circlesThe picture is to show you the alignment of the working leg, the other foot must be on the floor with the knee bent. Lie on your back in optimum posture with your arms down by the side palms down, both knees bent. Engage your core and lift one foot bringing the knee directly above the hip socket and the foot lined up with the knee with the shin parallel to the floor. Inhale and circle the knee letting the movement come from the hip. In breath on the inside of the circle out breath on the outside (imagine a clock, in breath 12 – 12.30, out breath 12.30 – 1.00). Repeat in the other direction and then on the other leg taking care with the set up. Focus on keeping the pelvis and the non working leg stable.  Breathing takes a while to get the hang of!

Hip Roll (Stretch and strengthen the sides of the body) 3 – 5 repetitions

hip roll low levelLying on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Take your arms out to the side so they are lined up with your shoulders.  Bring your feet in together and then bring them in towards your hips taking care not to lose your neutral spine. Make sure your shoulders are back and down and the back of your neck is long with the chin down.  Inhale to prepare, exhale and take your knees to the right at the same time turn your head to the left.  Only take the knees over as far as you can keep the opposite shoulder blade on the floor.  Inhale in this position. Exhale to return to your start position. Inhale here and repeat to the other side.

STRETCHES  Hold for 20 seconds, the hamstrings for 30 seconds.  Each One Twice

 Hamstrings (back of thigh)

hamstring stretchLying on your back with both legs extended along the floor.  If more comfortable this stretch can be done with the knee(s) bent.  Relax the shoulders down and bring one leg in towards the chest keeping the hips on the floor where possible.  Support the leg with both hands either below or above the knee and keep it straight if comfortable to do so.  Flex the foot by bringing the big toe down towards the knee to take the stretch into the calf. Hold the stretch there for 30 seconds.  Now breathe in, breathe out and ease the leg in a little further to encourage increased flexibility. You can use a towel or a resistance band to help you. Replace the leg on the floor and repeat on the other leg. 

Quadriceps (front of thigh)

quad stretchLying on your front, take one arm above your head bend the elbow and place it on the floor. Take the other hand and reach down and pick up your foot and bring it in towards your hips until you feel a stretch at the front of the thigh. If you can’t reach the foot grab your sock or your trousers or you can use a towel or a resistance band to help you.  Repeat on the other side. Can be done lying on your side with knees bent and bottom arm going straight up from the shoulder and your head on the arm.

Outer thigh 

Seated in your optimum posture with both legs extended, take the right bent leg over the straight left leg and place the right foot on the floor.. Hold the right shin with your hands and ease that leg over until you feel the stretch on the outside of the right thigh keeping both hips on the floor.  Repeat on the other side.

Inner Thigh with Spine Stretch 

Seated in your optimum posture with both legs extended, slide the legs apart until you can feel a stretch on the inside of the thighs.  Keep both hips on the floor and put both hands on the floor in front of you and then walk them away taking your spine into a stretch and increasing the stretch in the inner thighs.  Hold at your furthermost point and see if you can lower your elbows further down towards the floor.  


Seated in your optimum posture with both legs extended, take both hands out to the sides of your body so that the elbows are lined up with your shoulders and the hands are directly above the elbows. Squeeze the elbows back together stretching out the muscles in the chest and bringing the shoulder blades in together.

Now say to yourself well done!

For more information about Pilates please click

Basic Pilates Work Out

Until I can do some filming this is quite a good YouTube Beginners Pilates work out you could do at home.  There are different variations, levels, speeds and breathing to challenge you but I think the teaching is of a good standard.  Some of you will be familiar with a lot of the exercises.  Please make sure you do this when your muscles are warm.  Enjoy! Exercises demonstrated are:

Arm Circles

Ab Prep


Roll Back from a Balance

Swan Dive

Rest Position

Spine Twist

Nose to Toes Stretch

Rolling Like a Ball

Single Leg Stretch

Oblique Twist

Criss Cross

Shoulder Bridge

Roll Up

Hip Roll Stretch

For more information about Pilates please click

Back Pain

Back Pain

According to Health Executive figures (2005/2006) 3.7 million working days a year are lost through episodes of back pain.  More than £1 billion of public money is spent by the health service each year on costs relating to back pain, with a further £565 million spent within the private sector (Maniadakis and Gray, 2000).  Yet most cases of back pain are non specific.

Back pain can be split into categories; specific back pain and non specific back pain.

Specific Back Pain

This is associated with an underlying health condition or damage to the spine such as sciatica, a slipped/herniated disc and ankylosing spondilitis.

Sciatica  – a condition caused by a nerve in the back (the sciatic nerve) being irritated or compressed

Slipped disc – where one of the discs of the spine splits and the gel inside leaks out

Ankylosing spondylitis – a condition where the joints at the base of the spine become inflamed

Non-Specific Back Pain

This condition is where the pain is not caused by serious damage or disease, but by minor injuries or a pinched or irritated nerve.  It is thought that in some cases the cause may be a sprain (an over-stretch) of a ligament or muscle,  a minor problem with a disc between two vertebrae, or a small ‘facet’ joint between two vertebrae. There may be other minor problems in the structures and tissues of the lower back that result in pain. However, these causes of the pain are impossible to prove by tests. Therefore, it is usually impossible for a doctor to say exactly where the pain is coming from, or exactly what is causing the pain.  This article focuses on non-specific back pain.

What is the Pain?

Unspecific back pain is a very common condition and can affect adults of all ages. Your back is a complex and delicate structure that is made up of a combination of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and joints. Therefore, it does not take a significant injury or damage to disrupt the normal workings of the back and trigger an episode of back pain.

Back pain can be triggered by everyday activities at home and at work, or by poor posture. For example, back pain can occur as a result of bending awkwardly, lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling incorrectly, slouching in chairs, standing or bending down for long periods, twisting, coughing, sneezing, muscle tension, over-stretching, driving in a hunched position, driving for long periods without taking a break, being exposed to prolonged vibration and lack of exercise. You may also experience occasional episodes of back pain as a result of the normal ageing process of the spine, which can temporarily disrupt the normal function of your back. You may sometimes wake up with back pain and have no idea what has caused it.

To some people, not knowing the exact cause of the pain is unsettling. However, looked at another way, many people find it reassuring to know that the diagnosis is non-specific back pain which means there is no serious problem or disease of the back or spine.

What are the Symptoms of Non-Specific Low Back Pain?

Although non-specific back pain is sometimes called ‘simple’ back pain, simple does not mean that the pain is mild. The severity of the pain can range from mild to severe. Typically, the pain is in one area of the lower back, but sometimes it spreads to one or both buttocks or thighs. It is often made worse if you move your back, cough, or sneeze. So, non-specific low back pain is ‘mechanical’ in the sense that it varies with posture or activity.  Most people with a bout of non-specific low back pain improve quickly, usually within a week or so, sometimes a bit longer. However, once the pain has eased or gone it is common to have further bouts of pain  from time to time in the future. Also, it is common to have minor pains ‘on and off’ for quite some time after an initial bad bout of pain. In a small number of cases the pain persists for several months or longer. Back pain can also be classified according to how long the symptoms last i.e. acute back pain – the pain does not last longer than six weeks and chronic back pain – the pain lasts for more than six weeks.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for back pain include:

  • being 20 to 50 years of age – for reasons that are not fully understood, most cases of backache affect young and middle-aged adults
  • being overweight or obese – extra body weight places more strain on the bones, muscles and joints of your spine
  • smoking – it is uncertain as to whether this is a result of tobacco smoke damaging the tissue of the back or due to the fact that smokers tend to have unhealthier lifestyles than non-smokers (or it could possibly be a combination of both)
  • being pregnant – as with being overweight, the excess weight of carrying your baby can place additional strain on your back
  • the long-term use of medications that are known to weaken bones, such as corticosteroids
  • stress – it is thought that people who are under stress may unknowingly tense the muscles in their back, which could trigger an episode of back pain
  • depression (see below)

Depression does not directly cause back pain but it can be a major contributing factor. Many people with back pain and depression can fall into a vicious cycle. The pain makes them feel depressed, which means that they exercise less and do not take part in everyday activities.  The lack of physical activity and exercise means that the symptoms of back pain persist, which in turn makes symptoms of depression worse.

Chronic back pain is less common than acute back pain, but it is still very widespread. In England, chronic back pain is the second most common cause of long-term disability (after arthritis). After stress, it is the leading cause of long-term work-related absence. A recent study found that one in every 10 people reported having some degree of chronic back pain.

The rates of reported cases of back pain in England have doubled over the past 40 years – a trend that is seen in almost all Western nations. There are a number of theories to explain the rise in the number of cases. One theory is that the rates of obesity, depression and stress are now higher than they were in the past. These conditions are all risk factors for chronic back pain. Another theory is that people are now more willing to report symptoms of pain to their GP than they were in the past. It is estimated that one in five people will visit their GP in any given year because of back pain. And 80% of adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their life.


The outlook for back pain can vary considerably between individuals. Some people have minor episodes of acute back pain before making a full recovery. Other people have long periods of mild to moderate back pain that are interrupted by periods of severe pain, which makes them unable to do their normal daily activities.

An Australian study which looked at people who visited their GP because of back pain found that:

  • 40% were completely free of pain within six weeks
  • 58% were pain-free within 12 weeks
  • 73% were pain-free within one year

Psychological and social factors play an important role in the expected outlook for back pain, particularly for chronic back pain. For example, people who have a positive frame of mind and report enjoying a good quality of life tend to make a faster recovery than those who report symptoms of depression and are unhappy with one or more aspects of their life.

Treatment options for back pain include painkillers, spinal manipulation, acupuncture and exercise classes. Some cases of chronic back pain may also benefit from additional psychological treatment for the reasons discussed above.

Information from NHS website and the Register of Exercise Professionals journal.


Link to NHS Offers website

<a href=””>click here</a>

All about Pilates and Back Pain

All About Pilates

Pilates exercises are commonplace at physical therapy centers, chiropractors are recommending Pilates, and “My back used to hurt all the time and now I don’t feel it anymore” is a phrase we hear a lot from people who do Pilates consistently. So what is it about Pilates that works so well for back pain relief?

What makes Pilates so effective is that it addresses the underlying structural imbalances in the body that lead to back pain. Issues like lack of core support, pelvic instability, muscular imbalances, poor posture, and lack of body awareness all affect back health. They are also issues that the Pilates method specializes in helping people improve.

Pilates Helps Correct Posture

In Pilates, we pay a lot of attention to how our body parts are lined up in relation to each other, which is our alignment. We usually think of our alignment as our posture, but good posture is a dynamic process, dependent on the body’s ability to align it’s parts to respond to varying demands effectively. When alignment is off, uneven stresses on the skeleton, especially the spine, are the result. Pilates’ exercises, done with attention to alignment, create uniform muscle use and development, allowing movement to flow through the body in a natural way.

For example, one of the most common postural imbalances that people have is the tendency to either tuck or tilt the pelvis. Both positions create weaknesses on one side of the body and overly tight areas on the other. They deny the spine the support of its natural curves and create a domino effect of aches and pains all the way up the spine and into the neck. Doing Pilates increases the awareness of the proper placement of the spine and pelvis, and creates the inner strength to support the natural curves of the spine. This is called having a neutral spine and it has been the key to better backs for many people.

Pilates Develops Core Strength

Good posture that goes beyond the “look” of being aligned requires core strength. Having core strength means that all of the muscles of the trunk of your body are strong, flexible, and working together to support and stabilize the spine.

Core strength is deeper than the big surface muscles that we are used to thinking of as those of the trunk of the body, like the rectus abdominis, the infamous 6-pack abs muscle or the beautiful big muscles of the back, like the lattisimus dorsi, popularly called “the lats.” The core muscles include the muscles that are below the surface musculature.

So while many forms of exercise focus on strengthening the big surface muscles, Pilates trains the body so that all of the core muscles work together to support and stabilize the back. Part of developing effective core strength is to train the body to know when to release, as well as activate, it’s core muscles. So while core strength is the catch-all term, we might say that the core coherence that Pilates teaches is essential for back health.

Some of these less obvious but very important core muscles are the muscles of the pelvic floor; the psoas, which play a huge role in keeping us upright and in hip bending; the transversospinalis, which are small muscles that weave along the spine; and the transverse and oblique abdominal muscles. The diaphragm, our prime breathing muscle, is right in the middle of the core. All of these muscles play crucial roles in the support and stability of the spine.

“…the only real guide to your true age lies not in years or how you THINK you feel but as you ACTUALLY are as infallibly indicated by the natural and normal flexibility enjoyed by your spine…”
Joseph Pilates Return to Life Through Contrology

Pilates Promotes Flexibility

A healthy spine can curve forward and backward, twist, and move side to side, and do so in a way that reveals all the subtle articulations that our many vertebrae allow us to have. As core strength develops, the back muscles learn to work in harmony with the abdominal muscles, forming protective support for the spine that increase the potential range of motion of the spine. Pilates’ exercises are easy to modify so that we can develop spinal flexibility at our own pace. This is one of the things about Pilates that makes it easy for people with back pain to work with.

Pilates Increases Body Awareness

Whether the cause of pain is from an injury or as is often the case, a culmination of the effects of poor posture and inefficient movement habits, back pain is a messenger letting us know that we have to pay more attention to how we live in our bodies. The Pilates method is full attention exercise. You can’t do Pilates without becoming extremely aware of your alignment and the energy you bring to movement.

This kind of awareness practice is extremely powerful for people with back pain because we not only improve physical functioning, but as awareness increases, we move beyond the physical and mental holding patterns that back pain can create. Then, there is more room in one’s whole being for positive change.

Learn Pilates Exercises for Back Pain:

Back pain has many causes and Pilates may not be right for all of them. If you have back pain, especially serious or chronic back pain, please check with your health care practitioner before you begin a Pilates’ programme. If you do choose to begin Pilates, it is important to work with a fully certified instructor who is aware of exactly what challenges you are working with.

Helena Marron 

Research taken from About Pilates

If you would like to read more about Pilates do have a look at my other website

Started eating healthily and failed again?

Build Better Eating Habits.

Let’s face it: We are busy, distracted, overwhelmed by bigger challenges. Eating healthily tends to get pushed down the priority list when your work commitments are high, your children are demanding, your friends are breaking down your resolve. And somehow our minds are always capable of justifying those spur of the moment cakes and take away indulgences – it’s PMS! I deserve it! My body needs it! But eating correctly is what your body is truly craving; good nutrition is the best way to help the mind tackle those bigger priorities. And it doesn’t have to be about punishing or depriving yourself either. “Overall good eating is not about dieting, but about making small lifestyle changes,” says San Francisco-based nutritionist Kaley Todd, MS, RD. “I’ve found that people who focus in on small changes tend to have larger success and lifelong success.” Begin now by making small changes.

Break Down the Walls.

Begin by taking a hard and honest look at your current eating habits and readiness to change them, says Deborah Kesten, a certified wellness coach and author of The Enlightened Diet. “Are you really ready to change or just making token gestures? If you’re staying with bad habits, ask yourself what you’re getting out of them.” Breaking down your psychological state will help you overcome any mental barriers that are keeping you from embracing an exercise routine. Says Kesten, “Once you decide you’re ready to make a change, you can start to envision it and act on it.”

Rethinking your Plate.

Many nutritionists today are urging people to rethink the core of their diets. Instead of a fatty cut of meat taking the spotlight on your plate. Why not shift the focus to vegetables, fruits, and whole grains – with the fat and protein being the side dish. One of the biggest keys to healthier eating is to add more fruits and vegetables,” says Jackie Newgent, RD, CDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The Big Green Cookbook. “You don’t need to be a vegetarian; small amounts of meats are fine. But I try and incorporate a fruit and vegetable in every recipe. I like to tell people to think of it as adding excitement to your diet, not subtracting from what you’re eating. And that way you’ll enjoy it that much more.” Vegetables also help you bulk up with minimal calories. They’re very filling so you feel like you’re getting a lot more food preventing you from overeating later. Try switching to smaller size plates for meals to help keep portion sizes reasonable. It’s a psychological trick, but with a small plate, your eyes tell you you are getting more food.

How Much Should You Be Eating?

The latest food pyramid often serves as a general guideline to healthy eating. The 2005 United States Dietary Guidelines gives a general guide which is detailed below. Recommendations vary and obviously quantities will depend on the height, weight, gender and physical acitivity of the individual.

Fruit group: 2 cups (4 servings)

Vegetable group: 2.5 cups (5 servings)
Dark green vegetables: 3 cups/week
Orange vegetables: 2 cups/week
Legumes (dry beans): 3 cups/week
Starchy vegetables: 3 cups/week
Other vegetables: 6.5 cups/week

Grain group: 6 ounce-equivalents
Whole grains: 3 ounce-equivalents
Other grains: 3 ounce-equivalents

Meat and beans group: 5.5 ounce-equivalents
Milk group: 3 cups
Oils: 24 grams (6 teaspoons)

“Other” calorie allowance: 267 calories

As far as serving sizes go:
Fruit: about the size of your fist
1 piece of fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of chopped fruit, 3/4 cup of fruit juice, 1/4 cup dried fruit
Vegetables: about the size of your fist
Sample: 1/2 cup of cooked or cut-up raw veggies, 1 cup raw leafy veggies
Sample: 1 slice of whole-grain bread, 1 ounce of prepared cereal, 1/2 cup of pasta or rice, 1 computer-mouse-size baked potato, one CD-size pancake or waffle
Meat: about the size of a deck of cards
Sample: 2 to 3 ounces of meat, such as one chicken breast, 1/4-pound hamburger patty, medium pork chop
Other proteins: 1 tablespoon of nut butter, 1 egg, 1/3 cup of dry beans
1 cup of milk, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese (the size of 6 dice)
In general, a serving of snacks (like pretzels) can be measured as a rounded handful, says Todd.

What about Fat?

Many nutritionists also point to the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid as a reference, which places a stronger emphasis on exercise, whole grains, and healthy plant oils, such as those from nuts and avocados. The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats, and to avoid trans fats. This means replacing saturated and trans fats such as burgers, chips, and buttery foods that increase the risk of certain diseases, with the healthy fats such as those found in avocados, fatty fish, olive and vegetable oil, soya beans, and nuts. The USDA suggests total fat intake be limited to between 20 and 35 percent of daily calories, with less than 10 percent of calories coming from saturated fat. Other studies, like those focused on the Mediterranean diet, are finding that higher quantities of “good fats” (the unsaturated kind) may be healthier for our hearts.

Pacing, Calories, and Vitamins.

As a general rule, aim for three meals with two snacks in between, so that you’re eating something every three to four hours. This will help maintain blood glucose levels, so you won’t get famished and make poor choices. Daily calorie intake should be tied to your current weight and your goal. If you are aiming to lose weight, a general rule of thumb is to multiply your pounds by 10. So if you weigh 150 pounds, 1,500 is your cap for the day. If you’re trying to maintain your weight, multiply your weight by 10 and add 300, bringing you up to 1,800 calories for the day. If you’re moderately active, however, add in another 300 calories, but note that moderately active means heading to the gym for approximately an hour most days of the week, not walking the dog around the block every morning (nice try, though). If you are following a well balanced diet, it is not necessary take supplements. However it does not harm to take a multi-vitamin daily to make sure you are getting adequate nutrition.

Don’t Neglect your Fluid Intake.

Be sure to get at least six 8-ounce glasses of water or fluids per day. Tap water is fine and you may include other fluids in that total. Try adding slices of lemon, orange or lime to water to make it more interesting.

Remove Temptation.

Before you start your healthy eating plan, go through the house, the car, and the desk and get rid of all your enemies. Bin biscuits, cakes, pastries, crisps, salted nuts and all processed food. Finally learn to say no thank you. Respect your body, look after it and it will look after you.

Helena Marron

Information taken from online research