Hi. That's great that you are trying to get healthier! I have about 10 or so pounds to lose. (Of course talk with a dr. or dietician before starting a nutrition/exercise program.) I took a 6-week nutrition course thru the local hospital. It's even approved by the American Dietetic Association. It was sooo helpful in changing the way that I chose foods and eat. The dietician taught using the food pyramid and food exchanges, and each week, the she would talk about a different exchange including healthy and unhealthy fats, fruits and vegetables, starches and whole grains, meat/poultry/fish/cheese exchanges, milks.
A healthy weight loss is to lose No more than 1/2 to 2 pounds a week. Any more than that, and one is losing only water and muscle, and will gain the pounds back and then some.
Cheese, btw, counts as a meat exchange.
The dietician spoke about the "other" unhealthy (trans-fats) fats in foods -- also know as partially hydrogenated soybean oil. They are in about every kind of food product, even "low-fat" foods. The manufacturers put hydrogen in the soybean oil, thus making it into a solid, enhancing flavor and keeping a longer shelf life. That was what the big stink with Oreo cookies last summer. A consumer wanted Nabisco Oreo to put how many trans-fats were in each serving on their label, and Oreo would not. Some foods now list the trans-fats on their label, and professionals are trying to get regulations in place to require amounts to be put on labels just as saturated fats are.
"3 is the key," was one motto in class when talking about whole grain foods/fiber and their health benefits and low-fat bonus. Btw, a product must say "whole" or "whole grain" before the grain's name in the ingredient. Examples we got for 3 whole grains a day: whole-grain cereal like Shredded Wheat or Cheerios at breakfast, whole-grain bread at lunch like a bagel or pita, and whole-grain pasta or rice at dinner.
Fish or omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, were talked about for their protective benefits of the heart by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good - Happy) cholesterol. Omega-3's are also known to help prevent colon cancer, ovarian, prostate and breast cancers. Higher rates of omega-3's were also shown to lower rates of breast cancer. (The Journal of Nutrition - 1999).
Omega-3's are found in fish, nuts, flaxseed/oil, canola oil, walnuts, broccoli, kidney beans and some soy products. They are thought to lessen joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Experts recommend eating fish at least 2-3 x a week.
When chosing fruits and veggies, it's healthiest to chose the ones with the most color which have phyto-chemicals to protect against cancers: red peppers, tomatoes, red apples, watermelon, purple grapes, cabbage family, leafy greens. Can cut one's risk of stroke by a third because of their flavenoids (phyto-chemicals), potassium fiber and folate content.
Well, please feel free to print this out :-). I can try to add more later from what I learned in my nutrition program. Just remember that this is a whole new way of life, not just a diet. If one thinks of it as a diet, one will set themself up for failure and reverting back to old, unhealthy ways ;-). Take care.