There is a whole lot of nutrition information out there and unfortunately a lot of it contraindicates itself. Carbs are good one day, but the next day a study concludes they make you fat. Cherries cause cancer, nope just kidding, now they’ve been shown to prevent it. Paleo, vegan, or fruitarian is the healthiest way to live…but chocolate and red wine help you live longer. It’s confusing!! That’s the one of the challenging jobs dietitians face: sifting through the research to accurately educate the general population on what really is healthy vs. crazy nonsense.
If I had to choose just three tips to give people to help them live a healthier lifestyle, I would choose the following. These have been proven again and again by multiple, credible studies and I have seen them work their magic in real life. Nothing over-the-top or extreme here, just simple steps you can make today for a healthier, happier life.
#1 Eat Often and Eat Early
The Biggest mistake I see people make, is skipping meals and banishing snacks in order to “save” calories. This is a problem for multiple reasons. One, it automatically slows your metabolism, preventing you from burning calories efficiently. Your body needs calories to survive and without them your body goes into what’s called “starvation” mode causing your organs to slow down, your muscles to waste and your brain to become sluggish. This is why so many people feel chronically fatigued and tired! I’ve seen this numerous times when counseling clients. When they say they aren’t losing weight despite healthy eating and extra exercise, I immediately look at their overall calorie consumption. Most of the time, especially in women, they are actually not eating enough to fuel their activity!
A general rule of thumb is to eat every 2-4 hours and ALWAYS, ALWAYS eat breakfast. Even if it’s just a hardboiled egg and piece of fruit. Something is better than nothing to kick start that calorie burn.
#2 Move for Pleasure
Find some form of physical activity that you actually ENJOY doing! This is the key to sticking with exercise for life. Some people are hard-core weight lifters while others enjoy practicing yoga. For some, 10 miles is a “short” distance to run but for others 2 miles is challenging and sufficient enough. Following a strict workout regimen may be motivating to you, or (if your like me) you may prefer to do what feels right depending on how your body feels on that day.
Have an open mind and make sure to try things more than once before deciding you don’t like it. This is especially true for group exercise classes. The first spin class I took I hated! Then, I took a class taught by a different instructor and fell in love with it and eventually became certified to teach myself!
#3 Include a Fruit or Veg at (Almost) Every Meal
Most American’s are only getting 2 out of their recommended 9-11 servings of combined fruits and vegetables each day! Scary, as produce has been shown to help prevent almost all chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, obesity and much more.
9-11 servings may seem like a lot, but remember, in the United States, there is major portion distortion. For example, one serving includes:
1 apple (the size of a tennis ball)
½ C grapes
4 oz. 100% fruit juice
2 Tbs. dried fruit
½ C cooked broccoli
½ large potato
6 baby carrots
1 C raw vegetables
Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to find out how many fruits and vegetables you should be eating.