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You haven't come such a long way

Amidst the bleak picture on Americans' diet and knowledge of nutrition, women have appeared to be a bright spot, caring and doing more to improve their health.

Not so. They're still way off target, because of a confusing array of information and inadequate research, according to a new women's health study unveiled by the American Dietetic Association.

The good news, the ADA says, is that the right diet is uncomplicated and women need only some small, simple changes to do better on diet and exercise.

Getting it wrong

More than 75 percent of women surveyed by Gallup said their diet is healthful and better than a few years ago, but almost one third more women are overweight than before and only 20 percent meet current guidelines.

Most women think breast cancer is the chief health threat, but heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, and affects more women than men.

Most women say cigarette smoking is the prime factor in breast cancer, but weight and diet also play a part.

Getting it right

Attitude: Ignore idealized goals that seem impossible and intimidating. Any change will help. Try them one at a time, especially those that appeal, and give yourself credit for every bit of progress.

Walk a little: Park farther from your destination or walk around the mall and window shop before going in the store; use the stairs, get up during commercials and walk in place.

Feel good: Do things you enjoy. Dance to the radio, get out and work in the garden, go for a bike ride or a swim.

Choices: Eat more carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of low-fat protein and dairy, and just a little fat and sweets.

Color/crunch: Bright yellows, greens and oranges and different textures on the plate are a good clue that the meal is balanced.

Pie test: Cut that plate into quarters: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and eggs should be the side dish not the main part.

Calcium: Get plenty, at least 800 mg a day, 1200 mg for young, pregnant or nursing women, from skim milk, low-fat cheeses, yogurt and broccoli.

Forgive and don't forget: If you eat too many high-fat foods, don't give up. Shoot for balance over the long term.