As I mentioned before, changing your eating habits and learning how to build a healthy nutritious diet are really quite simple. I did not say it is easy because the percentage of your diet that falls into “unhealthy foods,” will determine the difficulty you will have in changing. However, once you begin to make the change – a little at a time – you will begin to adjust.
Once you get used to avoiding additive-ladened, processed food, excessive amounts of white flour and processed sugar products, etc., you will feel so good (usually within 30 days) that you will wonder why you waited so long. Having said that, I must warn you that the first 30 days can be challenging.
There is research that supports the theory that processed foods can be addictive due to the additional flavonoids and combination of fat, sugar and salt they contain. As with any addiction, when you stop ingesting the addictive elements, there is withdrawal and you may feel slightly worse before you start to feel better, but not for long.
There will be an improvement in your digestive process, energy level, and weight as a result of eating a properly balanced diet of healthy food. The habit of eating nutritious foods that are as close to nature as possible will soon feel completely normal and become second nature.
[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#cc0213″]9 Tips to Help Make and Sustain a Change in Eating Habits[/typography]
- Take Your Time – Take it slow. Do not get caught in the trap of thinking that you have to change overnight. The only exception to this is if you are ill or have a serious health condition right now. if you have heart disease, diabetes, or any other major illnesses, you may want to consider “going cold turkey” – with approval of your doctor, of course. But, if you are not in imminent danger, you can take it more slowly. A good approach is to focus on changing one bad habit a week, which makes the change more manageable and tolerable. You will slowly begin to feel better as the weeks pass by. Be patient. You developed the bad habits over a lifetime, it will take some time to build new habits and reap the rewards.
- Keep the Process Simple – Do not make food preparation complicated. Anyone can learn to make healthy, delicious meals. You do not have to be a trained chef. The only requirement is the desire and commitment to eating well. Keep in mind that most family cooks typically rotate 12 to 14 meals throughout the year, which makes your job easy. All you need are recipes for 12 to 14 nutritious meals that you and your family enjoy (with a few variations) and you are set.
- Eat Nature’s Rainbow of Food – Green and yellow vegetables and fruits. When these are eaten in abundance on a daily basis, you will consume more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than when eating any other food group – AND – you will have more energy. In fact, when you eat them fresh (preferably organic), raw or cooked, you can eat unlimited amounts – especially vegetables. You have to be a little more careful with fruits because of the high sugar content.
- Eat Healthy Carbs and Whole Grains –These should be incorporated into your diet every single day. Avoid white flour products all together. Breakfast is perfect for implementing this tip. A big bowl of steel cut oats with fruit, nuts, and some almond milk is super nutritious and healthy. You’ll feel better all day long. Your digestion will improve, it will get your metabolism hopping, and junk food cravings will begin to diminish.
- Eat Nuts – These should be eaten every day. Put them in everything from breakfast cereal, to salads, entrees, and desserts – or use them as a delicious, nutritious snack. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study that showed people who ate a handful of mixed nuts on a daily basis were 20% less likely to die from heart disease, cancer or other ailments. Certified nutritionist and dietician Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., agrees that nuts are crucial for a healthy diet, especially for people over 50. They are a great natural source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. The consensus seems to be that both almonds and walnuts are right at the top of the list as the healthiest nuts, but they are all good. So along with the top two, eat any nut that you enjoy and live longer. Raw is the best choice, but if you do not like the taste, go for dry roasted and unsalted – but the bottom line is – any kind, any style is better than no nuts at all.
- Eat When Hungry and ONLY When Hungry – If you eat when your body tells you to eat (in moderation) – and stop when you are full, you will be much healthier. One of the biggest challenges for people who are trying to lose weight is that they starve themselves and then binge eat on the highest calorie foods within their reach – which usually means some combination of fat, sugar, and salt. So, even when dieting – EAT when you get hungry, stay with natural foods, in moderation, and stop when you are full.
- Plan Your Meals Ahead – When you plan your meals (and snacks) ahead of time, you will eat better. It is best to plan for a week at a time so that you buy only the foods you want (and should) eat to get the necessary nutrients to stay healthy. AND . . . always shop with a list that guides your purchases – no impulse buying allowed! If you don’t plan and shop well, I promise you will end up with a basketful of unhealthy food and/or in the drive-through very quickly. Hunger and exhaustion trigger a natural instinct to “stuff your face” with empty-calorie convenience foods. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. The reality is that you must eat, so be prepared to eat well and be healthy. There are studies that support the theory that the high-calorie count of fast food alone is only part of the problem. The hunger that often appears rather quickly (within an hour or two) after a 2000-calorie fast food dinner is the result of eating empty calories – in other words, there is a lack of nutrients to feed your body.
- Drink Fresh Filtered Tap Water – In addition to being more environmentally friendly, tap water is a better choice than bottled water. It is always available, can be easily filtered for contaminants, and will save you a lot of money. Unless it has been determined that there is something wrong with your water supply, there is no guarantee that bottled water is cleaner or healthier than tap water. In some cases tap water tests better than bottled water. (Unfortunately, the bottled water industry is not as regulated as you may think.) If you choose to make this switch, be sure to invest in a charcoal filter for your tap. This will ensure the elimination of any contaminants that may get into the system and it will also improve the taste – especially if you live in a large metropolitan area like Phoenix, AZ, where the taste is not pleasant.
- MOVE Your Body – Obviously this has nothing to do with nutrition, but it has everything to do with health and well-being. You will find that as you begin eating better, your energy level will rise – and incorporating some type of exercise regimen into your life will become easier. Regular exercise not only burns energy, it increases your metabolism, which, in turn, helps with weight control. High-intensity exercise will deliver a bigger, longer increase in resting metabolic rate than low- or moderate-intensity workouts. To get the benefits, try a more intense class at the gym or include short bursts of jogging during your regular walk (If your health allows). Do what you can do and find a way to MOVE your body each day. Set a goal to exercise (or move) for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single 30-minute walk, or three 10-minute walks – just do it.
Making the necessary changes to create a new lifestyle can be overwhelming, but using these tips can help jump-start the process. The goal is to slowly build new habits so they can take root and be sustained over the long haul.
A good place to start may be with breakfast. Let go of destructive habits like gobbling down a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast – or skipping breakfast all together and grabbing a sugar and fat-ladened latte on your way to work. Focus on making different, more nutritious choices for breakfast that will lead to better health. Once you have breakfast under control – move on to your morning snack and lunch – and finally dinner. Take it one step at a time.
Join us again for the next post in the series to learn more about the relationship between nutrition and your health.
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