With January 1stjust around the corner you may be reflecting upon your health and your eating habits. Few people admit to setting New Years resolutions simply because this type of whimsical goal rarely leads to a lasting change in lifestyle. A common mistake is to make a broad resolution such as “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to cut out the junkfood”. A more effective way to impact your health is to choose some specific, measureable goals. In place of a resolution, here are some specific new years goals that can help boost your energy and control your waist line.
1: Prepare meals and snacks at home as often as possible. Recent literature points to the expanding portion sizes that fast-food and restaurants provide, estimating that servings of foods like French fries and soda pop have increased 2-5 fold in the past several decades. Try to limit your eating out to 2 times per week or less. Invest in a good cooler bag and spend the time to prepare your meals and snacks.
2: Eat at least 2 cups of vegetables every day. Fruits and Vegetables are equally important in the diet. Health Canada recommends 5-10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day. Most people have little difficulty getting enough fruit. It is sweet and prepackaged for easy travel. Vegetables on the other hand are more of an acquired taste and can be a little more work to prepare. If you focus on getting 2 cups of veggies every day (that equates to 3-4 servings) in addition to your fruit, you’ll get more vitamins, fibre and antioxidants without adding many calories. Doubling up on vegetables keeps you from overeating other more calorie dense foods and adds flavour and flare to any meal. For weight loss, choose less starchy vegetables (greens, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cabbage ect…) more often as they are lower in calories than starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, peas and carrots. Aim to cover at least half your plate with vegetables at your main meals.
3: Spread food intake over the entire day and reduce the size of your dinner. Evaluate your meal timing during the day. If you have a gap of 6-7 hours between meals or snacks you may be setting yourself up for a large dinner. Many people eat lunch around noon and dinner around 6-7pm. This long gap without food will leave you feeling ravenous at dinner. Plan for a satisfying mid-afternoon snack to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. You’ll have more control over cravings and you be left feeling satisfied with a smaller dinner.
4: Eat slowly and try to wait 20 minutes before going for seconds. The old saying that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you are full is true. Eating slower helps you to be more in tune with your internal cues for fullness. We often eat rapidly and overeat without noticing how much, or what we’ve eaten. Try to put your fork down between bites, chew your food well and relax while eating. You’ll be more likely to stop when you feel satisfied, before you are full or stuffed. Start small with your goals. If you finish a meal in 5 minutes now – set a goal to extend to 10 minutes. Your ultimate goal should be to feel satisfied at the end of 20 minutes on a smaller quantity of food.
Make a real change in your health by choosing a few simple habits to focus on. Set small measurable goals and this year you will realize your resolutions.
Heidi Smith is a Dietitian from the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph. For more information on healthy eating programs and seminars visit www.heidismithnutrition.com