I bet you’ve always wondered what a dietitian would say if she/he were to give you their top suggestions for living healthier. Well, whether you’ve wondered or not, I’m offering it! Here are my top six suggestions for getting on track to living a healthier lifestyle today.
1) Eliminate (or at least, reduce) processed foods: Boxed, packaged, preserved items. When in doubt, throw it out. Replace processed items with fresh meats, real fats and whole fruits and vegetables. This is the number one positive change you can make in your diet that will have spiraling effects on your overall health.
2) Eat eggs for breakfast everyday. I know, I know. It sounds boring, and it may even contradict conventional nutritional wisdom. (Yes, you can eat the whole egg, yolk and all. No, eggs will not raise your cholesterol….) When I coach clients, this is the first step that a lot of people (sometimes cautiously) take, and I only hear positive feedback. There seems to be a consensus that eggs are a delicious, satisfying breakfast that holds us over much longer than any breakfast cereal, toast, bagel or muffin. Mix it up by varying the way you make your eggs, alternating between butter or coconut oil, and adding different kinds of vegetables each day (peas, carrots and green beans, anyone?) You can also prepare an Egg Bake or batch of Protein Pancakes ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer for quick, balanced breakfast options for busy mornings.
3) Eat more (healthy) fat. This may be the easiest or hardest dietary change you make, and here’s why: I’ve observed two types of people. The first is so liberated when they realize there is truth to the term “healthy fat,” that they begin to go a little “fat-crazy” to make up for all the years they’ve been deprived. The second is the one who hears the truth about fat over and over again, and makes the connection of understanding why fat is healthy and important to eat. YET, despite their understanding, this person still struggles to eat fat, thanks to the deceptive “low fat diet fad” that has been drilled into their head for too many years. Begin incorporating healthy fats in a less-scary way by cooking your eggs in butter, adding sliced avocado and walnuts to your salads, and transitioning to full fat versions of products such as yogurt, cottage cheese and dressings. As you get more comfortable, continue to add more.
4) Get more sleep. Did you think you’d be reading about sleep in an article by a dietitian? Well, think again, because when it comes to sleep and nutrition, there is an undeniable connection. Studies have shown that those who sleep more are much more likely to make better food choices throughout the day. They give in to temptation and cravings less than those who are sleep deprived. Sleep also regulates our hormones which control our metabolism and appetite (and who doesn’t want those working in our favor?!). Aim for at least seven and preferably eight (or even nine!) hours of sleep per night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, adding in a melatonin or magnesium glycinate supplement will likely do the trick.
5) Plan ahead. It is a biochemical response for your brain to crave sugar when your blood sugar levels begin to drop, which is bound to happen if you go for more than a couple hours without eating. Be prepared with healthy meals and snacks on hand, and eat every few hours to promote stable blood sugar levels and to prevent those indisputable cravings that urge you to seek out the nearest vending machine.
6) Learn how to deal with setbacks. If you find yourself giving in during a moment of desperation, know how to deal with setbacks. You skip a meal. You down a soda. That “taste” of dessert turns into a binge. Everyone slips and it’s important to know how to get back on track instead of falling deeper and deeper into a pit hole. When you do fall, it’s important to have your next meal or snack, even though your instincts will tell you to skip it. When you skip, it’s more difficult to get back on track and sets you up for further failure as you continue down the roller-coaster of blood sugars spiking and dropping. Recognize your slip up, and move forward. Don’t let your mistakes define you!
Implement these six tips and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier life today. Of course, accountability and individualization are also parts of being successful. If you’re ready to take these next steps (or even if you’re not, but want to learn what that would look like,) read about Coaching with me, and contact me with any further questions.