It's the new year, and perhaps you have made the decision to clean up your diet and eat healthier. If so, I'm so excited for you! From my personal experience and journey to a healthier, new me, I can say that it's the best thing I've done for myself. Well, behind accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The most important thing to remember is that there's no quick-fix. So don't fall for all the gimmicks and fraudulent claims that sound too good to be true because they are. It's about making lifestyle changes that will stick with you.
There are tons of resources with useful tips and advice on ways to get healthier. This may be both good and bad as too much info can be overwhelming. Right now, I want to focus on MyPlate. I challenge you to take a look at what your plate looks like. Does it look like this?
MyPlate is a new approach to help people eat healthier. This new initiative, so to speak, has replaced the USDA's Food Pyramid, as it was a source of great confusion. For many, the concept of consuming foods that are at the higher and narrower end of the pyramid in moderation or rarely was poorly understood. Also, what does 2-3 servings of meat look like? 3-4 servings of vegetables? etc.... Long story short, it was hard for people to visualize and follow.
Hopefully, MyPlate will serve as a vehicle to help people realize that nutrition does not have to be complicated. We eat with our eyes first, right? So take a good look at your plate before you start digging in. Is ½ of the plate fruits and vegetables? Is meat about ¼ of the plate?
Now, this doesn't mean you go and grab the biggest plate you have. Nor does it mean make your plate 3-dimensional! This is not the time to get clever. You'd only be cheating and hurting yourself.
Here are some suggestions that you'll hopefully find helpful:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Savor the rainbow! Eat colorfully!
- Can be fresh, frozen, or canned.
- Be sure to choose canned products without the addition of salt, sugar, or syrup.
- Frozen produce are just as nutritious as the fresh as the flash-freeze method allows for the retention of nutrients.
- Steam or microwave rather than boil to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins
- Make at least ½ your grains whole
- Go for 100% whole-grain - barley, wheat berries, wheat, brown rice, millet, etc.
- Check the ingredient list not the front of the package. Choose a product that names a whole grain ingredient first on the list.
- When it comes to whole wheat bread, it can be tricky. In the ingredient list, look for "whole wheat flour" or "100% whole wheat flour" rather than "wheat flour," "unbleached wheat flour," "multigrain," "stone-ground wheat flour"...the list goes on and on. These are actually types of refined white flour so don't be tricked!
- Choose a product that contains at least 3g of fiber per serving.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- No more whole milk. The alternatives have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole but without the extra fat and calories.
- Opt for milk or yogurt more often than cheese. They have more potassium and less sodium.
- Regular cream cheese, cream, and butter are not part of the dairy food group. Sorry!
- Make simple switches. Substitute sour cream or mayo with Greek or plain yogurt, cream with fat-free evaporated milk, cream cheese with ricotta cheese...
- If you don't drink animal milk or are lactose-intolerant, make sure that your soy milk, almond milk, etc is fortified with calcium.
- Eat a variety of protein sources
- Seafood, nuts, beans, quinoa, soy, lean meat, poultry, and eggs.
- Consume seafood twice a week. It's an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, along with many other nutrients.
- Keep portions small and lean (at least 90%). A serving size is 3 oz, which is the size of a deck of cards.
- Cut back on sodium and empty calories
- Add spices and herbs rather than salt to season food.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Cut back on fast foods such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, hotdogs, chips...you know what they are.
- Don't deprive yourself
- As soon as you label certain foods as "bad" and try to avoid them like the plague, you'll only enhance the cravings. Everything in moderation! There are not good and bad "foods," only good and bad dietary patterns.
- Plan ahead
- Let's face it - Weekdays are super hectic, and it's so easy to resort to grab-n-go, fast, convenient foods. Make sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy options.
- Prep ahead on weekends. Wash and prep vegetables, store in tupperware, and place at eye level in the fridge so that you have vegetable guilt - If you don't eat them, they will spoil.
- Here's what I do on Sundays.
- When dining out, make sure to eat a little snack beforehand so that you're not starved and feel like eating the whole world. Don't feel compelled to finish your plate. I always take some to go - 2 meals for the price of 1!
These are some helpful tips and guidelines that you should aim to incorporate into your everyday diet. However, from my personal experience, this may be really difficult and intimidating at first to stick to. What worked for me is starting slowly. I don't encourage an "all or nothing" mentality. I made one change at a time and made every effort to stick with it. Over time, you'll find it become easier and completely doable. I hope you find these tips to be helpful. And if you already knew them, it's a great reminder to continue.
I never imagined that I would one day be pursuing a career in nutrition, but here I am. I've come a long way since 4 years ago when I first made the decision to actively pursue a healthier lifestyle, and I haven't looked back. My hope is that you'll join me on this empowering journey.
What are some tips or advice that you personally found helpful and achievable?