There are times when I really fancy a steak. Should I never eat this?

An occasional treat is fine. Make sure it is a grilled fillet with the fat removed. If you are not sure what to eat, always go for the healthy option but, if after a while you feel you 'could murder a steak', enjoy one, but don't overdo it. Remember, a 170-225 g (6-8 oz) fillet steak is the best weight to go for.

What should my intake of fats be?

Your saturated fat intake should represent no more than 10% of your total calories; polyunsaturated fats should make up 10% and monounsaturated fats 10-15%. As 1 g of fat equals 9 kcal:

• if your daily calorie intake is 1500 kcal, you need only 50 g of fat at most;

• if it is 2000 kcal you need 65-70 g of fat, and

• if it is 2500 kcal, you need 85-90 g of fat.

Can you give some simple guidelines regarding calories? How many should I need on a daily basis?

No calculate the number of calories to maintain your weight now, multiply the number of pounds you weigh by 13 kcal if you don't take much exercise, and by 15 if you do. The equivalent figures if you calculate in kilograms are 29 and 33 respectively

To lose 1 lb you need to burn up 3500 kcal (7700 kcal for 1 kg) and this means reducing your daily intake by 500 kcal to lose 1 lb in one week (550 kcal for 0.5 kg). You can cut down 500 kcal by, for example, cutting out a can of coke, a chocolate bar or 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Weigh yourself once a week and adjust your intake accordingly. Always combine weight loss with a healthy increase in physical activity. For example, if you walk briskly at 4 miles per hour for 2 miles, you will use up 300 kcal.

If you fall below your target weight, increase your calorie intake by 200 kcal a day (around a couple of slices of bread and a thin slice of lean ham) but keep up the exercise programme.

I know I should eat more vegetables and fruit in my diet to lose weight. Which ones have the least calories?

Nearly all vegetables and fruits in general are low in calories and high in nutrients and vitamins. However, dried fruits are high in calories. Vegetables are encouraged because they are very nutritious and low in calories, so you can really go to town with them! Some, especially beans and legumes, are packed with protein and great for using instead of meat dishes (as in lentil lasagne) or to pad out meat-based meals (as in chilli con carne). You do not really need to count the calories but, as a guide, an average portion of the following vegetables is equal to about 20 kcal:

Asparagus

Aubergine

Green beans

Broccoli

Brussels sprouts

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celery

Cucumber/courgette Lettuce

Mushrooms

Onions

Parsnips

Peas

Peppers

Radishes

Spinach

Tomatoes

Turnips

Vegetable juices

The following fruits are each equal to 60 kcal:

1 apple 4 apricots

1 banana 12 cherries

2 plums

3 prunes

2 tangerines

2 tablespoons of raisins

1 portion blackberries/melon/

pineapple/strawberries/raspberries

1 nectarine 1 orange

1 peach 3 dates

2 figs

V grapefruit 15 grapes

V mango

If you buy tinned fruit, make sure that they are in natural juices, not syrup.

What exactly is a 'portion'?

Apportion is one large fruit (such as an apple, orange or banana); two small fruits (such as plums or satsumas); 1 cup of raspberries, strawberries or grapes; 1 glass (150 ml) of fruit juice; 1 tbsp of dried fruit; 2 tbsp of raw, cooked or frozen vegetables or 1 dessert bowl of salad.

I know there is a good deal of fibre in breads and cereals. What about their calorie value?

The following are equal to 80 kcal:

• 1 slice of bread;

• 1 portion of bran cereal (such as All-Bran, one Shredded Wheat) without milk;

• 1 portion of pasta or rice.

Remember that high fibre starchy foods are valuable parts of a healthy lifestyle as we have already discussed.

How many calories are there in alcohol?

A glass of wine is 100 kcal, a pint of beer 400 and a single measure of spirit 100, whereas slimline tonic is at most 1 calorie and water contains nil. Unsweetened fresh fruit juice and sparkling water are very good alternatives to alcohol when you are trying to watch your weight.

I want to be healthy and not overweight - can you summarise for me the most important ways of achieving this?

It is important to think of any change as a healthy change to your lifestyle. Losing weight must be a part of a change to healthy food and a regular exercise programme. It is really a healthy way of living rather than just losing weight. To achieve this, follow these basic rules.

• Eat lots of fruit and vegetables every day.

• Eat high fibre foods which are filling, healthy and low in fat.

• Try to avoid fatty foods, e.g. bacon, sausages and pies.

• When you have poultry, do not eat the skin.

• Avoid cakes and crisps, which contain a lot of fat.

• Use low-fat yoghurt or fromage frais instead of cream.

• When you cook, steam, grill, bake or microwave food instead of frying.

• When you have canned fish, drain off the oil (your cat would like it) or use those that come in brine.

• When you have pasta, use tomato-based vegetable sauce rather than creamy sauces.

• When you use fats, even polyunsaturated or olive oil, use it sparingly.

• Try not to nibble nuts.

• Eat slowly.

• Use a smaller plate.

• Cut down on alcohol; drink plenty of water.

• Don't replace meals by snacks - always eat breakfast.

• Don't shop when you are hungry.

• Don't be depressed if you slip up - regroup and start again the next day.

• Try to take dynamic exercise three times a week for at least 30 minutes.

If I miss a meal because I am travelling or I am on business, what can you suggest as an alternative?

Cereal bars, fig rolls, nuts, oat biscuits and rice cakes provide low-fat energy. Fruit is always a good standby - an apple a day may well keep the doctor away after all!

 
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