Making small changes in your diet can yield big benefits
Whether you’re beginning a new year or halfway through, we offer you these helpful ideas for how to Be Your Healthiest Best this year.
With fewer “resolutions” and more “lifestyle solutions,” we hope you’ll find some ideas to help you live healthfully.
Drink More Water
Start off your new habits with the simplest recommendation – drink more water. When your body is low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s hunger mechanism. Water boosts your body’s metabolism and maintains the balance of body fluids, which regulates body temperature, aids digestion and makes us feel full. Additionally, proper hydration leads to increased athletic performance.
It can be difficult to make every meal nutritionally perfect. That’s okay – degrees of health matter. While a diet like Atkins would cringe at having cereal for breakfast, sometimes that can be the best option. Be judicious about your selection. Corn Flakes are better than Frosted Flakes due to lower sugar. Cheerios are better than Corn Flakes as they contain whole grains. Unprocessed steel-cut oatmeal is better than Cheerios since the body has to work harder to digest it. The point being that when presented with options, we can consider the degree each improves upon the other.
Include Whole Fruits and Vegetables in Every Meal
Fruits and vegetables are major contributors of a number of nutrients that are under-consumed in the United States, including folate, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamins A and C, among others. When prepared without added fats or sugars, they are relatively low in calories and are associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases. But you already know this! So color your plate at every meal with dark-green, red and orange veggies. Add red, blue and green fruits. Make it a rainbow of colors and enjoy the benefits! One important caution: although 100 percent fruit juice can be considered healthful, it lacks dietary fiber and when consumed in excess can contribute extra calories.
Focus on Fiber
Speaking of dietary fiber, it’s a carbohydrate found in plant foods. Unlike other carbs, it isn’t easily digested by your body, so it passes quickly through your system without causing your blood sugar to rise. It also helps you feel full without adding a lot of extra calories to your diet. All fruits and vegetables have fiber, but it’s mostly concentrated in the skin, seeds and membranes. A whole apple with skin, then, is better than a peeled banana. To help better meet the recommendations for fiber, increase consumption of beans and peas and other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and other foods with naturally occurring fiber.
Try Counting Bites Instead of Calories
Weight Watchers taught us about the benefits of calorie counting. The concept is clear – to lose weight you must expend more caloric energy than you take in. Unfortunately, the implementation of this practice is a little more complex. To do the math, you need to know how many calories you are burning each day, how many calories are in each food you eat and how much you are eating. A recently published study from researchers at Brigham Young University found that bite counting can act as a proxy to calorie counting and produce weight loss. Count your bites at each meal for a week; try cutting that number by 25 percent for four weeks and see how you do! Counting each bite also supports the final recommendation in making small changes.
Eat in the moment, and be thoughtful about what you eat. Eating on the move, in the car or while watching TV takes the focus away from pleasures of taste and the purpose of eating. People tend to eat more quickly. They also tend to eat more at their next meal as the prior meal did not fully register in the mind. Instead, focus on each meal and be mindful about eating. You will take more pleasure from each bite, feel more satisfied from your meal and be less likely to overindulge in the moment or later in the day.