6 Steps to Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle
If you haven't already embraced the theme of this year's National Nutrition Month -- "Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle" -- it's never too late!
"Research shows that those who make a successful, long-term transition to a healthy lifestyle start with small steps or bites and then turn these minor adjustments into larger success," says Amy Phillips
, one of our OB/GYN
doctors at UAMS
. "This month we share some of these small steps that can help lead to bigger changes and a happier, healthier you."
Step 1 - Drink Water
Replace sugary beverages such as soft drinks and sweetened iced tea with plain water. If you find water boring, you can easily flavor it. You can freeze 100% juice beverages into ice cubes and add one to a bottle of water or add frozen strawberries. Crystallized lemon, orange and lime powders are calorie-free and preservative-free and come in single-serve packets perfect for flavoring a bottle of water. A sprig of mint also adds a nice burst of flavor. Sixty-four ounces of water a day will help keep your body hydrated.
Step 2 - Control Your Portions
Even too much of healthy foods can be a bad thing. To make sure you know what a healthy portion looks like, visit choosemyplate.gov
. As a general guideline:
- 3 ounces of cooked meat such as beef, chicken or pork is about the size of a deck of playing cards
- 3 ounces of baked fish is about the size of a checkbook
- 1 cup of raw vegetables is about the size of a tennis ball
- 2 ounces of cooked pasta is about the size of a baseball
Be sure to balance the calories you take in with the calories your body burns to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Step 3 - Get Smart About Fruits and Veggies
A healthy diet includes two and a half cups of vegetables
every day and two cups of fruit
every day. Fresh fruit and vegetables can fit in your food budget if you shop smart
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are easier to find, have more flavor and are usually less expensive. Compare the price and number of servings from fresh, canned and frozen forms of the same fruits and vegetables. When shopping for canned items, buy vegetables with "low sodium" or "no salt added" on the label, and look for fruits canned in "100% fruit juice."
Some fresh fruits and vegetables don't last long, so buy small amounts to make sure you can eat them all before they go bad. If you have the time to wash and cut your fruits and vegetables, buy them in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-washed, ready-to-cook versions are often much more expensive. Frozen vegetables that you can steam provide almost the same nutritional value as fresh vegetables and are often healthier than canned varieties.
Plan ahead to prepare and freeze vegetable soups and stews in advance. Add leftover vegetables to casseroles or soups. Extra fruit is perfect for baking or smoothies.
To help your children or grandchildren try new fruits and vegetables, make a goal to eat a rainbow every week
, providing "anytime" and "sometimes" food choices.
Step 4 - Eat Seafood Twice a Week
Eating seafood twice a week can help prevent heart disease. Fish and shellfish have a wide range of nutrients, including healthy omeaga-3 fats that are important for your body's health. Healthy recipes
include salmon, trout, oysters, herring, sardines, oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, tilapia and tuna.
Tilapia is a light, flaky fish that's affordable, and fresh filets are easy to find at your local grocery or discount chain. There are a lot of fast, healthy ways to cook tilapia
. A filet about the size of a checkbook counts as one of your two 8-ounce recommended servings each week.
You can also get your seafood servings in by using grilled scallops, shrimp or crab to top off a salad, or you can use canned tuna or salmon for sandwiches. These options are much healthier than high-sodium deli meats.
Step 5 - Know the Food You Eat
Mealtime can still be something to enjoy and look forward to, even if you're watching what you eat. Choose more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, and cut down on fatty foods and added sugars and salt. Eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures. Use hunger and fullness cues to recognize when you've had enough to eat. Save treats for special occasions. Switch from ice cream and cookies for dessert every night to a Tuesday night treat. Start the week off with "Meatless Monday
" and serve a protein such as fish, beans or eggs.
Step 6 - Learn to Build a Healthy Meal
New guidelines for healthy eating call for half your plate to be filled with fruits and vegetables. One quarter should be lean protein such as lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, beans or tofu.
Twice a week, your protein should be seafood. The remaining quarter of your plate should be grains, including whole grains that provide more nutrients and fiber than refined grains. Dairy is an important fifth part of every healthy meal. Drink fat-free or low-fat milk or add fat-free or low-fat yogurt to your meal.
If you're new to cooking at home or want to start a family tradition with your children, commit to healthy eating at home one night a week – or have your kids do the cooking
. (It's OK if Thursday works better for your schedule.)
To learn more about healthy foods and the right amounts for you and your family, use the SuperTracker
from the United States Department of Agriculture.