Fall can be a time of reflection and renewal. It is the start of a new academic or work year for most people. Many of us may now have a bit more time and energy to devote to making healthful lifestyle changes. Take this opportunity to focus on lasting lifestyle changes-changes you can live with. Fight the urge to bank on (literally) yet another dieting program or product.
Remember any change you make has a better chance of lasting when they are small, realistic changes. Adding positive behaviors like taking the stairs at work or enjoying a diet Coke in the afternoon instead of a regular calorie soda, fair better than changes that completely cut something out.
Here is a short list of some tips that can build positive changes in behavior to start this fall season.
Tip #1 — Choose meals rich in whole foods. Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, fish, and whole grains, are naturally high in nutrients and fiber. While eating mostly processed foods tends to translate into more sodium, sugar, and saturated fat than recommended. One of the easiest ways to boost your health is to switch to whole grains and limit processed grains. Intact whole grains are best like steel cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, etc…but switching to whole grain bread, bread products and cereals is a great first step and its never been easier to do in the supermarket and while eating out.
Tip #2 — Focus on fitness
Most of us would benefit greatly from adding more exercise and activity to our day. Think about all the ways that you can add small bouts of activity into your day at home and work, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or bringing walking shoes to work so you can take a walk on one of your breaks. You could wear a pedometer and look for ways to increase your daily step totals or get a good deal on exercise equipment that you think you will enjoy and really use at the end or beginning of your workday. For me this is a stationary bike that I climb on when dinner is in the oven or when I’m watching one of my favorite television shows.
Tip #3 – MindLESS eating is the problem, MindFULL eating is the solution!
Eating fast, eating while preoccupied, or following a fad diet are all examples of mindless eating. I strongly urge you to do the opposite and embrace mindful eating this fall. Eating mindfully involves paying attention to physical hunger and satisfaction, being aware of and curious about why we are eating when we aren’t hungry and learning from it. And mostly, eating mindfully means breathing deeply and being in gratitude before starting our meal, eating slowly and allowing yourself to taste, savor and find joy in every bite or sip.
Tip #4 – Don’t Ban Favorite Foods-Everything in Moderation!
Banning “treat” foods may eventually backfire by making those foods even more desirable. In research studies, girls who were allowed treats ate them moderately and tended to be thinner, while treat-deprived girls were found to eat larger amounts of banned foods when they weren’t even hungry and tended to be thicker. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003; 78(2): 215-220). When eating your favorite foods, practice mindful eating by eating slowly and truly tasting each bite. When you do this, you are more likely to be satisfied with a sensible serving of it.
Tip #5 – Pump Up The Produce Even In The Fall
Make a list of the fruits and vegetable s you really enjoy and look for them at the market and have them conveniently available in your freezer as well. Add frozen fruit to yogurt and hot/cold cereal. Add fresh or frozen vegetables you love to stir-fries, casserole, stews, pasta and more. Use your countertop grill (i.e. George Foreman grills) this fall to grill vegetables. Just brush them lightly with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil and pop them in your indoor grill until cooked to your liking.
Tip #6 – Drink for Hydration
Studies show that people maintain hydration best when they have a variety of flavors and drink choices available to them. Water is always a great choice but it’s reassuring to know that when you want something else with flavor you have options, all beverages hydrate! I recommend no-calorie beverages such as water, sparkling water or diet sodas like Coke Zero so you aren’t increasing calorie intake. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation by alternating alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic.