5 Easy, Low-maintenance Ways to Start Eating Better Right Now
Everyone knows good nutrition is important. But with so much information out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and think that eating right is too complicated or just plain unappetizing. In celebration of National Nutrition Month in March, we’re sharing five easy, delicious strategies you can implement right away to boost your diet and improve wellness without disrupting your lifestyle or the things you enjoy.
1. Add fruits and vegetables.
So many times, people skip fruits and vegetables because they feel too much pressure to get those “eight servings” a day. Whew! While that amount is optimal, it’s important to remember that every portion counts, and even in small amounts, fruits and vegetables boost health with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try to add just one fruit or vegetable to every meal.
2. Reduce added sugars.
Fruit contains natural sugar, which is good for you. But what you want to be aware of are added sugars found in foods and drinks. This is not limited to sweet treats and sodas. Sugar can be found in things you might not think of: Ketchup, soy sauce, marinades, yogurts, and more. Check nutrition labels and keep track. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 37.5 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women.
3. Slow down at mealtime.
A lot of times we eat the wrong things – or too much of them – because we’re distracted and not paying attention. Eating when we’re upset, rushing, or watching TV can cause us to overeat and or not appreciate our food. Instead, practice “mindful eating,” which involves using all the senses to explore, savor, and taste, so that we choose food that is pleasing to the palate and nourishing to the body. It works on the premise that the less distracted we are during mealtimes, the better our overall health and wellbeing. Learn more about mindful eating here.
4. Try a meatless meal once a week.
Perhaps you’ve heard of “Meatless Mondays”? This is a great way to introduce more fruits and vegetables to your life without committing to a strict vegetarian diet. Just once a week – it doesn’t have to be Mondays – substitute a typical meat dinner for a recipe with veggies, beans, lentils or tofu. This gives your digestive system a break from meat or poultry, and it gives you an opportunity to seek out plant-based nutrition, which can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar, reduce the risk of cancer, and promote weight loss.
5. Make breakfast count.
Despite controversy in recent years about the importance of breakfast, researchers continue to find that what we eat first thing can have profound effects on our health, well-being and cognitive performance. That said, breakfast is only as good for you as what you choose for breakfast. Skip the sugary cereals and donuts. Opt instead for proteins and complex carbs – try a parfait with low-fat plain Greek yogurt and fruit, or a quick egg scramble with sautéed vegetables.
Get support. It’s been found that healthier eating, combined with increased exercise and a small amount of weight loss, can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 58%. If you’re looking for more guidance and encouragement in eating right, the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can help you overcome challenges and stay motivated. Learn more here.
For total wellness, good nutrition is essential. It can be the difference maker when it comes to meeting your fitness goals and feeling your best. And, it can be a lifesaver in promoting good health and preventing diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
To learn more about eating right and optimizing your nutrition, contact the wellness professionals at your YMCA.