By Tristan Samson, Practice Manager
It’s that time of year when resolutions are made, some kept, some broken but usually all are made with the best of intentions. Eating healthier is a common and commendable goal, and making realistic changes can lead to long-term success.
Like a lot of people, I have my own struggles with having enough time in my day to eat right. I can struggle to be happy with my weight or to know what number is right for my body at now age 53. As I look at some of my own habits and where I can make adjustments, I want to share some practical and realistic ways to eat healthier in the New Year and all year long:
- Set Realistic Goals: I definitely start with small, achievable goals. No sense in setting myself up for failure! Gradual changes are more sustainable than drastic ones. There is no ‘best’ diet for everyone. I do what keeps me full and healthy. For example, I try to include an extra serving of vegetables in one meal a day. I’ll admit, I can be picky about certain vegetables! But I love carrots, so what I can do for my taste is roast a bunch on the weekend to have for the week. Not only do I have it to add in more veggies throughout each day, it helps me avoid making bad choices because it is ready to go in the way I enjoy. If I’ve not prepared other things for the week, I am at least patting myself on the back for getting that far.
- Balance Plate and Portions: It’s not always ‘fun’ to follow the principles of a balanced diet by including a variety of food groups in meals. But the reward is there when getting used to it. I aim for a mix of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. I realized I could no longer visually estimate what 4-5 ounces of chicken or other lean proteins looked like until I took time to measure it with an actual scale. I was eating a lot more than that at some meals! For me, using a smaller plate helps, but is not always an option when at a restaurant or otherwise. Refreshing my mind’s expectations really helps control my portions and prevent overeating. I pay more attention attention to hunger and fullness cues. I’m a busy parent like others and create my own bad habits of eating fast to be able to run an errand or pick up a kid. Slower eating and whole foods do help me feel satisfied. Check mark, another feel good win in my book.
- Cook at Home: When I cook at home, I have more control over the ingredients and cooking methods. Note to self, follow the rest of the thoughts to ensure I have the right ingredients. Sometimes I experiment with old recipes but make them ‘new’ by changing it up with healthy add ins for flavor. But trying something new and better knowing the carb or salt content as I am adding them helps me feel good about my choices. AKA, avoiding processed and unhealthy options.
- Meal Planning: Yes, easier said than done! I try to plan my meals for the week ahead of time. A lot of grocery stores switch their ‘on sale’ items over on Wednesdays. I try to think about my week ahead before the weekend and get myself excited about something I have not had in a while or how easy something is to pull together based on my schedule to come. I even organize my grocery list according to the locations I will find them in various stores to get in and out. This helps me make healthier choices, reduce food waste, and save time and money.
- Snack Smartly: In my household of 3 boys (4 if count Patrick), it’s not easy to keep unhealthy snacks out of sight. I try to choose healthier snack and dessert options such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, or yogurt but prepare them in a more appetizing way as possible. I love rolling up a little cooked broccoli with my leftover ham to munch on the run. Have you discovered how many things you can make with Greek yogurt? It’s full of protein and calcium with less fat and sugar. It’s not all about just a cup with fruit and granola anymore. I recently found Greek yogurt peanut butter bites which actually tame my sweet tooth, too! It helps me to have those available to avoid unhealthy snacks that my children still leave around that tempt me!
- Stay Hydrated: It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly understood how much I needed and what water does for us vs other liquids. Sometimes, our bodies can mistake thirst for hunger. Sugary drinks just don’t appeal to me like they used to. I have a 32 ounce cup that allows me to better mentally track how much I drink or how many times I refilled it in a day. It helps me feel fuller and even helps rule out possible headaches that might simply be from dehydration. Ok, it helps me stay regular, too!
- Read Food Labels: Some of us may have been taught this in school. Whether you paid attention or did not ever learn, I actually took time to refresh myself on food labels to better understand what I was consuming. I look for lower sodium, sugar, carbohydrate and saturated fat content. Choosing whole, minimally processed foods over highly processed ones is actually a lot easier with more options available. And they can even cost less when prepping ahead of time and eating satisfying foods high in protein or fiber.
- Include More Whole Foods and Vegetables: For me, this goes back to realistic goals. I decided to simply get more creative in how they are prepared while keeping it simple. I experiment with different cooking methods, such as roasting, steaming, or sautéing, to enhance flavor and texture. And understanding the content of other things is crucial to not undoing my other little wins. We all know a salad can be quite healthy until doused with creamy ranch! And yes, carrots again, they are yummy when roasted with some seasoning and then smashed and toasted to create more of a chip texture that actually satisfies my taste for something that crunches. Pop leftovers in the oven or air fryer to re-crisp. Yum.
- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. Notice the impact of your dietary choices on your energy levels, mood, sleep and overall well-being.
Making gradual and sustainable changes to your eating habits is key to long-term success. It’s essential to find a balance that works for you and fits into your lifestyle.
Reach out to Sensenbrenner Primary Care to see how we can help!