It’s all about lifestyle! Yep, if you want to be fit and healthy you’ll have to adopt a healthy lifestyle that’s permanent. Sporadic dieting and occasional exercise don’t work. You must commit to a lifetime of good eating habits and routine exercise. In my experience, individuals fail to sustain good eating habits when they don’t enjoy their food! If you’re not satisfied, you won’t be successful; food is meant to be enjoyed. As a matter of fact, consumer attitudes toward Food, Safety, Nutrition and Health, commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) show that taste (not health) is the most important factor when it comes to purchasing food. Yet, I believe you can have both: nourishing food and great taste! Much of what I do is help individuals find healthy alternatives to the not so healthy foods they love. Aside from enjoying healthy food, here are 8 more steps to a healthier lifestyle.
Pay attention to portion sizes. Control your caloric intake by controlling your portion sizes. Today many portions are simply distorted. Over the past 2 decades, portion sizes of all foods and beverages have dramatically increased. Twenty years ago a bagel measured 3 inches in diameter and contained 140 calories. Today, they are double in size and calories. When you are served more food, you will eat more food. One strategy is to use smaller sized plates; you will eat 15-25% more off of larger plates.
Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals will eventually catch up with you leaving you irritable, unable to concentrate and more likely to binge. Control your appetite and enjoy the most nutrient dense foods by having three meals a day with several small snacks in between. Make sure to carry healthy snacks with you to avoid vending machine food.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Because fruits and vegetables are low in calories they are helpful in weight control. On top of that, they are naturally low in fat, contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals (substances that are associated with disease prevention). A good rule of thumb: one half of your plate should be vegetables. This is visually represented in USDA’s graphic for a healthy diet- My Plate.
Eat more high fiber foods including whole grains. Research has shown fiber, once only touted as the substance necessary for regularity, to be associated with a decreased incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Fiber is also helpful in weight control, by increasing satiety (it fills you up). Not sure how to boost fiber? In addition to fruits, veggies, beans and legumes, include whole grains in your diet. Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal or whole wheat cereal flakes, snack on popcorn, use brown rice instead of white rice and swap buckwheat noodles (soba) for white pasta. If you don’t like large servings of whole grains, simply add a couple tablespoons of wheat germ to smoothies, hot cereal or baked goods. Likewise, cooked grains such as bulgur and barley can be added to soups, salads and stews.
Enjoy more seafood and include a variety of protein foods. Protein will keep you full longer than carbs, and when restricting calories protein will aid in maintaining lean muscle. Research has linked large portions of red meat and processed meat over extended periods of time to an increase in some cancers. Try to vary your protein sources to include less red meat and more poultry, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and soy products. Substituting plant proteins for animal proteins one day per week can reduce saturated fat intakes by 15%. Here is one of my favorite Meatless Monday Meals.
Limit meals away from home. Research shows when we eat out we consume more calories, saturated fat, added sugar and alcohol. We also consume less fruits and veggies whole grains, and low fat dairy. By preparing meals in the home, you have complete control over what you’re eating! Click here for ideas to make “eating in” fun and easy!
Exercise regularly. Good nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand. Aim for one hour of moderate to intense exercise daily. If you don’t have an hour, try breaking exercise bouts into 10 or 15 minutes increments. Consider functional fitness to focus on individual goals while keeping training applicable to the everyday stresses of life.
Practice moderation not deprivation. There are no “bad” or “forbidden” foods. The USDA categories fats, sugars and alcohol as discretionary calories and advises Americans to consume these foods in moderation. A good rule of thumb; limit calories from added fats sugar, and alcohol to 10% of your total caloric intake. If there is a food you can’t live without, chances are it can be worked into your meal plan. Consult a registered dietitian for help. Occasional indulgences can help keep you on track with good eating habits. The key is to plan for them, don’t just let them happen!