September Health Column by Dora Meyer, Health Educator

Developing Healthy Eating Habits

Eating a healthy diet can prove to be a difficult challenge. Many of us know what we should be eating in order to be healthy. But puttng that knowledge into daily practice can be a daunting task! The key is to let go of our old habits and adopt new and healthy ones.
Developing new habits takes work. We have to break out of our old routine and keep repeating the new behavior until it becomes familiar.


You may wonder exactly what healthy eating habits look like. Read through the list below to see how many of these sound similar to your daily routine:

• You drink water as your main beverage rather than soda or juice
• Your daily snacks are fruits and vegetables, not chips or crackers
• You eat as a family for most of your meals (or at least once a day)
• Your meals contain a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and small amounts of dairy, fish, and 
lean meats
• Desserts are fresh fruit. Sugary desserts are an occasional treat 



Reflecting on Your Eating Habits 
Take a few days examine your own habits. Write down where you eat, how you eat, when, and with whom. For example, do you tend to eat standing up? Do you skip lunch and end up reaching for snacks by mid‐day? Do you eat too fast? Reflect on your habits and pick a few that you would like to work on.


Tips for Healthy Habits 
Below are 6 tips that can get you started on your path to healthy eating. 



Tip 1: Plan Ahead 


Write down 3 healthy meals per week before grocery shopping. Write the ingredients needed for those meals and bring the list with you the next time you go shopping. Gradually work up to planning for 4 or 5 meals per week. By planning meals, you have less of a tendency to grab takeout food because you find that you have nothing in the fridge. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables and fruits. Frozen foods are just as healthy as fresh as they are usually picked at the peak of ripeness and have high vitamin content. You can use frozen vegetables to prepare fast weekday dinners.
And speaking of planning ahead, the next time you make a batch of soup or tomato sauce, double the recipe and freeze the extra portion for a quick and easy meal later on.



Tip 2: Prepare


Take one day a week to wash and cut vegetables for the next few days. Cut up carrots, peppers, and cucumbers into matchsticks, break apart broccoli and cauliflower into florets, and wash and spin dry lettuce. After preparing the vegetables, wrap them in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic airtight bag in the fridge. They will remain fresh for four or five days. (Most fresh veggies can be prepared in this way with minimal nutrient loss if protected from light and air).

Tips 3: Think in Color

Try to add lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to every meal. As a rule, include at least 3 kinds of fruits/ veggies, or a combination of both with each meal.
Incorporate both raw and cooked vegetables. Imagine your dinner plate divided into 3 segments. Vegetables should cover about half of the plate; one fourth should be protein foods, and one third starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes, and rice.


Tip 4: Sleep

Wait, what does sleep have to do with eating habits? Think about the last time
What did you use as a pick me up in the afternoon? Perhaps a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, to give your body a sugar and caffeine jolt. On average, you require around 7.5 hours of sleep per night for your metabolism to function properly. What’s worse, sleep deprivation causes your body to release too much of one hormone, Ghrelin, that causes you to eat more, and too little of another hormone, Leptin, that signals your body to stop eating. This hormone imbalance coupled with a sluggish metabolism can mean extra kilos on your waistline.


Tip 5: Eat your Meals as a Family

A study conducted by the Harvard School of Medicine showed that families who at together ate least 3 days per week were more likely to have healthier diets and consume less fat overall. This was especially true for children, who consumed higher amounts of key nutrients such as calcium, fiber, and iron. Eating together provides an opportunity to be a role model of healthy eating for your children.


Tip 6: Start Small

Do not try to make any huge changes to your diet or routine all at once. Commit to one small change and stick to it until it becomes a regular habit. For example, start by eating a piece of fruit every night for dessert instead of cookies, or nibbling on carrot and celery sticks for an afternoon snack rather than crackers. As new habits become part of your routine you can continue to add more healthy changes.

To learn more about me, visit http://www.healthy‐start.net. Please email me with your ideas, questions, and suggestions! Dora Meyer, Health Educator, dzuppe@yahoo.com
Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/sleep‐disorders/excessive‐sleepiness­‐10/lack­‐of­‐sleep­‐weight­‐gain
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/04/daily-­‐chart-­‐17
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/feb/15/foodanddrink.ethicalfood

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