Have you ever wondered how small changes could help you live a more healthy life?
According to a new survey conducted by Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they overindulge in food over the holidays while more than half (55%) report they constantly feel tired and have less time for themselves.
“Holiday travel, activities with friends and family, and trying to get a bunch of things done can cause people to lose track of their healthy habits,” said Barbara Bawer, MD, family medicine physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “If one healthy habit drops off, it can affect other areas very quickly.”
Let’s talk practical advice for a new you in the new year. Joy Benjamin, a dietitian with Aultman for 15 years; Colleen Barrickman, who has been with AultCare for five years; and Kayla Kopp, a dietitian with The Cleveland Clinic for two years, know it can be difficult to stick with a balanced diet when the comfort and ease of less virtuous options are all around.
These dietitians shared easy-to-follow tips with me through email, tips to set you up for healthy-eating success in the new year.
What are the basics of healthy eating?
Benjamin and Barrickman stress some simple ideas.
“There are key concepts that we speak about daily with individuals we are working with,” the women shared. “Some of those key concepts include: variety, whole food vs. processed food, moderation, hydration, and consistency. Fueling our bodies appropriately to meet nutrient needs is done so by eating a variety of whole foods, i.e., fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. When we eliminate an entire food group, we potentially run into the issue of deficiencies and the impact on our long-term health.”
The women stressed finding good foods that you’ll want to eat.
“Consistency is key when making lifestyle choices and changes. The goal is to not take the enjoyment out of food, but rather we must understand that the food choices we are making on a daily basis are having a direct impact on how optimally our bodies are functioning,” they said. “When we understand that we can positively impact everything from our energy levels, mood, hormones, sleep, and chronic disease risk through our food choices, that is when we see people make the long-term lifestyle changes as opposed to jumping on the fad-diets bandwagon.”
Kopp said eliminating items isn’t the answer. “It’s also very important to not restrict certain food groups, (to) consume whole foods, and cook from home as often as possible,” she said.
Can you help us figure out portion sizes?
All three dietitians shared the same message − slow down and be mindful.
“I think it feels less restrictive to individuals when they implement these things simultaneously,” said Benjamin and Barrickman. “We, as dietitians, can provide recommendations for individuals on serving sizes for certain food groups, but a lot of times it’s as simple as learning how to build your plate, taking away distractions while eating, allowing 20 minutes after eating for your brain to catch up to what your stomach is signaling, and then knowing what choice to make if you are indeed still hungry after finishing your whole plate.”
How do you build a healthy, satisfying plate?
They all recommend including non-starchy vegetables on half of your plate. One quarter of the plate should be a lean protein (chicken breast, salmon, tuna, lean beef, ground turkey) and the last quarter should be a complex carbohydrate (ancient grains, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, winter squash).
If you need snacking ideas, the dietitians recommended using fruits and healthy fats (like avocado) as snacks between meals. The goal is variety. Think color, as this is where phytonutrients in the diet are provided.
Benjamin and Barrickman added, “You cannot out-supplement a poor diet with a multivitamin.”
While they’d prefer diners eat their meals at home, it’s obvious dining out is a habit. Those who eat out more more than one or two times per week should select healthier restaurants and foods. Go for lean proteins, high-fiber vegetables and hardy grains or potatoes. Avoid rolls and butter, chips and salsa or appetizers. Learn to ask for substitutions to create that balanced plate.
Kopp had even more specific ideas.
“If you want that one delicious roll, double your vegetables instead of potatoes,” Kopp said. “Share that appetizer. Limit the high-starch options on your plate, but if you decide on pasta be sure to pair it with a salad and lean protein.”
Portion size is vital at any portion of the meal.
“It’s easy to get caught in conversation and fail to realize how much you’ve actually eaten,” Benjamin and Barrickman said. “Cocktails are like dessert and are generally high in calories and often high in sugar. Decide what’s most important at that meal.”
Find the pitfalls of any diet you’re considering
Cravings come along when you cut out something you enjoy.
“Diets are void of something, whether it’s high-fiber sustaining carbohydrates, nourishing fats that satisfy, animal proteins or lignin-containing vegetables,” said Benjamin. “All diets create an appetite for something that is missing. This missing element is where insatiable cravings are born.”
Healthy snack ideas throughout the day
They recommend when choosing snack options, choose options that are going to provide good blood sugar control, satiety, and good taste. Ideally these are coming from whole foods. Suggestions include plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and granola, a serving of nuts paired with some dried fruit, hummus with nut or seed crackers and vegetable dippers, an apple with string cheese, black beans mixed with salsa, shredded cheese and tortilla chips. Pairing a complex carbohydrate with a protein is the key takeaway.
As a note of caution, granola bars, along with yogurt and cereals are items that we think of as being healthier options but can be places where tons of added sugar are hidden. Read the food label, which will allow you to make the best decision when choosing these items. Ideally when choosing yogurt, choose Greek yogurt because of its amazing protein source, and when looking at the added sugar section of the label, choose a product that has no more than 8 grams of added sugar. Choosing a yogurt with 20 grams or more of sugar will negate the healthy choice you think you are making and will also negate the beneficial bacteria the yogurt could potentially be giving you. It’s worth noting that 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon!
How can we build sustainable healthy strategies?
Change requires new perspectives and priorities. It is not selfish to prioritize your health and focus on making time to actually cook dinner at home.
A key message from the dietitians to consider why you want to make better choices? They say it’s important to come back to those items daily. Slips are inevitable, but bouncing back is important. Don’t give up just because you’ve had a bad day.
Reach Bev at email@example.com or 330-580-8318
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