Fats, salt, sugar: You wonâ??t believe how much is in your food

By Dr. Ronald Charles, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Buckeye Community Health Plan

We know being overweight can contribute to serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer. So many of us will try at the beginning of a new year to turn everything around in whatâ??s the equivalent of a complete lifestyle change. This all or nothing approach usually sets us up for failure, but by changing just a few simple things with your diet, you can give it a healthy makeover without feeling deprived. Here are some points to help get you started:

1. Limit fatty foods

- Full fat cheese can cause problems! According to the American Dietetic Association, the cheese on your burger can have more saturated fat than the meat itself. You can choose reduced-fat cheese as an alternative - the flavor is still there - without all the calories.

- Watch out for fatty meats. If you can see the fatty streaks in your meat, you should probably eat less of it and poultry skin is an unnecessary source of fat, and should be avoided.

- Processed meats like hot dogs, cold cuts and sausages should also be scrutinized since the saturated fat and sodium in processed meats could affect both blood pressure and general health.

2. Replace that sugar!

Small changes like this can really add up:

- Replace your candy bar with a piece of fruit.

- Ditch the soda and drink water or unsweetened tea instead, and add a splash of lemon juice for more flavor.

- Replace ice cream with sorbet.

- Replace sugar with sugar substitutes (like Splenda® or NutraSweet®)when possible; if you canâ??t give up soda, replace it with diet soda.

- Instead of a rich dessert, offer your family fruit instead.

3. Put down the salt shaker

Too much salt, or sodium, can aggravate high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, and a lower sodium diet may help to avoid this.

- Avoid or limit your fast food intake.

- Avoid or limit salty snacks, high sodium meats such as ham, bacon and hot dogs, and commercially prepared or frozen foods with more than 700 (mg) per serving.

- Donâ??t add salt to your food.

Finally, keep the water handy and figure out whatâ??s on your plate. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 96 ounces of water daily and even more than that if the climate is warm or if you sweat profusely. Itâ??s true that means 12 eight-ounce glasses of water a day, but with a few simple habits â?? like keeping a sporty water bottle with you â?? you can start to increase your water intake gradually until you reach the recommended amount.

And, using the new MyPlate is a great way to see if what youâ??re eating and if your portion sizes are healthy. Itâ??s a wonderful tool and a graphical representation of what your plate should look like - it replaces the old USDA food pyramid. Just go to to help you plan healthy meals that have everything you need. Show it to your kids to plan healthy meals together!