Spring is a great time to throw open our windows and clean out our homes, so why not also take this opportunity to Spring Clean our diets? Many of us could survive a month or two with the amount of food stored in our refrigerators, freezers, and pantries – but are we really going to use up all those jars, cans, boxes, and plastic containers? I’m guessing not. So, take a good look at the food and drinks in your house. Making an effort to clean out unhealthful products lets you make a fresh start next time you are at the market.
1. Toss old condiments (sour cream, creamy salad dressing, and anything past its expiration dates). Why? You can make your own flavored toppings with nonfat yogurt, vinegar and olive oil, and spices without the added sugar, sodium and chemicals in many ready-made products.
2. Toss processed cheese (e.g. American cheese slices) and processed meat (e.g. sausage, salami, bologna). Why? Unhealthy fats, lots of sodium, and added chemicals.
3. Toss packaged pastries (e.g. biscuits), boxes of flavored noodles and packages of premade rice mixes. Why? Same as the two above.
4. This is also a good time to get rid of all sugary drinks, including soda, energy drinks, and instant flavored coffee and tea mixes. So much better to drink water, flavored water, or fresh coffee/tea with your own flavors.
Just One Thing to do: Choose one of the above categories to Spring Clean your diet, then pick another one next week!
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It might sound like heresy coming from a nutrition professor, but you need to stop counting calories.
Body weight considerations (including weight loss, gain and maintenance) are complicated. A healthy weight for you should take into consideration not just your gender and height, but also body composition and metabolic fitness – a fancy way of saying the most important factors are that you are physically active, have more muscle than fat, and have optimal health measurements such as blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose.
If you are overweight, losing just 5-7% of your body weight can improve these measures! To lose that weight:
1. Listen to your body’s signals for when it is full. Stop eating before you are full (at about 80% - you’ll get familiar with this feeling the more you try it).
2. Eat smaller portions and make sure what you are eating is real food - not bars, diet foods or processed foods like chips, cookies or candy. Fill up on vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, and fruit.
Just One Thing to do: Instead of counting calories, eat smaller meals, fewer snacks, and only real food (see above). Get specific tips here.
Just One More Thing to do: Read a personal perspective about calories here.
I have good news and bad news. First, the bad news: colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the U.S. and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death. The good news: colorectal cancer is preventable!
Studies show you can lower your risk for colorectal cancer by improving your lifestyle habits, and they aren’t that difficult. Eat more vegetables and fruits, eat whole grains instead of white, and decrease your intake of red meat and processed meat. An example of a day following this advice:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with sliced banana
- Lunch: Spinach and kale chopped up with other raw vegetables and balsamic vinaigrette, with a whole grain roll on the side
- Dinner: Skinless chicken thigh with ½ cup of brown rice and a double helping of sautéed brussels sprouts
Follow this link for helpful information from the American Cancer Society.
Just One Thing to do: If you are over age 45, make an appointment to get screened today!
Variety is a recommendation we hear all the time from nutrition professionals, as a cornerstone of a healthful diet. But what if variety can actually make you gain unwanted weight?
Research shows the variety of dietary choices in the U. S. has increased exponentially just in one generation. When I was a kid, there was less than ½ an aisle each, on just one side, for breakfast cereal, crackers, cookies, and salty snack foods. Now, a typical grocery store has a full aisle of each, and it’s not uncommon to see shoppers selecting several types of each food, for a nice “variety”.
The problem is, once home, we eat more when we have more choices! Why have a chocolate chip cookie when we can have it as well as a pecan shortbread, oatmeal, and sandwich cookie?
Just One Thing to do: Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein sources, but limit cereal, crackers, and snack foods to one type at a time.
Bonus: See what the experts have to say about dietary diversity.
Like thousands of other Registered Dietitian Nutritionists across the U.S., I'm here to help "focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits" per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Check back weekly for nutrition and exercise information, and check out practical tips at JUST ONE THING NUTRITION!