By 2LT Brittney PicheJanuary 31, 2013
You may be wondering, what is healthy eating? What is a healthy weight for me? With all the nutrition and weight loss information presented in magazines and on the news, it's no wonder you're confused. Let's tackle the concept of eating healthy and reaching a healthy weight that is right for your body.
March is National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has declared this year's theme as "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." This theme encourages healthy diet and lifestyle choices each day. This is possible only if goals are set and lifestyle changes are made to ensure healthy choices day to day. Depending on your age and living situation, you face different challenges that may make healthy eating difficult. For example, a 3-year-old may be a picky eater that refuses to eat anything besides macaroni and cheese. A 35-year-old mother of triplets can't make time to cook dinner during the week. A 75-year-old man may have a decreased appetite because of the medications he is taking. The obstacles are educating yourself about what healthy eating is, learning what your body needs to perform at its best, and making lifestyle changes.
Healthy eating can be defined as eating a balanced diet that provides the right amount of essential nutrients and promotes good health. Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are edited based on recent research through the joint efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. These guidelines outline recommended nutrient intakes for people based on their gender and age. You can find out more information about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by visiting the website www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines. Additionally, you can find out more information about healthy eating from The United States Department of Agriculture at www.choosemyplate.gov. This website has information about food groups, portion sizes, and healthy choices as well as a meal tracker to help you monitor your food intake! All of these resources are available to help you be successful in your weight goals based on your needs and weight status.
There are many factors that determine what a healthy weight is for you including body mass index. Use the Centers for Disease Control's website to find out where you stand: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/index.html. Make an appointment with your physician or a dietitian to help you evaluate the other factors.
Your BMI may indicate that you have some weight to lose in order to reach a healthy weight, or maybe you just want to change your eating habits to improve your energy or mood. The first step on the path to making positive lifestyle and dietary changes is setting goals. It is important to set clear, realistic, and measurable goals. Set yourself up for success by planning for obstacles you might encounter during your journey to positive life changes. Another essential step in making positive lifestyle changes is to provide yourself with the tools you need to achieve your goals. This could include appointments with a dietitian, finding a convenient gym, pre-portioning snacks, or downloading a phone application for meal tracking. Your success depends upon the effort you put into the change, as well as your ability to stay dedicated to the change. Another part of goal setting involves rewarding yourself once you reach a milestone or fulfill a goal. Whether it be a five-pound weight loss or finally climbing the stairs without having to rest, every achievement should be celebrated to keep you motivated. Don't reward yourself with an extra large pizza and undo all of the positive changes you've made, however. Instead, use non-food rewards such as a treating yourself to a manicure, going to the movie theater, or buying new exercise clothes! Throughout the process of change, it will be necessary to redefine your goals as you reach milestones or develop new goals. Life can be unpredictable, and the ability to adjust to those changes can help you prepare for them and still allow you to achieve your goals.
Once you know what you want to achieve, find out the best way to make it happen. Get in contact with a dietitian to find out about your health status and areas for improvement. Keep these helpful tips in mind to control your weight:
•Eat a variety of foods. Don't get stuck in a rut. Enjoy foods of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Variation in your diet helps you get a lot of different vitamins and minerals, while keeping eating enjoyable for you!
•Monitor your portion sizes. Read the nutrition facts of the food you're eating to learn how much of that product is considered a serving size. For example, did you know that a packet of PopTarts® counts as two servings?
•Plan your meals. Planning your meals ahead of time helps prevent you from straying from your goals. Good strategies include portioning healthy snacks for during the day and preparing a healthy breakfast and lunch the night before to stick to your diet despite rushed mornings. If you plan to eat out, look up the nutrition information for foods at the restaurant to allow yourself to make an informed decision when ordering. Additionally, don't be afraid to ask a restaurant to modify a meal to your liking to make it healthier, like using less oil or adding vegetables.
•Make eating an event. Avoid eating in the car, at your desk, or in front of the television. Make time for meals and really savor every bite! If you have a family, eat with them. Turn meal time into a time to communicate and enjoy each other.
•Get moving! Exercise is not just going to the gym for hours, it can be any activity that gets you moving. Washing the car, chasing the kids around the house, and vacuum cleaning are all great ways to get up and get going! The Centers for Disease Control recommends you get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. It may seem like a lot, but it breaks down to be about 20 minutes 7 days a week, or 30 minutes 5 days a week. This can be simple if you take opportunities throughout your day to increase activity such as taking the stairs, parking at the rear of the parking lot, and doing squats while you talk on the phone. Five or ten minute increments of exercise throughout your day can help you reach your goals without having to spend an hour at the gym!
Lifestyle changes, no matter how small, can lead to big improvements in your health and wellness. Weight loss is hard, but with the right support you can be successful! Remember, everyone has different obstacles in life, but keeping your goals in mind will help you overcome these barriers. Are you ready to make a change today?