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Did you know?

Picture of family on bikes

Being healthy and active can help give you the energy to keep up with the demands of your busy life, take better care of yourself, and be there for the people who depend on you.

If you are overweight and inactive, you are more likely to get:

  • type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar)
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • certain forms of cancer

You may improve your health if you Move More and Eat Better! This booklet gives you tips on how to get moving and eat well even when your life is busy.


Why Move
More and
Eat Better?

Picture of mother and daughter hugging

Being active and making healthy food choices is good for your health. But that is not the only reason to move more and eat better. You can:

  • Have more energy and less stress.
  • Feel better about yourself.
  • Tone your body (without losing your curves).
  • Look better in your clothes.
  • Set a good example for your children and your friends.

Your family and friends can be great sources of motivation and support as you take on a healthier lifestyle. Ask them to join you in healthy eating and physical activity, since these activities are important for them too. By making healthy choices together, it may seem easier to eat right and be active.


Tips on Moving More

Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (like brisk walking) on most days of the week. It is not as hard as you may think, and you do not have to do the whole 30 minutes at one time. Try these tips to get past things that keep you from being active.

“I don’t have time for physical activity.”
You can “sneak” it into your day, a few minutes at a time. Get started by making these small changes in your daily routine:

  • Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way (be sure the area is safe).
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator (be sure the stairs are well lit).
  • You do not have to do your entire workout in one block of time. Break it up—taking three 10-minute walks during your day may be easier than taking one 30-minute walk.
  • Walk and talk with a friend at lunch.
  • Put more energy into housework and yard work.
  • Make regular appointments for your workouts and keep them as you would a hair or nail appointment.
  • Be active while doing other things. For example, lift weights or march in place while watching TV. Try walking around your home while talking on the cordless telephone.

“I’m going to ruin my hairstyle.”
If you avoid physical activity because you do not want to ruin your hairstyle, try:

  • a natural hairstyle
  • a style that can be wrapped or pulled back
  • a short haircut
  • braids, twists, or locs

TIP: Day-to-day activities can cause salt buildup in your hair. To remove salt, shampoo with a mild, pH-balanced product at least once a week.

“It’s too expensive.”
There are lots of ways to be physically active that are free or low-cost. You can:

  • Find a local park or school track where you can walk or run.
  • Walk around a mall.
  • Work out with videos in your home—you can find workout videos at bookstores or your local library.
  • Join a recreation center or fitness center at work or near your home.
  • Walk your dog. If you do not have a dog, pretend that you do.

TIP: Most people do not need to see their health care provider before getting physically active. If you have chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity, talk to your health care provider before starting a vigorous physical activity program. You do not need to talk to your provider before you start a less strenuous activity like walking.

“Physical activity is a chore.”
It can be fun! Try to:

  • Do things you enjoy, like walking, dancing, swimming, or playing sports.
  • Walk or take an exercise class with a friend or a group. This way, you can cheer each other on, have company, and feel safer when you are outdoors.
  • Be active with your kids—ride bikes, jump doubledutch, toss a softball, play tag, or do jumping jacks. Physical activity is good for them too.
  • Use your daily workouts as time-outs just for yourself.

TIP: Keep a physical activity log. Write down your workouts in a notebook or on a calendar that lets you see how many times you have been physically active in a week. You can also use your log to track your physical activity and health goals.

Picture of child learning to ride a bike with his parents encouraging him


Tips on

Picture of mother serving her family at the dining tablePicture of a slice of cantaloupe

It may be hard to eat healthy if you do not have time to cook or your kids want fast food. Try these tips to eat better, save time, and stretch your food budget.

Help Your Family Eat Well

Here are some ways that you and your family can eat better:

  • Eat breakfast every day. Try a whole-grain cereal like raisin bran with fat-free or low-fat milk, or whole-wheat toast spread with jam. Enjoy some fruit with your breakfast too.
  • Teach kids that healthy foods taste good. Make macaroni and cheese with fat-free milk and low-fat cheese. Try a peanut butter (spread thin) and jam or preserves sandwich instead of a burger and fries.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese instead of full-fat dairy products.
  • Choose whole-grain foods like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta more often than refined-grain foods, like white bread, white rice, and white pasta.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables. Keep a bowl of fruit on the table, bags of mini carrots in the refrigerator, and boxes of raisins in the cupboard.
  • Do not keep a lot of sweets like cookies, candy, or soda in the house. Too many sweets can crowd out healthier foods.

Picture of cooked turkeyTIP: If you cannot digest lactose (the sugar found in milk), try fat-free or low-fat lactose-reduced milk. Or try fat-free or low-fat yogurt or hard cheeses like cheddar, which may be easier to digest than milk. You can also get calcium from calcium-fortified juices, soy-based beverages, and cereals. Eating dark leafy vegetables like collard greens and kale, and canned fish with soft bones like salmon, can also help you meet your body’s calcium needs.

Save Time and Money When You Cook Picture of dried kidney beans

 You do not have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen or a lot of money to eat well.

  • Buy foods that are easy to prepare, like pasta and tomato sauce, rice and beans, or canned tuna packed in water.
  • Plan ahead and cook enough food to have leftovers. Casseroles, meat loaf, and whole cooked chicken can feed your family for several days. (Be sure to freeze or refrigerate leftovers right away to keep them safe to eat.)
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Buy only as much as you will use so they will not go bad.
  • Buy frozen or canned vegetables (no salt added) and canned fruit packed in juice. They are just as good for you as fresh produce and will not go bad.
  • Try canned beans like kidney, butter, pinto, or black beans. They are loaded with protein, cost less than meat, and make quick and easy additions to your meals.
  • If your local store does not have the foods you want, or the prices are too high, go to another store or your local farmers market. Share a ride or the cost of a taxi with friends.
  • Involve your friends by having days of cooking and sharing healthy meals together. Cut costs by buying the ingredients together.


Food Labels


Picture of products displaying food labels

Food labels may help you make healthy food choices.* But they can be confusing. Here are some quick tips for reading food labels:

Check serving and calories. All the information on a food label is based on the serving size. Be careful—one serving may be much smaller than you think. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients, including the percent Daily Values (DVs).

Percent DV: This tells you if a food is high or low in nutrients. Foods that have more than 20-percent DV of a nutrient are high. Foods that have 5-percent DV or less are low.

Illustration of a Nutrition Facts labelSaturated Fat: Saturated fat is not healthy for your heart. Compare labels on similar foods and try to choose foods that have a 5-percent DV or less for saturated fat. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Keep total fat intake between 20 percent to 35 percent of calories.

Trans Fat: Trans fat is not healthy for your heart. When reading food labels, add together the grams of trans fat and saturated fat, and choose foods with the lowest combined amount.

Cholesterol: Too much cholesterol is not healthy for your heart. Keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible.

Sodium (Salt): Salt contains sodium. Research shows that eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium about (1 teaspoon of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

TIP: Many food labels say “low fat,” “reduced fat,” or “light.” That does not always mean the food is low in calories. Remember, fat-free does not mean calorie-free, and calories do count!

Fiber: Choose foods that are rich in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Sugar: Try to choose foods with little or no added sugar (like low-sugar cereals).

Calcium: Choose foods that are high in calcium. Foods that are high in calcium have at least 20-percent DV.

For information about the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, see www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

* For more information on reading nutrition labels, visit www.cfsan.fda.gov.


Eating on the Go

Picture of a woman walking through the airport in a hurry

In real life, you cannot always cook your meals or eat at the table. Here are some ways to make healthy choices when you are on the go:

  • Choose a salad or a grilled chicken sandwich (not fried) instead of a burger at fast food restaurants.
  • If you really want a burger, make it a small one without sauce. Skip the fries or share them with a friend.
  • Take healthy snacks with you to work. Try graham crackers, pretzels, baby carrots, or a small amount of raisins or nuts (but remember that nuts and raisins are high in calories).
  • Balance your meals throughout the day. If you have a high-fat or high-calorie breakfast or lunch, make sure you eat a low-fat dinner. If you know you will be having a higher fat dinner, make lower fat choices earlier in the day.

TIP: Fried foods, high-fat foods, and take-out foods can be part of a balanced eating plan, but make sure you do not eat them every day and only eat small amounts.



Keeping Track of Serving Sizes

Picture of mother and daughter mixing ingredients in a bowlMany people think that bigger is better. We are so used to value-sized portions in restaurants that it is easy to eat more than our bodies need. Eating smaller portions will help you cut down on calories and fat (and might save you money too). Here is a 1,600-calorie per day sample menu with sensible servings:*

* Adapted from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sample menus.

1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1 English muffin with 1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese
1 cup low-fat or fat-free milk
3/4 cup orange juice

2 ounces baked chicken without skin (a little smaller than a deck of cards)
Lettuce, tomato, and cucumber salad with 2 teaspoons oil and vinegar dressing
1/2 cup white rice seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon tub or liquid margarine
1 small whole-wheat roll with 1 teaspoon margarine

Photo of a mother and young child grocery shoppingDinner
3 ounces lean roast beef (about the size of a deck of cards) with 1 tablespoon beef gravy
1/2 cup turnip greens seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon margarine
1 small baked sweet potato with 1/2 teaspoon margarine
1 slice cornbread
1/4 honeydew melon

TIP: Use margarine instead of butter. Choose a soft margarine that has no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon and that lists “liquid vegetable oil” as the first ingredient on the ingredient list. (American Heart Association)

2 1/2 cups low-fat microwave popcorn
1 1/2 teaspoons margarine

TIP: Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel when you eat can help you understand your eating habits. You may be able to see ways to make your eating habits healthier. You can also use your diary to plan weekly menus, make shopping lists, and keep track of recipes you would like to try. For more information about keeping track of food portions, read WIN’s brochure Just Enough for You: About Food Portions.


You can do it!

Set goals. Move at your own pace. Celebrate your successes. Allow for setbacks. Let your family and friends help you. And keep trying—you can do it!

Photo of a family having a picnic



Heart-Healthy Home Cooking African American Style.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Publication No. 97–3792, 1997. This pamphlet tells how to prepare your favorite African-American dishes in ways that will help protect you and your family from heart disease and stroke, and includes 20 tested recipes. Available from NHLBI $3; call (301) 592–8573 or (240) 629–3255 (TTY).

Down Home Healthy Cookin’.
National Cancer Institute (NCI), reprinted 2000. This pamphlet features 12 recipes for traditional African-American foods modified to be low in fat and high in fiber—but still tasty. Available free from NCI; call 1–800–4–CANCER or 1–800–332–8615 (TTY).


Additional WIN Publications

The following WIN publications offer more information on weight-loss programs, healthy eating, and physical activity.

Celebrate the Beauty of Youth is a tip sheet on moving more and eating healthy. NIH Publication No. 04–4903. June 2004.

Walking…A Step in the Right Direction is a brochure on the benefits of walking that includes suggestions on how you can safely start your own walking program. NIH Publication No. 07–4155. March 2007.

Just Enough for You: About Food Portions is a brochure that shows you how to use serving sizes to help you eat just enough for you. NIH Publication No. 03–5287. August 2006.


Additional Resources

National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). Publications from NDEP provide information about diabetes and obesity prevention and control. NDEP’s publications catalog also offers resources specifically for African Americans.
Internet: www.ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/pubs/catalog.htm  
Phone: (301) 496–3583

MyPyramid.This interactive website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has detailed information about healthy eating and physical activity. The site allows you to create a personalized eating and activity plan. Information and tips are provided for both adults and children.
Internet: www.mypyramid.gov
Phone: 1–888–7–Pyramid; 1–888–779–7264



Weight-control Information Network

1 WIN Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3665
Phone: (202) 828–1025
Fax: (202) 828–1028
Toll-free number: 1–877–946–4627
Email: WIN@info.niddk.nih.gov
Internet: www.win.niddk.nih.gov

The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health, which is the Federal Government’s lead agency responsible for biomedical research on nutrition and obesity. Authorized by Congress (Public Law 103–43), WIN provides the general public, health professionals, the media, and Congress with up-to-date, science-based health information on weight control, obesity, physical activity, and related nutritional issues.

Publications produced by WIN are reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This publication was also reviewed by Steven Blair, P.E.D., Professor, Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, and Ellen Feiler, M.S., Health Education Director, Broward County Health Department, Florida Department of Health.

This publication is not copyrighted. WIN encourages users of this brochure to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired


Return to the NIDDK Home Page.

NIH Publication No. 08–4926
June 2004
Revised January 2008


Contact Us

Toll free: 1-877-946-4627 Fax: (202) 828-1028 E-mail: win@info.niddk.nih.gov
Weight-control Information Network, 1 WIN Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3665

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