Use these simple eating tips for form good eating habits in the New Year

Eating Tips for Good Health and Weight Loss in the New Year

USE THESE SIMPLE EATING TIPS FOR FORM GOOD EATING HABITS IN THE NEW YEAR

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

Anyone old enough to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve will probably make a resolution to drop a few pounds in the coming year. It’s one of the top resolutions made in the first minute of the first day of every new year. If it’s on your list, I have a few eating tips that can help you reach your health and weight loss goals in 2013.

The key is forming good eating habits so the preferred behavior happens automatically. A habit is a habit whether good or bad, so swapping out your old way of eating for something new, and better, solves the problem for good.

The biggest challenge is interrupting the status quo. It’s like switching off the cruise control in the car when we’re driving on a highway. Once we do, we’ve got to think about maintaining the speed limit again. The same is true when we‘re making food decisions. It’s not that we dislike every brand of high fiber cereal on the shelf; we just keep selecting the same low fiber one over and over again because that’s what we’ve always done.

But that does not mean you should skip the resolutions when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. If you’re really willing to leave the old year behind, let this be the year you ring in good health and weight loss for the very last time.

Top 10 Eating Tips For 2013

  1. Pick a start date that works for you. There’s nothing magical about January 1st, or the 52 Mondays in the year, or your birthday. There’s also no reason to wait a minute longer if you’re ready. You can start right now.
  2. Be brutally honest with yourself about what has blocked your success in the past. Do you feel entitled to eat certain foods? Procrastinate about meal planning? Blame others for your food choices? It’s time to deal with those disabling thoughts and beliefs.
  3. Make educating yourself about good nutrition part of your commitment. It is much easier to eat well when you understand why it matters.
  4. Talk about the changes you’re making to those who need to know so they can be supportive of your efforts and so they’ll understand why you stopped eating the way you used to do.
  5. Don’t try to make anyone else change along with you, just be an example for them. You can only change yourself.
  6. Plan each meal and snack around a fruit or vegetable – or both – instead of thinking about the meat or starch first.
  7. If you eat out more than once a month, it’s not a special occasion. Those meals should be as well- planned and carefully selected as the meals you eat at home.
  8. Don’t worry about disappointing others if you don’t eat as much as you used to or celebrate with food the way you once did. Worry about disappointing yourself.
  9. Small changes are all it takes to overhaul your life as long as you make enough of them and you stick with each one.
  10. Make sure you never view any food as a reward, no matter how tempting or delicious. If you’re thinking, “I deserve to eat this,” don’t eat it unless you can say, “I choose to eat this.”

How many of your resolutions from last year did you keep?

Tray of vegetables kebabs ready to put on the barbecue grill

Is a Plant Based Diet a Good Diet Plan?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013.

FOLLOWING A PLANT BASED DIET IS A GOOD PLAN WITHOUT GOING VEGETARIAN

It’s the first day of summer, let the harvest begin! This is my favorite time of year because it makes eating a plant based diet so easy. With so many more seasonal fruits and vegetables to choose from during the summer months, having meatless meals is the default menu option in my house.

You don’t have to become a full-fledged vegetarian to have the benefits of aplantiful” diet, just head in that direction by making more of your meals plant centered.

I not only get to reap the bounty from my own vegetable garden this time of year, I also enjoy the variety that shows up in my local farmer’s market. See my tips for shopping at farm stands to take advantage of this wonderful source of locally grown crops.

Why is a Plant Based Diet a Good Diet Plan?

Edible plants, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, provide us with the ideal combination of high nutrient-density and low caloric-density. That means you get more nutrients per calorie you eat, a great strategy for staying properly nourished without gaining weight. Plus, the high water and fiber content of plants helps us feel full, without filling us out.

Then there are all the phytonutrients (plant compounds that have health benefits but are not essential nutrients) you can only get from plants foods. Things like beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, quercetin and resveratrol can’t be found in beef, poultry or fish but are valued for their cancer-fighting, immunity-building, anti-aging, free-radical-fighting properties.

No matter what the Paleo Diet crowd may say, you are better off living exclusively on plants than on animals in this day and age.

How to Enjoy More Meatless Meals

As I said before, the goal isn’t to eliminate meat, but to eat less meat at meals. It’s not as hard as you may think. You can start by approaching every meal with a focus on what fruit, vegetable, grain, nut and/or seed you will feature in that meal, and treat the animal portion as a side-dish. This can be as simple as cutting the meat serving size in half while doubling up on the plants you normally serve.

Imagine a sandwich on whole wheat bread spread with hummus, stacked with layers of grilled vegetables and topped with sliced avocado. You don’t need, and won’t miss, the deli meat and cheese one bit. But if you want some, a single slice will do.

How about a baked potato (yes, it’s a vegetable) stuffed with black beans (another vegetable) and salsa (a 3rd vegetable), topped with shredded cheese?

For some great outdoor dinner ideas try assorted vegetable pieces threaded onto kebab skewers with just a few cubes of chicken or salmon basted with a flavorful marinade and grilled to serve over a bulghur pilaf. Or you can grill eggplant and tomato slices and stack them up with a bit of parmesan cheese and fresh basil in between for a satisfying summer appetizer.

You can find entrée ideas in vegetarian cookbooks that are easily embellished with a few ounces of meat or cheese, if needed, or just add a few shrimp or some diced turkey to your salad.

Summer is here. It’s time to start moving toward a plant based diet while the pickings are good!

Help yourself to some of these other posts on eating more vegetables, too.

  • 9 Nutritious Salad Toppers From Your Pantry Shelf
  • Make a Healthy Homemade Salsa – It’s Easy!
  • Quick Healthy Meals Begin With Pasta
  • Need Dinner Ideas? Soup Makes Quick Easy Meals
  • Winter Vegetables Make Meatless Meals More Satisfying
  • Focus on Healthy Eating Habits, Not Superfoods
Shiny red apple sitting on top of a book

Nutrition Education vs Healthy Eating Habits

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

NUTRITION EDUCATION AND HEALTHY EATING GUIDELINES ARE ONLY USEFUL IF WE EAT WHAT WE LEARN

Americans have received a lot more nutrition education than is evident by looking at what we eat. Thanks to a number of successful campaigns by the food industry and government-issued healthy eating guidelines, we have had the chance to learn what’s in our food and why it’s good for us, even if we don’t always put it into practice.

Please take this little quiz to help make my point:

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know milk is rich in calcium and calcium is good for our bones?

  1. Can you name a food high in vitamin C?
  2. Where does most of the iron we eat end up in our bodies?
  3. Why do we need protein in our diets?
  4. What makes our blood pressure go up?

(You can find the correct answers below.) If you got them right, that’s proof the marketing about these food-nutrient-function connections stuck. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you have healthy eating habits.

What’s Missing From Nutrition Education?

Associating individual nutrients with individual foods is an easy way to get a message across, but there are unintended consequences. The biggest one is that we tend to lose sight of the synergy of a mixed diet and the way nutrients work together to keep us healthy.

For example, teaching people which foods have the highest level of this nutrient or that overlooks the fact those nutrients are of little value to us until they are absorbed. As it turns out, one of the best ways to enhance absorption is to consume different types of food together, not single foods.

Then there is the danger of believing the only nutritional value of a food is the one nutrient you associate with it, such as the calcium in milk. This narrow view can result in your thinking something as complex as milk can be replaced by a single dietary supplement, such as calcium. If that happens, you’ll end up cheating yourself out of the 10 other vitamins, minerals and protein found in milk.

And finally, there is the problem of not knowing about the other foods-nutrients-functions that haven’t had their own advertising blitz yet. So until someone launches a “Get Your Potassium From Produce” promotion or “Go Nuts for Magnesium” movement, we’ve got to include as much variety in our diets as possible to cover all the bases.

Eat What You Know

At the end of the day, healthy eating habits aren’t measured by what we know about food and nutrition. They’re reflected in what we eat. I believe most people know enough, they just have to eat what they know.

(Answers: Orange juice, blood, build muscles, sodium)

superfoods can’t prevent cancer, healthy eating habits are essential

Focus on Healthy Eating Habits, Not Superfoods

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you follow nutrition news as closely as I do, you might be convinced that eating certain foods can cure cancer. Not only that, the top superfoods promise they can do everything from prevent acne to reverse aging.

If your hearing isn’t impaired, this should sound too good to be true.

When I hear these claims I’m reminded of Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth. While it did help him discover Florida, no one living there is getting any younger.

Similarly, there are no miracle foods that can save us from the other bad choices we make or our genetic predisposition. If we want food to save us, we need to establish healthy eating habits.

Pursuit of the Perfect Diet

Eating the top superfoods cannot spare us from the leading causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease, stroke and cancer. That’s because when it comes to good nutrition, it’s not individual foods that matter, it’s the total diet.

In its Position Paper on the Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) states it is the overall eating pattern that matters most, with attention to not only what foods are eaten, but how much and how often. A well-balanced diet must also be complemented by adequate physical activity to achieve a healthy weight.

The Position Paper further points out that classification of specific foods as “good” or “bad” (read as super or lousy) can have unintended consequences. Such simplistic categorizations may lead people to limit the scope of their food choices, rather than striving to eat a wide variety of foods, which can offer the best nutritional profile.

Making Moderation Your Mantra

Giving up the belief that a perfect diet is built upon eating only the top superfoods is not, however, the most difficult notion for most people to grasp in their pursuit of healthy eating habits. The real challenge is accepting the principle that all foods and beverages can be included in a healthy diet.

Moderation is a basic tenant of the “Total Diet” concept and one that will withstand the test of time.

There is much we do not know about food composition and how to best meet our unique nutritional needs throughout our lifetime. The future of nutrition science lies in identifying our individual nutrigenomic profiles. But until we have that information, we must rely on what we know. The evolutionary history of our species shows us that human beings have an uncanny ability to adapt to a constantly changing food supply. Limiting ourselves to only a few superfoods is incompatible with our evolutionary success.

Get help starting with your healthy eating habits here:

  • The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet
  • If Diet Means Don’t Eat, Don’t Diet!
  • Finding the Best Diet for You
  • Why is the American Diet So Bad?
  • Debunking Another Fad: Paleo Diets
family riding bicycles together

Are You Making Tradeoffs for a Healthier Lifestyle?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

AMERICANS HAVE DIFFICULTY FINDING TIME FOR HEALTHY BEHAVIORS LIKE GOOD NUTRITION AND REGULAR EXERCISE

How do you keep track of what you and the rest of your family have to do each day? I know plenty of households that use a common wall calendar with big boxes for each day so all of their appointments and activities can be recorded. Other families I know share their daily schedules with one another on smart phones so they always know who’s going where, and when.

Still, it seems no matter how we do it, there are never enough hours in the day for all we have to do. And when we’re all so busy, how can you make time for a healthier lifestyle?

Must We Choose Between Cooking vs Working Out?

Results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America suggest many of us must make concessions when it comes to healthy behaviors. Using U.S. Census data from more than 112, 000 American adults, researchers at Ohio State University analyzed how much time was spend on meal preparation and exercise in a single day

What they found was, on average, we’re spending less than an hour a day combined for these time-consuming healthy behaviors and if we try to do them both in the same day we have to choose between one of the other.

Does that sound true for you?

It must be pointed out that the Census data only captures one day’s worth of activity, so the researchers could not tell if people cooked one day and exercised the next.

Making Time for a Healthier Lifestyle

I don’t think good nutrition and fitness have to be exclusive, no matter how jam-packed my calendar is. It all comes down to time management. Here’s what I have learned works:

Blocked out the time each day to make breakfast, pack lunches and cook dinner

Become more efficient at getting nutritious meals on the table fast by using quick cooking ideas that take the toil out of food preparation

Remove some items from the schedule, like watching every episode of the latest BBC series in one night, if it takes time away from the healthy behaviors you’re trying to establish

While everyone complains about how hard it is to get enough exercise, it is actually easier than eating right. All you really have to do is get up and move around more. In fact, standing instead of sitting is even beneficial! In addition to the dozens of things you can do standing, you can also incorporate 10 minute bursts of activity throughout your day without making a trip to the gym.

The key is to be open to the opportunity. We can all do a better job of pushing those shopping carts back to the corral in the parking lot. How about walking to the school to meet your child so you can walk home together? I loved marching in place while waiting to pick up my teen from marching band practice.

Best of all, when we make good nutrition and physical activity a family affair, we only need to reserve one time slot on the calendar!

Other great ways to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle:

  • Quick Healthy Meals Begin with Pasta
  • Need Dinner Menu Ideas? Soup Makes Quick Easy Meals
  • Want a Quick Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Just Load Up Your Freezer
  • What To Do With Leftover Food? Create Makeover Meals
Studies show a bowl of cereal is an easy healthy breakfast

Is a Bowl of Cereal a Nutritious Breakfast?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

STUDIES SHOW A BOWL OF CEREAL IS AN EASY HEALTHY BREAKFAST

I’m one of those people who can hardly get down the stairs in the morning – let alone out the door – without eating breakfast. I wake up hungry, so head straight for the kitchen. Lucky for me since more and more research shows the benefits of eating a nutritious breakfast.

But what about the one-third of Americans who do not start their day that way?

The excuses I hear run the gamut from “I don’t have time” to “It’s too fattening.” My response to all of them is, “Eat a bowl of cereal.”

Ready-to-eat cereal is an easy healthy breakfast that’s lower in calories than most other foods people eat in the morning. If you choose a cereal made from whole grains and pair it with skim milk and fruit, it delivers three important food groups to start the day. With them come key nutrients most often lacking in our diets: fiber, calcium, Vitamin D and potassium.

Here’s what else research has to say about the most important meal of the day.

Benefits of a Bowl of Cereal

Better Weight Control

Children who regularly eat cereal for breakfast (at least 7 out of 14 days) have lower body mass index (BMI) than children who only have cereal 4-7 times or fewer than 4 times every two weeks, reports the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. The same holds true for adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found lower BMIs in women who had ready-to-eat cereal rather than higher-fat breakfast foods, and a Harvard study of more than 17,000 men found those who routinely ate breakfast cereal consistently weighed less than those who rarely ate breakfast.

Better Quality Diets

People who rush out the door without eating in the morning have diets that are lower in essential vitamins, minerals and fiber than those who do make time for nutritious breakfast. Even if something is grabbed on the run, the types of foods selected do not make up for the nutrients provided by a breakfast of fortified cereal with milk. In fact, a review of the research on breakfast and health found the diets of people who people who eat whole grain cereal with milk and fruit or fruit juice come closest to meeting the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Better Cognitive Function

Eating breakfast doesn’t just help children perform better in school; it can help adults with recall and memory, too. Many people think they need a jolt of caffeine to clear the cobwebs from their head’s in the morning, but a healthy breakfast is more important.

After an overnight fast of 8-12 hours with no food, your blood sugar level is at its lowest. The only fuel our brains can use is glucose, and the best way to get it is from complex carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains. They are digested more slowly so deliver a steady supply of glucose that keeps our brains fueled longer. And who doesn’t need more help staying focused these days?

These are just a few of the many benefits to eating breakfast, and the options to make it quick and easy are endless. Whether you eat your cereal dry with a smoothie on the side, stir it into some yogurt, or buy a cereal bar to nibble on with a latte, eating breakfast is the best way to start your day.

The concept of Yin Yang can be applied to food selection for a healthy diet

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

How to use the philosophy of Yin Yang instead of MyPlate to make healthy food choices

The food world got a new circle in June called MyPlate. It was created to illustrate how we should proportion our food at each meal to balance the diet. It works pretty well if you can separate your food into individual piles of grain, protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy, but not if you’re eating a slice of mushroom pizza and a fruit smoothie.

Given the many ways food is combined to make it taste good – think lasagna, burritos, sushi – the strategically divided MyPlate is not the handiest tool for diet planning. But the ancient symbol of Yin Yang is. It represents the idea of balance by viewing everything in relation to its whole, like the complementary characteristics of day and night, sky and earth, fire and water.

Using the concept of Yin Yang at meals would encourage us to think about whether our choices harmonize well as part our daily diet, instead of trying to figure out into what food group each item on our plate belongs. I particularly like the way the symbol of Yin Yang invokes the importance of balance without making us feel like we need a scale to get it right.

Seeing the image of Yin Yang might gently nudge us to be mindful when eating and consider whether we have had enough whole grains for the day or possibly too many. In that way it could help us make healthy food choices without ever having to deconstruct a bowl of soup into its component parts.

The inclusive nature of Yin Yang also allows for all of our food choices, without judgment, as long as no food or drink dominates our diet or is neglected. This distinction of Yin Yang preserves the essence of cuisine that makes eating so enjoyable. In the harmonizing world of Yin Yang, food can be a little salty or spicy or savory or sweet. It can be hot or cold, liquid or solid, crunchy or smooth. All of the most highly personal to the most patently universal aspects of food selection can be accommodated.

In short, the Yin Yang message can be used to promote moderation and variety in the diet. And that’s pretty much all we need to know to achieve good nutrition. Why not conjure up the image of Yin Yang at your next meal and see what happens?

Super foods are not enough for a healthy diet

Are Super Foods the Key to a Healthy Diet?

Quality and variety are essential for good nutrition

The battle of the super foods has always fascinated me. We live on a planet with more than 390,000 plant species, many of them edible but never sampled, yet there are some who think they have figured out what the Top 10 Super Foods are that we should eat for good nutrition.

I don’t buy it and never did. Any time you limit your diet to a top 10 food list, no matter how virtuous, you are losing the value of variety.

Eating a wide variety of foods is one of the basic tenets for a healthy diet. This means you should spread out your choices over all food groups and within each one, while also switching it up with the seasons. For example, if you like apples, it’s a good idea to buy some from New York State as well as Washington and swop out a Cortland for a Crispin or a Cameo occasionally, too.

That said, eating an apple a day is not the goal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we eat 3-4 servings of fruit every day. That’s 1 ½ – 2 cups of fruit 365 days of the year. Most Americans don’t even come close to meeting that goal.

A 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control found that in no state were U.S. adults eating the recommended 3-4 servings of fruit a day and only 32.5% were consuming fruit two or more times a day. Debating whether blueberries or pomegranates should hold first place on this year’s super food list is a distraction from the more important issue that most Americans simply need to eat more fruit!

Eating fruit in any form can help close the gap. Fresh fruit is fine when available and affordable, while frozen fruit offers year round value. Canned fruit in unsweetened juice provides convenience and cost savings every day of the week, and dried fruit offers economy of space as well. And what could be easier than drinking a cup of 100% fruit juice once a day?

My strategy has been to always include a serving of fruit as part my breakfast and lunch, then have another as an afternoon snack. Even if I’m traveling, I can always get a glass of juice on a plane or in a bar and buy some trail mix with dried fruit in any convenience store. When the fruit bowl is empty at home, I always have berries in the freezer for my yogurt, mandarin orange segments in the pantry to toss into a salad and sundried tomatoes to snack on.

Something as basic as eating more fruit can result in dramatic changes in the quality of your diet. You’ll benefit not only from all of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients you’ll be consuming, but also because of all the other stuff you won’t be.

Why not keep a list of the different types of fruit you eat over one year to see if you can come up with 100? That’s a as a super food list I’d really like to see!

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