Chances are, if you surveyed 100 Americans, a large majority would agree that they could make healthier decisions in their diet. According to the The Department of Health & Human Services, the typical American’s diet exceeds the recommended intake levels for calories, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat. (Yikes!)
With all of that excess, it should come as no surprise that a lot of Americans are obese, and, based on years of unhealthy eating, statistics regarding obesity doesn’t necessarily decrease with age. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 35% of adults aged 65 and over were obese in 2007–2010, representing over 8 million adults aged 65‒74, and almost 5 million adults over the age of 75.
So, we’ve identified a major problem: We need to eat more healthfully as a society. The idea of cutting out every tasty treat, however, is often akin to nightmares, so let’s find a happy balance: Here are some ways to incorporate healthy foods into your diet and still feel fulfilled.
1. Sneak in veggies
One of the great things about vegetables is that they’re extremely versatile. Not only can they make a heart base for soups and sauces, they also serve as a great replacement simple carbohydrates, like noodles or white bread. Limiting simple carb intake is often touted as a key to a healthy diet, but is especially important for those with diabetes or temperamental blood sugar.
2. Don't skip meals!
This one is a bit of a curve ball, especially for anyone who wants to drop a few pounds. It’s easy to assume that the less one eats, the less they’ll weigh, but our bodies are a bit more complex than that.
As tempting is it is to skip meals in an effort to cut calories, try to avoid the urge. Skipping meals is an easy way to wreak havoc on your metabolism. For starters, it slows down your resting metabolism, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories, even when you’re active. Plus, having a slower metabolism increases the risk of your body automatically storing calories as fat.
3. Shop the edges
Think it’s hard to avoid the cheese puffs in the pantry or that gallon of ice cream staring back at you from the freezer? Then don’t put them there in the first place! Overly processed foods tend to not hold much nutritional value, so it’s best not to bring them into your home and avoid the temptation altogether. (That is, unless you’re the only person on the planet who can eat one, and only one, potato chip.)
The next time you go to the grocery store, try shopping around the edges of the store. Why? Because most grocery stores are set up similarly, with the fresh options, including fruits, vegetables, and lean meats along the store’s walls, and different categories of processed foods, like crackers, canned soups, and frozen meals, on shelves throughout the center.
4. Set small goals
Diets always seem unsurmountable at first, which is one of the many reasons why strict diets tend to fail. Instead of making “all-or-nothing” rules, or beating yourself up about eating a cookie, try to see the big picture when it comes to nutrition, and ease into healthier choices. If you slowly incorporate healthier foods into your diet, the changes are more likely to become routine.
So go ahead, work a vegetarian dinner into your weekly rotation, or try a new food that you know is good for you. When it comes to eating healthier, no step is too small.
For more ideas on how to celebrate National Nutrition Month, visit www.eatright.org.