Many people have a goal to get healthier, and believe they can do it by exercising more. In fact, exercising more is the most popular New Year's resolution, followed by improving diet and losing weight. But exercise alone cannot get you healthy.
To get healthier, exercise must be paired with proper nutrition. Proper nutrition is the majority influence on your health, so improving your diet will have a greater effect on your health than simply exercising.
The simplest measure of health is by weight. Your ideal weight can be calculated by height, gender, and age. Here's a tool to quickly calculate your ideal weight: Ideal Weight Calculator. If your goal is better health and you are overweight, than weight loss should be your primary focus.
Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you eat. The simplest way to burn more calories than you eat is to reduce the calories you consume in a day. But don't worry, eating fewer calories doesn't have to include eating less. It just means making wise decisions about what food to eat, and compounding those healthy decisions into habits.
If you want to develop healthy eating habits, how do you know where to start?
You probably already have some good eating habits, and probably some bad. You may have some old eating habits, ones that were established as a child. Making radical changes to old habits can lead to immediate improvement in your health, but it's not sustainable.
To maximize your chances of being successful in developing healthy eating habits, it's important to start with small changes that are simple to adopt and fast to make a daily practice.
Below are some tips to help you develop healthy eating habits.
There are many benefits to drinking water throughout the day. Water will prevent dehydration, can help facilitate weight loss, and boosts energy levels in your body and brain.
Many people can't tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Often people eat when they get that feeling of hunger, but the feeling is also triggered by dehydration. Eating when you're dehydrated leads to weight gain. Therefore, staying hydrated throughout the day helps you to know when you're truly hungry.
Get more hydrated by drinking water as soon as you get up in the morning. Your body is likely dehydrated after sleeping, so drinking water soon after waking will help revive it and provide a boost of energy. Also, practice carrying a bottle of water with you wherever you go. You will drink water without even thinking just by having it there.
The golden rule is to drink about 1/2 to 1 ounce of water for every pound you weigh per day.
Avoid Sugary Drinks
Many drinks such as sodas, juices, teas, and coffees contain added sugars that can add up to a ton of calories that provide no nutritional value. The FDA now requires added sugar to be included on food labels because of the rising concern for added sugars in people's diet. The daily recommended value for added sugars in 50 grams a day for a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Each gram of sugar contributes 4 calories.
One 12 ounce can of Coke contains 60 grams of added sugar. So if you drink a can of Coke a day, you're adding 240 calories to your diet that has no nutritional benefit.
Instead of having a sugary drink, opt for water, juice with no added sugar, unsweetened teas, milk, or seltzer.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that your body needs to fuel you daily, but they are generally low in calories. And since they're mostly water and fiber, they help keep you full. Thus, by eating fruits and vegetables, you satisfy hunger with less calories and more nutrients than probably most other food options.
People who eat more fruits and vegetables are less likely to develop some chronic diseases. Discover more about the benefits of Fruits and Vegetables and how much you should eat from the USDA.
Eliminate Trans Fat from your Diet
Eliminate all foods with trans fat from your diet. You don't need them, and you can often find alternate products that contain no trans fat. Foods that still contain artificial trans fat include vegetable shortening, some microwave popcorn, certain margarines and vegetable oils, fried fast foods, bakery products, non-dairy coffee creamers, and some varieties of chips, pies, pizza, and crackers. As for saturated fat, if you can't avoid foods with it, limit your intake to less than 10% of calories a day. Saturated fats are most common in animal sources of food.
Remember: check the nutritional labels before eating anything so you can make informed choices about what you put into your body.
Most people snack because they are hungry between meals. So if you're going to snack, eat something that satisfies your hunger, tastes great, and doesn't clog the arteries and add to the waistline. Aim for whole foods in lieu of processed foods rich in fat. Some ideas: raw vegetables with hummus, raw or roasted nuts, yogurt, fruit, rice cake, cottage cheese, a smoothie.
If eliminating a regular snack of chips scares you, try substituting it for something a bit healthier. For example, think pretzels instead of chips (see comparison of nutrition facts in the image below).
Don't get discouraged when thinking about changing your diet. It's never too late to make a change. Start eating better today by making small changes similar to the recommendations described above. Over time, those small changes will compound, become habits, and lead to massive results.
Want more tips on building healthy habits? Check out How to Build Healthy Habits.
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