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DR. ANITA JONASON performs a routine checkup on Susan Johnson at the Essential Health St. Mary's Clinic. (Brian Basham/Record)

Health and Wellness series: Eat well to be healthy

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Too much of a good thing can hurt you. The saying is also true when it comes to a healthy diet.

St. Mary's Innovis Health Dietitian Sarah Bement said a good diet is one that hits all the food groups in moderation without going overboard in one thing over the other.

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Of course lots of fruits and vegetables are key to eating healthy, but at the same time, people can still enjoy a little guilty pleasure here and there without actually feeling guilty.

"You can enjoy all of the good stuff, you just have to not do it as often as you might want to," Bement said.

With the majority of the population leading busy lives with work, school, evening and weekend activities, it's sometimes difficult to eat and cook healthy.

But realizing the effects of processed foods may make everyone think twice before opening up that packaged meal.

"In general, it's one more chemical that we're adding to our diets and we really don't know what the long-term effects are going to be," Bement said.

She added that it may be difficult sometimes, but as often as possible, it's better to eat natural, whole foods, with no artificial or chemical additives.

There are too much sodium, saturated fat and carbohydrates in some of those items that may contribute to strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes or even cancer.

However, processed foods haven't been around long enough to be blamed for causing those diseases.

"The scary part is we really don't know what they can do in the long run," Bement said.

"Back to basics is really the way people should be looking."

To get kids excited about eating healthy, Bement advises parents to make healthy snacks readily available for their children.

For example, cutting up some fruits and vegetables and leaving them out as snacks so children don't end up reaching for that box of cookies, is a healthy alternative.

Getting kids involved in grocery shopping and cooking gives them more ownership in the meals, they start to show more interest and end up eating those healthy meals they spent so much time preparing.

In addition to healthy eating, regular exercise routines help with the prevention efforts that eliminate chronic diseases in the long run.

Nancy Hebert, lead trainer at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, said for those who are short on time, a combination of cardio and weight training produces the best results.

A session of cardio -- walking, running, biking or five to 10 minutes on the elliptical -- kicks off the 30-minute routine.

Follow up with some type of strength training for the upper and lower body, alternating so that while the arms are resting, the legs are working.

It's recommended to do two sets of each weight training session, then back to finish off with a few minutes of cardio, for a total of 30 minutes, two to three times a week.

"You're getting a well-rounded exercise, that way you keep your heart rate going, a little bit elevated the whole time and you can get done quicker," Hebert said.

Even without access to the gym, there are still opportunities to get some exercising done during the day.

Hebert said 10 to 15-minute increments of walking, climbing the steps at work or at home, and biking can still be beneficial.

"The overall result is gonna be the same because you're still accumulating the same amount of time," she said.

How often and how long each person exercises depends on individual goals, but those who have the time to spend at the gym can do an hour every day, five to six times a week.

If time is not a factor, it's recommended to do some cardio training for 30 minutes in one chunk or broken up, then follow up with some type of strength training and conclude with stretching.

"You can be active seven days a week, but the day you let your muscles rest is when they repair themselves and they get stronger," Hebert said.

An overall healthy and balanced diet with daily breakfast, "clean eating," in combination with exercising, leads to positive results.

But sometimes people have to wait to notice the difference if they're trying to lose weight.

Hebert said it's common to quit in the first eight weeks of training because most people get frustrated. Making small, doable changes, instead of dramatic ones, can remedy that.

"Then it's a lifestyle change instead of being on and off a diet," she added.

Those who continue to eat unhealthy because they're immune to gaining weight, can also benefit from some lifestyle changes.

"I think people don't think about it if it doesn't show up on the scale," Bement said. "Every American should benefit from a little diet makeover."

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