Resetting healthy habits

April Mase

At the start of a new year, it’s customary to make a new goal or resolution. Some of the most common are related to eating healthier or dieting. While these resolutions are set with good intentions, it can be hard to know how to get started and maintain this new lifestyle.

Don’t Overcomplicate Your Diet

Eating nutritious foods is one of the best ways to take care of your body. Sometimes a few simple reminders are all you need to make healthier choices.

— Eat Whole Foods: Diets that contain processed foods high in unhealthy fats, sodium, sugars, and other additives often lead to conditions like heart disease and obesity. A few simple swaps can help. For example, you can try 100% whole-wheat bread instead of white bread.

— Rethink Your Drink: Instead of soda or sugary juices, choose water when you’re thirsty. Even making the switch from morning Frappuccinos to drip brew coffee can help avoid extra calories.

— Make a Colorful Plate: Fruits and vegetables are whole foods that can help you feel full while consuming less calories. Try to include them with meals and snacks. They are an easy way to make your meals more nutritious and flavorful.

— Don’t Skip Treats: While the overall goal may be to eat healthier, it’s not to punish or restrict yourself. It’s okay to eat your favorite dessert or snack every once in a while. Moderation is key, and if you don’t give yourself a break now and then, it is unlikely that you will be able to maintain healthier eating long term.

Have a Plan

Knowing what to do ahead of time can give you the confidence to follow through with your health goals this year.

— Weekly Meal Plans: Taking the time to plan your meals is well worth it. Going to the grocery store with a list of meals and ingredients helps you stick to your new eating habits. This will help you avoid making random purchases of unhealthy snacks or other impulse buys outside of your diet.

— Restaurants: You can still go out to restaurants and eat healthy despite the anxiety it may cause. Look at the menu online ahead of time to allow yourself to make an informed decision. Skip appetizers or desserts that can add extra calories. Restaurant portion sizes can be large, so consider bringing home half of your entree to eat later.

Remember to Get Active

Getting exercise and eating well are closely connected when maintaining or improving your wellbeing. Being active does not mean you have to play a sport, strain through a workout, or even get a gym membership. Simple options, like taking the stairs or parking farther away from your office for the extra steps, can help get you moving more.

When it comes to being active, it is important to consider the two main types of activities and how they affect the body:

— Stamina: Stamina is the body’s ability to sustain an activity for a certain amount of time. Activities that strengthen your stamina may include walking, biking, hiking, or dancing. You should aim for 150 minutes per week, or about twenty minutes per day.

— Strength: Strength training helps your body build muscle. All major muscle groups (upper, lower, abs) should be targeted within a weekly basis. Remember that buying expensive equipment is not required to get started. You can use your bodyweight or even heavy items around your house to start your muscle conditioning.

The first step to a healthier tomorrow is acting today. Don’t forget to consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. This is crucial when starting out as you could accidentally injure or strain your body if you start out at a level that is too high. You can start a conversation with your doctor about your diet who can then refer you to a dietitian as appropriate.

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April Mase, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian with UPMC in North Central Pa. Registered dietitians are the food and nutrition experts who translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes. For more information, visit UPMC.com.


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