health diet plan
Melissa Southrey, a registered dietitian at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, poses with food that make up a healthy diet at the hospital Friday December 11, 2009. Vernon Ogrodnek

When formulating a personal diet plan - and that's one to guide you toward healthy eating, not necessarily to lose weight - Melissa Southrey advises all of us to just slow down.

"We live in such a fast-paced world," the 48-year-old registered dietitian said recently. "In many cases, two out of every three meals we eat during a given day are outside the home. That's not a good trend when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Sodas, juices and specialty coffees alone can be packed with a huge amount of calories. People don't even realize what they're putting into their bodies."

Southrey, a Galloway Township resident who works at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point, cautions against "specialty diets" that eliminate carbohydrates or specific types of foods from a person's eating routine.

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"The best thing you can do is to increase your metabolism, and that's done by eating smart and at the proper times," she said. "People who take off a significant amount of weight on one of those ‘trick diets' will usually put the pounds back on at some point."

Here are some tips from Southrey - who used information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - to employ when it comes to shaping your diet in a healthy manner:

Use more fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, lean meats, nuts and beans. In particular, fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other substances important for good health.

If you make omelettes for breakfast, substitute spinach, onions or mushrooms for one of the eggs or half of the cheese. Also, cut down on the amount of cereal in your bowl.

For lunch, substitute lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers or onions for some of the meat and cheese in your sandwiches. And, you can use a wrap or a tortilla instead of bread.

At dinner, vegetables, fruits or whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. Keep in mind that 1 cup of carrots or steamed green beans contains less than 100 calories, but provides a filling portion.

When snacking, turn to a small box of raisins or some grapes instead of junk food such as processed-cheese crackers or cupcakes. Stay vigilant in this, even though you might miss the taste of the sweeter foods.

Don't forget about fish. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish - such as salmon - per week. It's a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Make sure to eat whole-grain and fibrous foods. Oats are a great way to give yourself the fiber you need while "fooling" your stomach into thinking it's full.

Buy low-fat dairy products. These are still great sources of protein, and they have plenty of calcium to keep bones and teeth strong.

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