Get healthy in the new year with 10 resolutions to improve your health. By: Holley Johnson Grainger, M.S., R.D.
Simply swapping to whole grains yields big health benefits. Go beyond white rice, white bread, and pasta this year and dish up nutrient-rich whole grains. Making a simple swap such as choosing brown rice, whole grain bread, or whole-wheat pasta will lead to improved cardiovascular function and reduce the risk of certain cancers and stroke. Make a mini resolution to be adventurous and try some less familiar grains like quinoa, wheat berries, and buckwheat groats. And of course, keep the favorites like oatmeal and air-popped popcorn on-hand to round out the recommended 3 (1-ounce) servings per day.
Learn the fast facts on fats: what to eat and what to avoid. Stick with unsaturated ones found in vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, fish, and avocados to promote health and protect against heart disease, stroke, inflammation, and diabetes. Incorporate healthy fats into your day-to-day cooking by cooking veggies in heart-healthy olive or canola oil, using skinless poultry or lean cuts of beef and pork, and topping salads with crunchy nuts and seeds instead of buttery croutons.
Get a nutrition boost with healthy snacks. Eating snacks between meals helps satisfy cravings, keeps your energy and mood high, and provides extra vitamins and minerals that may not be met during meals. Eat a combination of complex carbohydrates and lean protein with each snack to keep your blood sugar stable and to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. For example, sprinkle low-fat yogurt with high-fiber cereal, spread peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat toast and top with half of a banana, or dress a small baked potato with low-fat cheese and salsa.
Fuel your body each morning with a high-octane trio. The combo of fiber-rich carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat will give you energy to start your day, maintain focus, and boost your metabolism. When there's no time for a sit-down meal, grab a string cheese and some whole wheat crackers on the way out the door or spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on a whole-grain English muffin. Filling up with breakfast front loads your day with vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be missed by skipping your morning meal.
Don't dread the gym. But if you do, there are still plenty of ways to keep yourself active and moving throughout 2010. Find a friend to keep you accountable and together set realistic and achievable fitness goals. Try heading to a fitness center to join a group exercise class or hire a personal trainer. If you prefer a different setting, pop in a workout DVD or hook up the WiiFit in your living room, bundle up and head outside for a walk, or hit the yard and rake those calories away. Most importantly, incorporating resistance training and aerobic exercise into your routine(aim for 30 minutes per day) will help to maintain flexibility, improve mood, better manage your weight, and build muscle mass.
Seek seasonally fresh fruits and veggies. Produce is at its nutritional prime when eaten in season so experiment with new flavors and farmers' market finds. Research has found that produce may lose as much as half of its nutrient value in transit. Stick with foods grown close to home to reap the biggest nutrient boost.
Discover the potential in protein. Add high-quality, lean protein to every meal to reap the health benefits. Choose options like fish, skinless poultry, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and egg. Adding these foods to your diet will help to keep you blood sugar in check, support healthy muscles, improve heart health, and keep you feeling full longer. These vegetarian sources of protein also yield positive benefits: quinoa (a whole grain that is a good source of protein), soy products like tofu and tempeh, and legumes. Legumes include dried beans, seeds, peanuts and lentils and encompass everything from pinto, red, and black beans to chick peas and soybeans. Aim for 15% of your daily calories to come from protein.
Drink up. Water is a nutrient that can be obtained from a wide variety of sources. Whether water enters your body as a liquid or as food, it still results in the same healthy benefits. Fill up on fluids to help your body cushion joints, make saliva, regulate body temperature, transport nutrients, and keep skin looking healthy. Men should aim for the equivalent of 16 cups of fluid per day and women 13 cups but these recommendations may vary depending on age, activity level, and climate. Add high-water foods to your plate like celery, watermelon, cooked pasta or oatmeal, melon, and lean beef.
Eating out at restaurants just got easier. Dining out can be a positive health experience when you choose wisely and avoid overeating. Let the menu be your guide and remember to pay attention to the 3 P's: portion size, preparation method, and products used. Watch out for fried foods and those labeled with "red flag" words like butter, cream, and mayonnaise―these menu items are often higher in calories and saturated fat. Sides can be sneaky too so request dressing on the side and veggies prepared in olive oil. Consider ordering appetizer-sized portions or ask for half of your meal to be packed in a take-home container before it's brought to the table. If you not sure about a recipe's ingredients or preparation method, just ask. This may be the determining factor in whether or not you get that scoop of sorbet for dessert.
A little wine can go a long way. Just one 6-ounce glass for women and two for men has major bang-for-your-buck health benefits. Numerous studies found that wine is good for your heart, keeps your brain cells healthy and helps prevent cancer. Moderation is key (research shows that consuming more than the recommendations may negate the positive benefits) and if you're pregnant or taking certain medications, you may need to put this healthy habit on hold. For the rest of us, turn up a glass of "heart juice" and reep the antioxidant benefits.