How to Make Permanent, Positive Changes in Your Diet

Photo courtesy of USDA

Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle are not about deprivation; it’s about moderation and variety. Living in Arizona offers easy access to year-round farmer’s markets and myriad options for in-season fruits, vegetables, access to beef, eggs and dairy fresh from the farm.

If you want to make permanent, positive changes in your diet you need to learn how to eat smarter. It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat it. Your food choices can help you reduce the risk of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Healthy eating can also ward off depression. Eating healthy will boost energy, stabilize mood and help regulate weight.

Rather than dump all unhealthy food out of your pantry, create a plan for a healthy, satisfying diet by adding more fruits and vegetables to your recipes and meal plans. Implement small changes as they will be easier to stick with in the long run.

Healthy Tip #1: Plan for success

Change your eating habits over time. Thinking that you can change your diet to a 100% healthy one overnight isn’t realistic. Instead of counting calories or weighing and measuring portion sizes, think in terms of color, freshness and variety. Find recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Instead of reaching for potato chips for a snack after lunch, grab an apple or some carrot sticks. Rather than having bread and rice for dinner, swap bread for a vegetable. Keep track of how many fruits and veggies you’re eating a day right now and add more to your diet – a small, positive change.

Healthy Tip #2: It’s not what you eat, but how you eat it

Being healthy isn’t just about how much food you have on your plate, but it’s how you think about food. Think about food as something to be enjoyed, not something to simply eat because you have to. Enjoy your meals. Savor them. Arrange the food on your plate so that it’s eye appealing. Eat with others when possible. Plan for family dinners and don’t eat in front of the television. Remember breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. It’s a great way to start the day with a piece of fruit and a whole grain meal.

Healthy Tip #3: Eat a rainbow of colors

Fruits and vegetables should be the cornerstone of any healthy diet. Low in calories and packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, fruits and veggies are part of a healthy diet. When selecting what to eat, go for the colors of the rainbow:

  • Greens are rich in zinc, Vitamins A, C, E and K, iron, potassium and help strengthen the blood.
  • Fruits provide antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. Apples provide fiber; berries are cancer-fighters; oranges and mangos offer vitamin C.
  • Sweet veggies can curb cravings for other sweets. Examples of sweet vegetables are sweet potatoes, winter squash, certain onions, corn, carrots and even beets.

Shop local whenever possible and incorporate in-season fruits and vegetables into your daily menu plans.

Healthy Tip #4: Add healthy carbs and whole grains to your diet

Rather than eliminating carbohydrates from your diet completely, choose healthy options such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly to keep you feeling fuller longer. Unhealthy carbs include white flour, refined sugar and white rice that digest quickly and spike blood sugar levels.

Whole grain options include brown rice, quinoa (KEEN-wa) and barley.  Whole grains and other healthy carbs are rich in antioxidants and protect against certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Select foods containing whole grains and fiber like slow cooking oatmeal.

Healthy Tip #5: Don’t forget the protein

Foods containing protein are broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of growth and energy.  Protein comes in many forms.

  • Red meats such as high quality beef are a way to incorporate protein into your healthy eating.
  • Black beans, navy beans, garbanzos and lentils are healthy non-meat alternatives.
  • Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios are healthy protein choices especially as a snack.

Making healthy lifestyle choices are important for both you and your family and are easy to incorporate into your daily routine with a little time and planning. When in doubt, follow the USDA Food Pyramid. Make sure your daily diet includes dairy, water and a dose of exercise.

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