Making habits stick takes time and action. Good nutritional habits can make a difference in how we feel and sleep and how healthy we are. Focus on increasing fruits and vegetables, eating sensible serving sizes, choosing higher fiber grains and leaner meats and getting rid of saturated fat. In addition, add the following to your to do list over the next few months.
Slim down salt intake. Reducing sodium to 2,300 mg as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans requires some creative strategies. Processed foods are the first things to reduce when cutting sodium. Read the labels on any canned or packaged foods and look beyond the word salt. Look for sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, sodium ascorbate, and monosodium glutamate. Cook fresh as much as possible since you can control the amount of salt you add. Typically, shopping the outside perimeter of the grocery store will fill your basket with the freshest food choices. Be aware of cured meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and luncheon meats. Frozen vegetables and dried beans are packaged without additional salt and are good choices. If using canned veggies or beans, rinse them first. There are plenty of alternatives to salt that can add spice up a meal. Experiment with a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor.
Eat sweet but with less sugar. A 12 ounce can of soda has about 7 teaspoons of sugar or 12 sugar packets. Sodas are a perfect place to cut back if they are a regular addition to your diet. Eating less added sugar is encouraged so reducing desserts, candy, fruit drinks and sodas gets you closer to this goal. When a sweet craving attacks, choose fruit first as a naturally sweet way to feed a craving. If you still crave the cookies after a fruit snack, go ahead and have one. But avoid sitting down with the whole package. Read the nutritional information on the package as a way to know how many calories you are eating. Knowledge is power.
Play it safe in the kitchen. Since food borne illness affects 76 million nationwide each year, food safety is no joke. There are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths as the result of improper food handling. The 4 basic principles of food safety can keep food safer. Clean everything. Wash hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Separate raw meat and poultry apart from foods that won’t be cooked. Instead of guessing if the meat is cooked properly, use a food thermometer to verify. When you’re done eating be sure to chill leftovers and take-out foods within 2 hours and keep the frig at a chilly 40 degrees.
Bike, run, skate, dance, or do whatever keeps you moving. A healthy diet and physical activity go together. Choosing something enjoyable is the first step to make exercise routine stick. The recommendations are to included 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderately intense exercise or 1 ½ to 5 hours of vigorously intense exercise per week. To round it out, 2 days of strength work is also encouraged. If you already exercise but haven’t quite made it to the 3 hour per week mark, challenge yourself to pick up the pace. But is 2 ½ hours sounds daunting then forget that number and just start with what you can handle. The first step is often the hardest. Just get out there and take a walk, ride a bike, or join a Zumba class. If you have a sedentary job then find exercises you can do right there at your desk. There are numerous resistance exercises that can be done in a chair or standing next to it. Instead of calling a co-worker on the phone, hand deliver your message. Every step counts. Make an appointment with yourself, get a friend to keep you accountable, set an alarm clock or do whatever works for you and keeps you exercising. Set aside a time to move more each day.
Each of us may take a different path to getting healthy and staying there. But no matter where we are on our walk to improved health, action is required. Make a plan, take some steps and get moving in the direction of making good nutrition a delicious habit.
Barbra is a registered dietitian at Archbold Memorial Hospital. Contact her with your nutrition questions at email@example.com.
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