by Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD
Amongst all of the nutrition and diet books that line bookstore shelves, magazine racks, dens and living rooms, bedroom closets and supermarket checkout lines, there are several approaches and tips that seem to always creep up. Here are some tried and true ones to take with you wherever life takes you!
1. Do not skip breakfast! Whether you are trying to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy weight, starving yourself is never the answer. After 12 hours without food (overnight), the body begins to slow down if not fed a decent breakfast. And please do not think that breakfast has to be complicated. Simply try a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a slice of whole-grain toast and a banana. Or some hot cereal made with skim milk, topped with nuts and berries. A high-fiber cold cereal, skim milk, and an apple is another great choice. A cashew/almond/peanut butter sandwich, low fat yogurt and an orange will also give you the energy you need to make it to lunchtime without fatigue or hunger pangs.
2. Increase your intake of whole foods. Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products and lean meat/chicken/fish/eggs as dietary staples. These foods will give you important vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy mind and body. While vitamin/mineral supplements are useful in their own right, try not to rely on them in place of a healthy diet. Instead, use them for their intended purpose, to “supplement” a healthy diet.
3. Go for variety, especially with fruits and vegetables. Think about it like this: while apples and carrots are both healthy foods, eating ONLY apples and carrots is not! Different food groups and different foods within each food group serve to provide the body with valuable nutrients. One easy way to add variety with fruits and vegetables is to think of a rainbow. Pretend you are an artist, and you want to have as many colors on your food “palate” as possible. Start with reds: pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, Red Delicious apples, rhubarb, red bell peppers. Next, go for oranges: sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and peaches. Continue this pattern until you reach the end of your rainbow–purples! Making your meals as colorful as possible with a wide array of fruits and vegetables ensures a more pleasing and nutritious dining experience.
4. Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. The easiest way to achieve this is to increase your consumption of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, both of which contain more fiber than fruit and vegetable juices. Look for “whole-grain” as the first ingredient when buying breads. Choose breads with at least 2 to 3 grams of fiber per slice. Some protein sources are ALSO good sources of fiber (for example, almonds and edamame). Fiber has many benefits, including helping to lower serum cholesterol, promoting a feeling of satiety (great for weight management!) and helping to promote bowel regularity.
5. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily. Often, we mistake hunger for thirst, and water is vitally important to keeping our bodies healthy and functioning optimally.
6. If you have a meal or a day or a week when you feel like you have overeaten, binged, or eaten foods that do not contribute to your health, DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP FOR IT! Acknowledge your choices and jump back on the healthy eating wagon, so to speak. Be gentle to yourself and recommit to healthy eating and taking good care of yourself, one meal at a time.