March is National Nutrition Month! It may be time to revisit and reestablish your New Year’s diet resolutions. I wanted to pass along a basic guide to healthy eating and lifestyle habits that can also be used for weight loss.
Following is a checklist of six healthy habits to guide you on the path to better dietary health. If you are continually skipping any of these steps, you are probably missing opportunities to keep your weight in check or to keep your body healthy and your metabolism strong.
1. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
Every person is different, so the need for more water comes with extra weight and increased levels of activity. But 64 ounces is a good baseline for hydration. Unsweet tea and zero-calorie drinks count. Diet sodas and coffee do not. WARNING: Don’t jump from 20 ounces a day to 64 ounces! Your bladder will not appreciate the drastic change. Instead, increase by 8 ounces every week until you reach 64 ounces.
2. Make your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates look like the ChooseMyPlate diagram.
When trying to lose weight, go with half a plate of vegetables for meals (especially lunch and dinner) and save the fruit for snacks. Feel free to go off the beaten path and give veggies a try for breakfast. Who says you have to have breakfast food for breakfast? Try scrambled eggs with chopped veggies, or top a baked sweet potato with Greek yogurt and chopped nuts.
3. Include snacks.
If you are going 4+ hours between meals or find yourself hungry between meals, add a snack. The time between lunch and dinner is most often the biggest gap between eating during the day—sometimes 5 to 7 hours. Cravings tend to sneak up on you during this time as well. Fight cravings and trips to the vending machine by having healthy snacks readily available. Make sure they include at least two of the groups from the ChooseMyPlate diagram, such as:
- Grain + Protein
- Protein + Fruit or Vegetable
- Dairy + Fruit
4. Moderate Portions.
A couple of ways to do this:
- Use a salad-size plate instead of a regular dinner plate.
- Track what you are eating. Use free online tools like www.myfitnesspal.com to determine how many calories, protein, carbs, and fat you are consuming. This includes weekdays and weekends. Note: Do not go below 1,200 calories without medical supervision.
- Women typically stay between 1,200 and 1,800 calories for weight maintenance and weight loss. Older, more sedentary women should eat closer to 1,200 calories. Younger, more active women can eat for maintenance and weight loss, eating closer to 1,800 calories.
- Men typically fall between 1,800 and 2,200 calories for both weight loss and maintenance. Older, more sedentary men should eat closer to 1,800 calories. Younger, more active men can lose or maintain weight eating closer to 2,200 calories. Teenagers and young guys who are very active may need well above this amount. This range is relevant to those with desk jobs who get in a decent 30 to 45-minute workout during the day.
5. Make sure you are active throughout the day.
Think 3 minutes of activity (walking, walking in place, desk exercises, taking a flight of stairs up and down) for every 60 minutes of sitting. If you have time for a longer walk or workout, great!
6. Get your sleep.
Missing out on sleep can interfere with your mental acuity as well as your weight loss/maintenance efforts. Lack of sleep increases cravings for simple and refined carbohydrates that contain little nutritional value but lots of empty, unsatisfying calories. Give up the late-night shows and get your 7 to 8 hours of Zzzz’s. The benefits go well beyond more productivity at work.
There you have it! Were you able to check off all of the above? Great! Keep up the hard work. If not, celebrate National Nutrition Month by choosing one of the above recommendations and implementing it consistently. Once this behavior becomes second nature, adopt a new habit to practice. Remember, long-term success requires sustained practice and patience. Don’t let a small or even big bump in the road discourage you from moving forward. Your health is worth the effort!
Click below to download NIFS Top 4 Apps for Healthier Eating!