Enjoy Making Healthier Choices

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A healthy diet that helps you manage your weight should include a variety of foods you may not have considered. If eating healthy makes you think about foods that you cannot eat, try focusing on all the new foods you can eat.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars
  • Stays within you daily calorie needs
  • Stay physically active

A healthy lifestyle involves many choices. Some may be new to you so here are some helpful tips to start a healthier you.

  • Make a commitment: Making the choice to change your lifestyle and become healthier is a big step, making a commitment to yourself start the process. Ask a friend or family member to help keep you on track. Write down the reasons you want to make changes whether it be for weight loss, or to get your blood sugar or blood pressure under better control. Choosing healthier foods and getting the recommended amount of physical activity each day does affect the quality of your health.
  • Keep track of where you are. Consider talking to your health care provider. They can evaluate your height, weight and explore other risk factors you may have. Write it down, keeping a food diary helps you become more aware of what and when you are eating. It also helps to keep up with the amount of physical activity you are getting.
  • Think about your current lifestyle. Identify obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Your schedule might make it difficult to get enough physical activity or you may find yourself eating foods you are trying to avoid because of what you buy at the grocery store for other family members. Ask your family to try new healthier foods with you. You will find some new family favorites in the process that your whole family loves.
  • Set realistic goals that are obtainable. You know the big goal but small goals in between helps you along the way. For example try taking a 15 minute walk after dinner or make sure you eat at least one vegetable at each meal.
  • Forgive yourself no one is perfect. We all have set backs from time to time so keep trying and you will do better most days. It is more important to make healthier choices most of the time. It is what you do most days that has the most impact.

When choosing healthier foods keep an open mind. You may not like a food the way it was prepared so try another way. Use some ingredients you are accustomed to and add something healthier to it. One key ingredient is to add colorful fruits and vegetables when possible. For example if you love boxed macaroni and cheese try adding some steamed broccoli to it. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or try roasting them in the oven for a delicious sweet nutty flavor. Commit to going to the produce department or farmers market and trying a new vegetable each week.

Choose fruit without added sugars, or gradually cut down on the amount of sugar you use. It takes time but you will find that your taste changes after a while and you will prefer foods less sweet. Try fresh, frozen and canned fruit without added sugar, bake fruit, make cobblers with less sugar, add whole grain toppings, make parfaits, and fancy it up!

Gradually add whole grains to your diet. Even if a food is not completely whole grain there are many alternatives that do have some whole grains in them. This helps you acquire a taste for nuttier grainer products that have beneficial fiber.

Get your calcium rich foods. If you do not prefer lower fat dairy try to cut back on your serving size and find other ways to get the calcium you need. Try adding fortified foods with calcium added like soy, almond, rice milk, fortified cereals or enriched juices.

Some of your favorite recipe may call for frying; try healthier leaner variations of cooking like baking or grilling, roasting, and sautéing.

Tips to remember from ChooseMyPlate.gov are:

  • Build a healthy plate –
    • Cut back on food high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt
    • Eat the right amount of calories for you
    • Be physically active your way
    • Drink plenty of water instead of sugary drinks
    • Added sugars and fats load foods with extra calories you don’t need

You are your children’s most important role model. Your kids pay attention to what you are doing more than what you are saying. If your kids see you eating healthier, getting plenty of physical activity and developing healthy habits they will learn how to develop healthier habits. Enjoy making healthier choices and be proud of your accomplishments that will brighten your future and the future for generations to come.

Ashe County Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, EFNEP, helps families improve their diet and lifestyle in fun and healthy ways. In our free classes, participants taste delicious recipes, improve cooking skills, and increase their knowledge on how to save money on groceries while choosing healthy food for their family. If you would like more information on these tips and other ways to enjoy a healthier lifestyle call Rhonda Church, Extension EFNEP Program Associate at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Ashe County Center at 336-846-5850.