At the start of the year, we feel very motivated to set goals and equally optimistic that we’ll be able to reach them throughout the upcoming months. As the days roll on, however, we eventually become settled into our daily routines. Things unexpectedly happen. Over time, life can get in the way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes cause us to get off track from where we want to be.
Regardless of the season, there are some simple dietary changes you can make at any point to help you get on the right track for a healthier lifestyle. Because diets can sometimes be overwhelming at first, we’ll keep it simple and start with some recommendations for what to eat (and not eat) for optimal success.
What to Avoid:
Fats. By now, you’ve probably already heard the recommendations that you should limit your fat intake. This is because fats (especially trans fats and saturated fats) are known to raise cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is bad for your heart, increasing your risk of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and even death.
Salt. Sure, salt makes food taste delicious, but it can be very bad for the body. It’s one of the ingredients known to raise blood pressure. As we now know, high blood pressure over an extended period of time is a potential trigger for a heart attack, aneurysm, or stroke.
Sugar. It’s important to realize what sugar can do to your body. Sugar has an addictive effect on the brain, increasing your appetite (and your caloric intake!) and causing you to literally crave sweets. A single can of Coca-Cola contains a shocking amount of sugar (roughly three times the recommended daily amount for a grown adult). If you avoid soda but drink your coffee (or tea) with any added sugar or creamer, it’s not much healthier. Even the low-calorie “diet” soda options can be bad for your health. All sodas boost your pH level, making the body more acidic, and they contain an ingredient that may even cause cancer.
Alcohol. In addition to the risk of developing an addiction (and forming other bad habits that set the wrong example for any children in your life), alcohol adds unnecessary calories, carbohydrates, and sugars to your diet. It’s also been linked to a variety of health conditions, ranging from liver failure to obesity to cancer.
What to Add:
Eating well can sometimes feel overwhelming. It seems like the experts are constantly finding the next food or food ingredient that they claim is “public enemy number one.” How are you supposed to keep track of all the foods to eat and to avoid?
If you’ve ever felt confused about where to begin, you’re in luck. There are some easy ways to add nutritious food to your diet, starting with your next meal!
Leafy greens. For heart health and maximum nutrition, bring on the greens! Experts recommend increasing your intake of leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, broccoli). Best of all: these veggies are high in fiber and low in calories.
Fruits. In addition to leafy greens, consider adding nutrient-dense fruits like apples and oranges to your diet. This is especially beneficial for those who are trying to cut back on sugar; the extra fiber and low calories of fruits make them a very healthy choice if you have a sweet tooth! You can get more fruit into your diet by making smoothies. Just be sure your blender is up for the job.
Fiber. High-fiber foods like beans and lentils help regulate your blood sugar levels. This is great news for anyone at risk of developing diabetes or certain heart conditions. In addition, these foods can also reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
As you can probably guess, you don’t have to have to wait until next year to start working toward your health goals. You can start right now! By following the advice listed above, you’ll be on your way to better health in no time.
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