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Ask anyone what their New Year’s resolution is, and chances are they’ll mention a determination to eat healthier. While many of us may consider a renewed focus on healthy eating as a way to make up for the rich indulgences of the holiday season or as a pathway to fit more comfortably into that favorite pair of jeans, healthy eating comes with even greater rewards. It can reduce our risk of illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and it can help boost our energy, sharpen our memories and stabilize our mood, leading to a noticeable improvement in our overall health.
If you’re embarking on a path to healthier eating this year, here are some tips to help make it a little easier to make healthy food choices all year long.
• Slow and steady wins the race. Changing the way you eat overnight can be daunting. Instead, make one or two healthy changes each week — drinking fewer soft drinks one week, perhaps eating a salad with dinner each night the next week. Rather than making a sweeping change that can be hard to sustain, you’ll be building and maintaining healthy habits that last.
• Make a plan. Plan ahead so that you can control what and how much you are eating. Choose a day of the week to spend some time preparing a batch of healthy meals that you can package up, refrigerate or freeze and heat up throughout the week. “Meal prep” can free up your time for other pursuits during the week and help eliminate the stress that comes with “What do I want for lunch?”
• Get back to basics. Stock up on healthy recipe basics like olive and canola oils, beans, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, fresh and/or frozen fruits and veggies, unsalted nuts, fresh and dried herbs and spices, and lean chicken and fish.
• Fill your glass. With water, that is. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a big source of extra sugar and calories. Instead, choose water, tea, coffee or other unsweetened beverages.
• Read the labels. When you’re grocery shopping, take a moment to glance at the label and make sure the items you’re choosing are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar, and high in fiber and good-for-you nutrients.
• Don’t forget breakfast. You’ve heard it a million times because it’s true. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating a breakfast high in protein and fiber each morning can jump start your metabolism, satisfy your hunger and make those doughnuts in the break room a little less appealing.
• Be realistic. Eating healthy doesn’t mean starving or depriving yourself. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence, so that you don’t feel that you’re missing out. Just be careful of your portion and really savor and enjoy it.
For more tips on healthy eating, visit www.choosemyplate.gov. If you’d like to talk to someone about how healthy eating can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle, call 252-399-8900 to make an appointment with one of our dietitians.
From all of us at Wilson Medical Center, we hope you have a very happy – and healthy – new year!
Shannon Jackson is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Wilson Medical Center.