For a very long time, American culture has focused on weight and outward appearance. Overall health seemed to take a back seat to how great someone looked in their bathing suit. It’s a mentality that has led us down a path of fad diets, supplements, and an increasing occurrence of eating disorders. Sadly, when the number on the scale becomes the primary focus, failure is inevitable.
Combatting such a pervasive cultural mindset is no easy task, but when it comes to our relationship with food and body image, it is certainly worth the fight. That’s why the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes healthy eating and nutritional awareness with National Nutrition Month in March; because when we treat our bodies right, there really is no limit to the benefits we stand to gain.
Whether you’re our neighbors in the Zachary and Baton Rouge area or are reading this from across the country, the following tips can help you break the cycle of failed dieting and yo-yo weight gain and allow you to focus on the one thing that really matters: being healthy.
Include a Variety of Foods in Your Diet
The human body requires different nutrients to grow and remain strong and healthy. Routinely eating the same types of foods or not enough from certain food groups and sub-groups likely means that your body is not receiving adequate amounts of all the nutrients it requires. Of course, adding more variety to your meals isn’t always easy. Use these tips to help you get started:
- Keep your plate colorful with different colored fruits and vegetables throughout the week.
- To incorporate new sources of protein, consider plant-based options such as beans and lentils.
- Swap refined grains for whole grain options, such as using whole grain bread rather than white for sandwiches and wraps.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Sugar addiction is very real and is a major factor in rising rates of obesity. While sugar activates the reward center of the brain, the body receives only empty calories and very little nutritional value. Excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain, high glucose levels, and high cholesterol.
Satisfy cravings for sweets by replacing sugar-filled snacks with fruits. Replace sugary drinks such as soda with water, and pay close attention to nutrition labels to determine the amount of added sugar in your food. According to the American Heart Association, adult men should only eat 37.5 grams of sugar per day and women only 25 grams per day.
Consider Portion Sizes
Research has shown that when offered larger portion sizes, most people will inadvertently eat more. Limiting the amount of food allowed on your plate helps with calorie reduction and weight loss, even if you don’t consciously realize that you are eating less. Know your recommended portion sizes for each food group, and stick to them as frequently as possible.
Embracing nutrition means making lifestyle changes for a healthier you. Temporary diets that rely on restriction or even elimination of certain food types may offer short-term results, but studies show that 95 percent of dieters will regain their weight within 1 to 5 years. Not only does a focus on nutrition and a healthy lifestyle keep the weight off, it counteracts a wide range of health problems from heart disease to diabetes. So, start with the tips above, schedule an appointment with your doctor, and start living your healthiest possible life.