Sunday, January 10, 2021

Small steps to eating healthier in the new year

 Last week we discussed how to set some SMART goals for 2021.  We noted some very simple and easy things you can do to eat healthier.  For example, eating a few baby carrots at lunch every day is good for your skin, good for your health.  In fact, WebMD has an entire article on Carrots.  To eat healthier doesn’t require going on a diet, giving up candy, desserts but focusing more on what foods you can add to your day for a healthier you.  

Add more fruits and vegetables to your day.  Each semester the students in my class have to track everything they eat for a day.  It is amazing that the only “vegetable” some students eat is French fries from a Fast-Food establishment.  Many students have no fruit at all and no fresh vegetables.  Whatever your current intake of fruits and vegetables, set a goal to eat another serving every day. 

a.       Breakfast – eat a banana for quick energy.  Add some blueberries to your cereal as blueberries are considered a super healthy fruit (see Eat blueberries for a health boost). Enjoy some melon. Add some berries to some yogurt.

b.       Drink your fruit or vegetable – one student I had just didn’t like fruit or vegetables.  But he would drink V8 V-Fusion which provides a full serving of fruit with a full serving of veggies.  There are a number of flavors to choose from.   Or you can choose a juice that combines a variety of fruits or veggies like Naked Juice.  Naked Juices have no added sugar, and no artificial flavors.  

Provides a serving of fruit + a serving of vegetables. 

c.       Add some leaf lettuce to your sandwich.

d.       Add cooked veggies – skip the white cream sauce on your pasta and choose spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce as a way to add tomatoes to your day. 

e.       Add at least one vegetable or fruit to your lunch.  As noted above, baby carrots are an easy way to add a vegetable to any lunch.  Eating out?  Choose a salad.  Enjoy some soup.  Vegetable soup, tomato soup, or mushroom soup will all add some veggies to your day.

f.        Dinner – always try to include 2 veggies with dinner – and not Fast-Food French fries.  Frozen veggies are fine.  Cook a sweet potato or whole potato in the microwave.

Add some fiber to your day.  Many people don’t even think about fiber but most Americans have diets low in fiber.  The experts actually have a recommendation of how much fiber you should eat each day, 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men.  Unfortunately, most Americans fall far short and eat about 15 grams of fiber per day.  What foods have fiber?  Think of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains.  The more processed a food, the less fiber.  An apple provides about 4.4 grams of fiber, but half a cup of applesauce has only 1.4 grams of fiber.  Process apples even more into apple juice and all fiber is removed.

Why is fiber so important to good health?  As noted in Eat More Fiber, adding fiber to your day has many health benefits.

a.       Weight control/loss – fiber fills you up so you are not as hungry. 

b.       Lowers your cholesterol - fiber acts as a sponge to get cholesterol out of your body.  Foods with fiber are good for your heart.  Think oatmeal, Cheerios.  That’s why Cheerios advertises it is a heart-healthy cereal. 

c.       Gut health – not only does fiber help prevent diverticulitis, constipation, fiber feeds the good bacteria in your intestine.

d.       Diabetes – fiber slows digestion and thus a blood sugar surge. 

      Cut back on sugary drinks – many people “drink their calories”.  Think sweet tea, a coffee mocha loaded with sugar, sodas, sports and energy drinks, fake juice drinks that aren’t real juice but mostly flavored sugar water.    The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend reducing added sugars in your diet.  Why?  Because foods and beverages high in added sugars, add lots of calories to your day but few nutrients.  Doesn’t mean you have to give up all sugary drinks, but how can you cut back?  Drink 2 sugared sodas a day?  Cut back to one? has a handout with some ideas of how to cut back on added sugars in your diet. 

a.       Replace soda with water.   

b.       Skip the juice drinks like Sunny D, Hi-C and drink real 100% juice.

c.       Skip Chocolate Drinks – choose chocolate milk but not Chocolate drinks which aren’t real milk and loaded with added sugar.

d.       Sweet Tea – tea is good for your health but all the added sugar in sweet tea is not

      Focus on beverages without a lot of added sugar such as real juice, water, real milk, unsweetened tea. Focus on foods without added sugar.


Look for foods with no added sugar.

Eating healthier doesn’t mean giving up all the foods you like to eat.  Rather, it mostly means adding some healthier foods to your day.  Very small changes like adding a piece of fresh fruit to your day, adding a handful of nuts, or cutting back on some sugar-sweetened beverages.  I like desserts so I am not cutting out that added sugar.  But I try to cut the added sugar out of my meals and beverages.  I have added more fruits and vegetables to my day.  A few years ago, a relative started tracking how much fiber he was getting in an effort to keep his blood cholesterol under control. He was surprised that he wasn’t getting nearly the fiber grams he needed each day.  He mostly ate whole grain bread, but now he looks at the fiber content of each slice of bread and chooses bread that provides more fiber.  And he added more blueberries and raspberries to his diet – 2 fruits that are good sources of fiber.

Sources:  Carrots , Eat blueberries for a health boost , V8 V-Fusion ,  Naked Juice , Dinner , fiber , Eat More Fiber , added sugars ,  Image Sources:  Fusion  Strawberry ,  Fiber , added sugar

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