“With the right food choices, physical activity and not smoking, we could prevent about 80 percent of heart disease, about 90 percent of diabetes and 70 percent of stroke, “ says Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Most of us know the right food choices. Eat less red meat and consume more fruit and vegetables. Drink fewer sugary drinks. Putting it in to action is a more difficult task. We need to change our behaviors not just our thought processes. Focus on behaviors and not just outcomes. Easier said than done. Here are 10 easy behavioral changes to make:
1. Swap out one snack each day for a piece of fruit and a low fat yogurt.
2. Each week replace one serving of pasta, rice or potatoes with a serving of beans.
3. Exchange a high sugar breakfast (donut, scone or sugary cereal) for a serving of whole grain cereal, such as oatmeal or kashi.
4. Replace your chips/pretzels with nuts. Make sure you measure and keep your serving size at 1-2 ounces per day. Nuts make a good compliment with fruit for an afternoon snack.
5. Change one of your regular dinner side dishes into a vegetable. If you are already serving one vegetable with dinner, serve two. The goal is five servings of vegetables a day. Are you getting even close to that?
6. Give up sugary drinks all together. Drop the Starbucks latte for a regular coffee. Replace soda with seltzer water. Add a little fruit juice to give it a kick. And stay away from the artificial sweeteners. You will save both calories and money
7. Replace processed meats with no-nitrite added deli meats. Nitrites are leading cause of colorectal cancer, topping even red meats. This will help lower your sodium intake as well.
8. Replace one weekly meal of chicken, red meat or turkey with fish. Fish such as salmon is loaded with omega 3s which are essential to heart and brain health.
9. Make one meal each day a huge salad. Load it with colorful veggies, a lean protein, beans and nuts. Drop creamy dressing for low fat vinaigrette. Skip the bacon and croutons. Go light on cheese.
10. Get out each day and move. Even if you can’t make time for a long workout, movement counts towards health. Park far away, take the stairs, walk your dog, play with your kids. Make a conscious effort to move every day.
If making all these changes at once seems daunting, try starting with one change per week. One small change per week will add to up to a whole new lifestyle in as little as 10 weeks!