Woo, it’s Friday! And Halloween weekend! What are your plans and costumes? I usually just enjoy seeing other people get all excited about it and dress up.
So, although I’m not a Registered Dietitian JUST YET, I do think I know a good deal about health and nutrition after studying it for the past three years. And the most common questions I’ve heard are: What’s a healthy diet? What’s the best diet for me? What makes so and so diet better than so and so?
Well, lucky for you, I spent countless hours in the classroom studying these things, and the different ways protein, carbohydrates and fats are handled by the body. And guess what – there’s no one right answer. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but the ideal healthy diet and lifestyle is probably different for each of you. That being said, I likely won’t be recommending the same diet, calorie intake or lifestyle changes for everyone.
However, there are some blanket tips that I recommend for an overall healthy lifestyle.
Up the fruit and vegetable intake – They provide so many micronutrients, antioxidants and fiber, and are low in calories, relatively speaking. They are great sides for lunches, paired with proteins for snacks, toppings for meals, desserts, etc. Many of us still don’t reach the recommended 5 servings a day.
Move More! Any way you do it is a good thing! Walking around the block, weights, running, exercise classes, biking, pushups, playing sports, yoga, picking apples, cleaning the house, etc.
Cook Extra. When making meals at home, always cook extra that you can use for leftovers throughout the week. Having some options can help stray you away from unprocessed, packaged foods when time is tight or you don’t feel like cooking. When you go out, save half your meal for later – restaurant meals are generally higher in calories, fat and sodium then those we replicate at home, so saving half of your meal is a great way to reduce that intake. Plus, bonus, one less meal you have to worry about making that week!
Watch your beverage intake. Beverages can be a hugeee source of calories many of us don’t think about. Decreasing or cutting out certain beverages can make a big difference – try to increase water intake and minimize alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages. Add fruit or herbs to your water to make it more palatable, or try carbonated water.
Don’t restrict yourself! Food rules can be a slippery slope, and restricting yourself can lead to overindulging. It’s ok to indulge every once in a while (it’s normal!), but just hold yourself accountable for portion sizes. Sometimes you just need that ice cream/froyo or slice of pie and that’s ok. That one dessert isn’t going to kill you. Just be mindful that you may just have to make some sacrifices elsewhere. Yes, you can have that piece of cake for dessert, but maybe eat half of your dinner and box the other half, or nix that second glass of wine.
Have goals and hold yourself accountable. Write them down. If you don’t have goals, how do you know what you’re working towards or if you’re making progress? Make yourself a weekly meal plan or meet with a dietitian who can make one based on your needs and lifestyle. Track your intake if you need to, initially, to get a feel for what serving sizes are and what they provide. Keep an exercise journal about how you feel and what you’re accomplishing. Writing on paper what you do can be so exhilarating and help cultivate positive thoughts! Pat yourself on the back for doing what you do!
Aim for small changes. To me, this is the most important piece of advice. You’re not going to revamp your whole diet and lifestyle in one day. Small changes add up. Things like switching from creamer in your coffee to low-fat milk, white bread and rice to whole wheat bread and brown rice, switching out mayonnaise for greek yogurt, taking sugar out of your coffee/tea – things like that will help you save a couple hundred calories a day, which adds up fast!
Of course, these are just some general tips and they will obviously be a bit different for everyone. To some, healthy could look like 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day, while for others lifestyles, it may be 3 meals. Some people may feel better taking certain things out of their diets, while others may rely on those food sources for their beneficial vitamins and nutrients.
For some, healthy might mean going out to eat often with groups of people to socialize and find comfort, while to others, it may mean cooking at home or grabbing take-out. It may mean refraining from using the salt shaker at the table, while for others, it could be drinking a glass of milk with dinner. Do you get what I’m saying? It’s so different for each person depending on his/her individual needs and goals. Healthy adapts to you and what you can maintain, rather than you fitting into a “one-fits-all” healthy (that doesn’t exist). Don’t feel like you have to give up everything. Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed with others.
What’s clear is that food is so integral in our lives – for nourishment, healing, bringing people together, and for social gatherings and enjoyment. We celebrate occasions with food, we grieve with food, we watch sports with food, we entertain and share social gatherings with food. We encounter food more often than we probably realize.
Not every single food encounter needs to involve fruits and vegetables to live a healthy lifestyle. Each day will be different. Use your food choices to nourish your body so you can enjoy all that life has to offer. That’s a healthy lifestyle.
What’s on your bucket list for the weekend?