When it comes to starting a new healthy eating regimen, many people find themselves overwhelmed and disconnected early in the process.
Falling down the rabbit hole of diet information is a very slippery slope and can be extremely difficult to navigate. Elderwood Regional Director of Dining Services Daryl Cronk shares some easy and basic strategies that can be started right away.
Here are three tips to get started:
1. Eliminate sugar and increase water intake
Beginning the process of living a healthy lifestyle starts with being serious and setting clear, achievable goals for yourself. “When I decided to start making better choices in my diet, I started small,” said Cronk. “My first task was to eliminate sugary drinks…all sugary drinks. This got me in the habit of reading labels before making a purchase and ultimately resulted in increasing my water intake.” It can be difficult to adjust for a week or two, however, it’s an easy first step where the results can speak for themselves. “I was seeing the changes in my body right away! Better sleep, more energy, and I even lost a few pounds within the first month.”
2. Understand your fuel source
The human body has three major sources of fuel and balancing your diet around these fuel sources is a great way to understand nutrition and create sustained energy.
Protein: Protein can be found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, dairy, and soybean products. Protein is vital for building and keeping muscles strong. It plays an important role in health and nutrition. Try to focus on leaner proteins, like fish and chicken, to build and keep lean muscle tissue.
Carbohydrates: Carbs can be found in just about everything. Potatoes, grains, breads, whole fruits, legumes and almost every snack you find at the grocery store. Fuel your body with good sources of carbohydrates and stay away from empty carbs like pizza and pastries.
Fat: It’s important to not be afraid of fat. It’s found in many items we eat. Fat in our diet is essential. It is just as important as the other two fuel sources. Educate yourself on good fats compared to bad fats. Focus on good fat that comes from foods like eggs, fish, and nuts.
Try to balance these three fuel sources in your diet. Some people go to the extreme and “count macros.” Macros are a fancy term used for macronutrients or your three fuel sources. “I don’t suggest counting macros because it is difficult to stay consistent and accurate. However, I do suggest that you ask your doctor to calculate your BMI (body mass index),” said Cronk.
BMI can be calculated by dividing weight by height to help indicate whether you’re over or under weight. This information will be helpful when planning meals or choosing from a menu. Your BMI is a road map on your way to balancing your three fuel sources.
3. Eat colorful
Eating healthy can be tricky and confusing but filling your plate with colorful food options can help. Your plate should be exploding with different natural colors from fruits, vegetables, legumes, starches, and proteins. Start out with plenty of colorful foods you like and then start experimenting with foods you haven’t tried yet. To be successful it is important to be brave and try to explore outside of your comfortable eating habits. Eating cuisine from different cultures is a great way to break yourself from the norm and latch onto some of these healthy cultural food items. “I promise you will not regret this new culinary adventure. Your body will be thanking you for giving it everything it craves,” said Cronk.
Implementing healthy habits is important, especially as we age. According to Harvard Medical School, having an unhealthy diet full of saturated and trans fats can accelerate the aging process. Eating healthy can help keep seniors active longer, which helps keep the mind and body healthy. Also incorporating exercise helps seniors maintain muscle strength, which helps with energy, metabolism, and bone health.
While starting a healthier lifestyle is important, don’t feel like you need to punish yourself for occasionally eating a bowl of ice cream or a greasy cheeseburger. “We’re human and you have earned the right to indulge sometimes. It’s the habits you form that make a difference,” said Cronk. By making healthier habits part of your daily routine, the occasional treat will have very little consequence for you to worry about.