It’s Never too Late to Make Nutrition Changes
March 1, 2022
Diet Tweaks that Work
In Asheville, we know about good food and we are quickly approaching one of the most prolific times of the year with fresh produce coming into season soon leading the way for all of us hungry citizens to sign up for local CSA’s, visit weekly tailgate markets and identify the newest varieties of tomatoes, squash apples, and frankly, anything that grows. But not everyone holds fresh, local produce in that high of a regard. For those of you that prefer to purchase your food in a box and avoid the time spent shopping, prepping and cooking, you can still find ways to improve your diet by making tweaks along the way. The best part? It will taste so good!
When it comes to incorporating changes to your diet, it is better to make small changes rather than big changes that have a significant impact on the diet such as eliminating food groups or skipping meals altogether. The key to sustainable changes with diet is to integrate new ways of eating one small step at a time.
Add more vegetables
Start by adding more vegetables to your daily meals. Make it fun and simple by starting with eating more of your favorites. If you only grew up eating carrots and nothing else fresh then start there. Try making small additions wherever possible such as adding veggies to a sandwich like different types of lettuces, herbs, sprouts, and crunchy radishes. Of course, salads will be a no brainer for adding more vegetables. One way to make your salads more interesting and appealing is to make theme salads. Try creating an Asian style or Southwestern style salad and this will help you determine what vegetables to add in. For example, at one the monthly Pisgah Valley Retirement life enrichment activities, we performed an Asian slaw food demonstration with fresh ingredients. This salad has common Asian ingredients such as red cabbage, ginger, soy sauce and mung beans. We discussed focusing on adding rather than taking away and the overall feeling from the audience was less stressed about healthy changes and more excited about all of the colorful additions.
Rely on the Daily Dozen
Dr. Michael Gregor, M.D., FACLM author of the book, “How Not to Die” lists his “Daily Dozen.” Sometimes we all fall off the wagon a little, so when you feel as though your diet has not been going in the right direction, try incorporating some of Dr. Gregor’s Daily Dozen and that may help frame your food choices throughout the day. The Daily Dozen includes:
- Beans- 3 servings
- Berries- 1 serving
- Other Fruits- 3 servings
- Cruciferous Vegetables – 1 serving
- Greens – 2 servings
- Other Vegetables – 2 servings
- Flaxseeds – 1 serving
- Nuts – 1 serving
- Spices – 1 serving
- Whole Grains – 3 serving
- Beverages (water, unsweetened tea, unsweetened herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee) – 5 serving
- Exercise – 1 serving
This list can seem overwhelming, but in one day this is not an impossible task to complete, especially if you like to eat! Think about ways to make the list more manageable and not so large by making dishes that includes many parts of the daily dozen into one meal. Try making a fruit salad and adding all the daily dozen fruits or make a stir fry with brown rice. This could include ALL of the daily dozen vegetables, nuts, spices, grains, and beans – that meal alone contains six off the list and just like that you’re half way there for the day! If the list still seems intimidating, try slowly adding in a new component to your regular diet each day for a month. You will learn along the way what you like and do not like and also that it’s the small, gentle changes that tend to be more sustainable.
Stay Away from Added Sugars
One food that you will not find on the Daily Dozen list is added sugar. Added sugars are sugars or syrups that have been added in the processing and preparation stages of the food or beverage product. They are different from sugars that are naturally occurring in fruits and milk. In order to avoid added sugars one must read food labels and also aim to eat primarily whole foods. Whole foods are foods that come from the earth and have not been processed. The recommendation for added sugars is no more than 36 grams (9 tsp) of added sugar for men and no more than 24 grams (6 tsp) of added sugar for women per day.
If there’s one change that you can make to your regular diet it’s avoiding added sugars. These pesky yet tasty components only provide flavor to food and hold no other health benefits. In fact, added sugars increase blood sugar levels, increase weight gain, and create physiological changes that make people want more which is not good.
Diet is personal for everyone and we are all different. We should celebrate our differences even with food! The one common denominator for all of us is that it’s never too late to improve your nutrition. If you want to make healthy changes to your diet then take the route of least resistance and slowly make diet tweaks by adding more vegetables and fruits first. Next focus on the Daily Dozen and moderate your sugar intake. Finally, keep your beverages clear and stick as close to water as possible as your go to for hydration. You may notice yourself having more energy, dropping a couple of pounds and looking forward to prepping the next meal more than ever.