Do your intentions to eat well seem to fly out the window when you have a packed schedule? Stay grounded with these simple tips, no matter how long your to-do list is:
Make an effort to eat as a family at least once a day. A pleasant meal that isn’t rushed promotes family bonding and improves the likelihood of eating a well-balanced meal. Be flexible with timing: You may need to eat dinner early or make a plan to always sit down together just for breakfast to accommodate everyone’s hectic schedule.
Cook ahead. When you have time to cook, make a double batch and freeze leftovers for quick meals on busy days. For instance, simmer enough pasta for two days. Serve it hot one night with sauce, then chilled in a salad with tuna and low-fat salad dressing the next.
Stock your pantry with foods for simple meals. Good examples are whole-wheat pasta, fresh and frozen vegetables, fresh and canned fruits, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, lean deli meats, salsa, canned dried beans, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt and cheese.
Go for health and convenience. Some convenience foods are designed to be healthy and lower in calories. A healthy frozen entree or side dish is an option on busy days. Read labels for calories, fat and sodium. Stock healthy versions of quick foods like instant brown rice.
Look for shortcuts. Simplify your meal prep and save time by buying pre-cut fruits and vegetables, precooked meats, shredded low-fat cheeses, packaged salads, and frozen or canned vegetables. There’s nothing quicker than fresh fruit, but fruit canned in its own juice (not sugary syrup) is also OK. Rinse canned vegetables with water to remove excess sodium.
Keep a list of simple menu ideas. Recipes that include common staples and take 20 minutes or less come in handy on days when you’re rushed.
It always helps if you plan meals ahead, but if your house is stocked with healthy choices you can wing it and still eat well. Remember that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or involve hard-to-find ingredients.
Has the same number on the scale been popping up week after week? That’s common. Being stuck at a weight-loss plateau eventually happens to most people trying to lose weight, despite continuing with the same exercise routine and healthy-eating habits.
Try these solutions:
Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven’t loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.
Cut more calories. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories — provided this doesn’t put you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from feeling hungry all the time, which increases your risk of overeating. In addition, this reduced calorie intake should be sustainable. If not, you’ll regain the weight you’ve lost and more.
Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise if you feel that’s possible. Additional exercise will cause you to burn more calories. Consider adding resistance or muscle-building exercises. Increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more calories.
Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yard work or vigorous spring cleaning.
Focus on your weight-loss victories, and recognize that plateaus are just part of the journey. Continue your healthy eating and exercise habits, knowing that will help you sustain the success you’ve had.
Meat doesn’t have to be the only source of protein in your diet. In fact, studies show that eating red meat and processed meat can increase your risk of developing heart disease and cancer.
Since meatless meals are built around vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and grains, they offer many nutrients, including protein. Eggs and low-fat dairy foods also are good protein sources. Eating a variety of these foods throughout the day can give you all the essential amino acids — the building blocks of protein — that your body needs. In addition, protein from meatless sources can be just as filling. Another bonus: Buying less meat can also help you spend less on food, as meat usually costs more than its healthy alternatives.
Meatless recipes can offer a world of enjoyable possibilities, including some fun ethnic meals. Start exploring your meatless options — and your cooking creativity — with these ideas:
Substitute part or all of the meat with extra vegetables when making lasagna, pasta and stews.
Order mushroom and cheese or veggie pizza.
Stir-fry vegetables with tofu instead of meat.
Make vegetable kebabs.
Choose bean burritos or tacos.
Make chili or spaghetti sauce with soy-based vegetable crumbles instead of ground meat.
Grill portobello mushrooms in place of hamburgers.
Instead of building your meals by focusing on meat, think about the colorful and satisfying meals you can create by starting with vegetables and whole grains.
All of us approach the process of personal change a little differently. But anyone can take a cue from these key principles as you work to adopt new habits.
Build confidence. Focus on strategies that play to your strengths and your skills. Consider how you have succeeded in the past, and build your plan from there. Past experiences — good or bad — are learning opportunities and should be seen as a useful tool in tackling new goals with optimism.
Create a routine. An eating or activity schedule can create a better sense of control. Make sure your schedule is one that truly works for your life and not one you can follow only for the short term. That’s why it’s important to set realistic goals — the more successful you are, the easier it will be to stay motivated.
Focus on what you’re adding to your life. Try not to fixate on what you’re giving up, whether it’s certain foods, habits or a little extra TV time. Focus on things like the delicious, healthy meals you are eating and how energized you feel after a workout. Celebrate success as you notice even the smallest positive changes in how you look and feel; it will give you the momentum you need to keep going.
Make your program your own. Take a day off from exercise, or enjoy one of your favorite foods once in a while. The more you make your program work for you, the less likely you are to rebel against it. Figure out what it takes — within reason — to make your healthy lifestyle pleasurable and sustainable.
By following these principles, you can enjoy a lifetime of healthier living — and a healthy weight!
How strong you can grip may be a better predictor of future health and longevity according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal. After accounting for age and a wide variety of other factors, such as diet, amount of time being sedentary, and socioeconomic status, researchers found that muscle weakness—defined by a grip-strength measurement of less than 26 kilograms (57 pounds) for men and less than 16 kilograms (35 pounds) for women—was associated with a higher risk of premature death and a higher risk of heart and lung disease, and cancer.
Researchers in Norway found that those who have excellent grip strength in their 80s and 90s are more likely to live in good health into their 100s. The role of skeletal muscle is often under-appreciated. It not only controls our body movement; skeletal muscle also stores protein and plays a major role in glucose and lipid metabolism.
Published July 30, 2018 by Dr. Daniel Thomas, DO, MS
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