Proper nutrition and living a healthier lifestyle is always a hot topic, especially as we age. Fad diets come and go, but here are many tried and true methods for eating healthier, and living a healthier lifestyle. While what I will share with you is nothing new, it sometimes gets lost in the midst of today's quick fix and fad diets.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables at every meal
There are numerous benefits to making produce a main attraction at mealtime. In addition to upping your intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, eating at least five servings a day is tied to a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Produce can also displace foods that pack more calories per bite. One cup of non-starchy vegetables contains about 25 calories, compared to 200 in a cup of cooked pasta. Eating a medium-sized pear instead of a handful of chips, crackers, or cookies can cut anywhere from 50 to 200 calories. Include a serving of fruit in each breakfast, and also for a snack later in the day. Also include two servings of veggies in every lunch and dinner.
Make water your beverage of choice
You've heard about the unwanted effects of drinking both regular and diet soda, but you may not be aware of some of the benefits of drinking more water. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who get much of their daily fluid intake from plain water tend to have healthier diets overall, including more fiber, less sugar, and fewer high-calorie foods. And in addition to hydrating you, water may be a helpful weight loss aid, by curbing appetite and boosting metabolism. Over the course of your day, try to drink at least 64 ounces of water. If you dislike the taste of plain water, add wedges of lemon or lime, or a bit of mashed juicy fruit, like berries or orange wedges.
Choose whole-food starches
Americans are eating far too many refined grains, including white versions of bread, pasta, rice, crackers and pretzels, in addition to baked goods and cereals made with refined starch. Research shows that a higher whole grain intake is tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber helps delay stomach emptying, which keeps you fuller longer, delays the return of hunger, and helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which are tied to appetite regulation. Non-grain nutrient-rich starches, such as skin-on potatoes, root vegetables, squash, beans, and lentils are great choices for lunch or dinner, while oats or a puffed whole grain cereal are a great choice at breakfast. One serving a day is generally a half-cup of a cooked starch, or the serving stated on the nutrition label for packaged foods.
Limit your sugar intake
Probably the biggest unhealthy food choice people make is excessive sugar intake. It has been found that for most people, moderation works better than deprivation. Currently, the average American takes in a whopping 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day. According to the American Heart Association, the daily target for added sugar should be no more than 6 level teaspoons for women, and 9 for men -- that's for both food and beverages combined. It's strict, but the target isn't zero, which means you don't need to banish sugar completely. Allowing yourself some of the sweet stuff can be a helpful way to stay on track, because swearing it off completely can result in intense cravings and rebound overeating. Start by cutting out processed versions of sweet stuff, like candy and packaged treats. Next, choose unsweetened versions of packaged foods, or make them yourself without adding sugar. For example, for an awesome DIY dressing whisk together extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, and Italian herb seasoning. Now that you've slashed your sugar intake, strategically decide how to "spend" small amounts while staying within your budget. Don't succumb to all-or-nothing thinking (e.g. "I can't have any" or "I had a little so I might as well go all out!"). People who lose weight and keep it off long-term find ways to strike a sane and healthy balance.
Raise you eating awareness
Raising your eating awareness, which includes tuning into hunger and fullness cues, as well as slowing your eating pace, and identifying non-physical eating triggers (boredom, habit, or a bad day) can dramatically affect your eating habits, and your health. Paying attention to body signals has been shown to be as effective for weight loss. Also, becoming more mindful of body signals can help you realize when you're drawn to food even though you're not physically hungry, which can help you address your emotional needs in non-food ways. Start keeping a food journal to record not just what and how much you eat, as well as any emotional notes, such as craving something crunchy because you feel angry, or wanting to eat while watching TV.