Follow these tips for a happier and healthier you in 2016!
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
No matter what you decide for your resolution this year, make sure to set goals that will help you succeed. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Goals should have each of these attributes in order to help you be successful. Sometimes when our goals aren’t “SMART”, we set ourselves up for failure and guilt.
- Break out of Dieting Jail
Diets are meant to be temporary and are rarely effective for sustainable behavior change. Instead, focus on adding healthy behaviors to your lifestyle such as eating more fruits and vegetables or exercising frequently. This will help you make a lasting change and avoid “yo-yo dieting” which can damage metabolism.
- Focus on Mindfulness
Being mindful during meals is a lost art in our society. We often eat quickly on the run or while watching TV, which takes not only the awareness, but some of the enjoyment out of meal times. As best you can, try to schedule at least 20-30 minutes for meals. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full, so eating too quickly can lead to over-indulgence. Slow down, taste your food, and enjoy the meal experience.
- Eat Breakfast
The old saying is true – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When it comes to improving metabolism and energy, eating a balanced breakfast can give you that much needed jump-start to tackle the day or the New Year.
- Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber plus antioxidants to support your immune system. The different colors mean different nutrients, so be sure to get a variety of colors each day. Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried are all great options. Remember to check the label for added sodium or sugar if buying canned or frozen items.
- Be Active Regularly
We don’t have to be told that exercise is good for us. It decreases the risk of disease and helps manage stress and weight. The recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of exercise each week. This may seem daunting at first, but research shows that activity in just 10 minute increments is beneficial to health. Begin by valuing exercise and making it an important part of your day just like your other appointments. Then start small with 5-10 minutes of exercise three times each day. You will feel the difference!
- Incorporate Healthy Snacks
Snacks can act as a much needed bridge between meals to fuel your metabolism, keep your energy level up, and prevent you from overeating later. Try to include at least two food groups in your snacks such as yogurt with fruit, whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese, or a small portion of nuts with an apple.
- Get to Know Food Labels
Food packages make a wide variety of claims from “reduced-fat” to “low-calorie” or even simply “healthy”. The Food and Drug Administration has strict guidelines on some of these terms, but not all of them. If you are trying to make a purchase decision based on nutrition, the best place to check would be the nutrition facts label which is more tightly regulated and consistent.
- Get Enough Sleep
Research continues to show us that sleep is extremely important to good health. Scientists aren’t sure why, but too little sleep actually increases the risk of weight gain and developing Type 2 Diabetes. One theory is that poor sleep disrupts hormone levels that regulate appetite which increases the likelihood of overeating. The importance of adequate sleep applies to children as well and may be just as crucial as nutrition and exercise to proper development.
- Eat Whole Grains
Whole grain foods have all three parts of the grain seed which increases their fiber and nutrient content. Being brown doesn’t mean your bread is whole grain and being white doesn’t mean your bread is made only with refined white flour. Check the label. Whole grains should have at least 3 grams of fiber in one serving. Also, the very first ingredient should be “100% whole grain”.
- Get Cooking
Preparing meals at home is often cheaper and healthier. Get the whole family involved in meal planning and food prep. Kids are more likely to eat a dish if they helped create it.
- Commit to Family Meals
Studies show that families who take the time to eat together at the dinner table are not only happier, but healthier as well. Kids who eat regular meals at home do better in school and have improved mental health and positive family relationships. For an added benefit, individuals who eat more meals at home eat less overall and are less likely to be overweight.
- Drink More Water
Water helps our bodies regulate temperature and get rid of wastes. Feeling thirsty can sometimes feel like a false sense of hunger, so staying hydrated can help us avoid eating when we aren’t hungry. Caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, or tea actually dehydrate the body, so it is best to limit these beverages and stick to water most often.
- Focus on Balance
Try not to put too much stock in fad diets that promote one food or food group over another. All food groups are important because they have specific roles in the body. Some foods are higher in energy or calories and lower in nutrients. These foods are “sometimes foods”. They can still be a part of a balanced diet, but should be eaten in moderation. Foods higher in nutrients are often lower in calories, so the portion sizes of these foods can be larger and they can be eaten more often.
- Give up the Guilt
Guilt is only a good thing when it motivates you to positive change, not if it gives you the chance to wallow or put yourself down. It is the same with food. Good nutrition is determined over time and is based on lifestyle not on one meal or one day of eating something out of the norm.
- Be Body-Positive
With obesity persisting as a major health concern, it is common for conversations about weight to occur at home and often at the dinner table. Focusing only on weight can be emotionally harmful, especially for children and teens who are still developing physically. Instead, it is more helpful to talk positively about the nutrients that food can provide for the body. A positive body image and relationship with food are also important parts of establishing a healthy lifestyle.
-Elizabeth Hall, Registered Dietician