Another year; new resolutions. 2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us. We learned that we must be adaptable and resilient. We must always strive to improve our lives which means that we need preparation by making short-term goals to improve our lives. Based on the lessons learned in 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, we realized that those with underlying comorbidities were more at risk for getting COVID-19 than others. It is best to take steps in preventing COVID-19 and other chronic diseases by making healthy lifestyle changes to improve health and/or maintain good health. Listed below are 10 simple changes that can be made to increase your health in 202.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a major component of eating healthy and leading a positive lifestyle. They are high in fiber which helps with weight loss, lower cholesterol, and blood sugar. They are also low in calories and contain essential vitamins and minerals such as; vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and folic acid which assist in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Add vegetables to your diet by choosing fresh, frozen, or canned. Be sure to look for low sodium or no salt added options. Add fruits to your diet by enjoying the colors of the season. Go for 100% juice, frozen, canned, or dried. If you have diabetes monitoring the amount of fruits that you are eating.
Decrease your intake of processed foods
"Processed foods” are foods that have been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged, or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving, or preparing in different ways. Added sugar is hidden in processed foods They are also hidden in bread to give it an appealing brown color. It is also added in jarred pasta sauce and cereal. Added sugars are used in low-fat foods to improve taste and consistency. Processed foods are also high in salt. Salt is commonly added to preserve foods and extend shelf life. Most canned vegetables, soups, and sauces have added salt. When purchasing foods read food labels and choose foods with no salt added, low-sodium, or reduced-sodium to decrease the amount of salt you're consuming from processed foods (1).
Minimize intake of fried food
You do not need to eliminate fried foods from your diet. Eating fried foods can increase your chances of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and has been linked to early death (2). Fried foods are high in unhealthy fats that will raise your bad cholesterol and lower your good cholesterol. Everything from potato chips to fried chicken contains unhealthy fats which can affect your body’s ability to move blood freely through your arteries. Eating fried food frequently can contribute to clogged arteries which can lead to heart attack and stroke. If you do fried food occasionally at home you can choose healthy fats and limit using it in excess. The best way to prepare your meals is by baking, broiling, poaching, and grilling which reduce the amount of oil used, whether it is healthy or unhealthy.
Eating more whole-grain foods
Eating whole-grain foods is a major component of very .in eating healthy. Every bite should count to help your body work well. Whole-grain foods keep you satisfied longer, help with digestion, and add extra fiber to your diet. Try some whole-grain foods that you are not familiar with- like spelt, bulgar, farro, Kamut, sorghum, and amaranth. These foods are particularly useful to people who are trying to manage diabetes, high blood pressure and lose weight. Whole-grain foods still need to be eaten in moderation. Try to eat no more than your fist size (3).
Decrease your current portion size by half
One of the most popular resolutions for this year is eating healthier in 2021 (4). Many people started the year with this in mind but yet the scale is not moving in the right direction. It might be because the portion of food consumed is too large. Try decreasing the portion of food on your plate to half of what you would normally eat. If you order food or cook your meals at home, eat only half. Save the other half for lunch or dinner for the next day. Set yourself up for success. Try always using a plate even when you order take out. It is easy to eat a larger portion when you eat from the container (5).
Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
Juice, soda, sports drinks, wine, coffee, and tea with added sugar will add more calories to your daily intake. Water is calorie-free and it is the healthiest way to stay hydrated. Your body needs water to move oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Adequate water intake also helps with digestion and flushes bacteria out of your body. Proper water intake helps maintain your sodium levels which keeps blood pressure and heartbeat normal. When you are well hydrated it allows your body to function well.
Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is a fancy way to do what mom always told you which is to slow down. Enjoy your food. Savor every bite. First of all are you even hungry? Where is your mind taking you? Are you stress eating? Take the time to enjoy your meal. Enjoy the colors, textures, aromas as well as taste. Eat at your table if possible. Set a nice place to eat. Take away other distractions. Several studies show that it is possible to overeat when distracted. A great example is a popcorn at the movies. When you look at the large popcorn, your mind says that portion is too big. Miraculously once inside the theater in the dark while focused on the movie all the popcorn disappears. Mindful eating will help give more satisfaction at meals (6)
Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
“Exercise more” is the most popular resolution for the year 2021. 44% of individuals chose this as their number one priority (7). A sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy because our bodies are designed to move. American Heart Association reports that only 1 in 5 adults and teens are getting at least 150 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. It is also beneficial to add muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week and be physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times per week. Maybe it may look like 10-minute intervals 3 times for the day but adding physical activity to your daily routine is a big step towards a healthy lifestyle.
Get adequate rest
Rest is the body's opportunity to restore and repair. Your body needs adequate rest to function properly. Developing good sleeping habits are just as important as eating healthy and exercising regularly. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teenagers should sleep between 8-20 hrs. Young adults and adults 7-9 hrs. and older adults 7-8 hrs. Studies show that sleep physically helps with your body throughout the day and mentally keeps your mind focused. Sleep also helps with weight loss, reduces stress, and also for those with diabetes it helps with regulating blood sugar level (8)
Monitor your weight weekly
No news is good news doesn't apply to your weight. It should not totally surprise or unravel you to know your weight. Knowledge is power and it helps to keep you focused on your goals. If you are at an abnormal weight, losing 7-10% of your current body weight can help to lower your blood pressure, your cholesterol, and your blood sugar level if you have diabetes. At a lower weight, you will have less stress on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet, you will get an increase in your mobility and also an increase in energy and stamina.
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