Nutritional Wellness: Eating Well for Better Health

July 15, 2019

We all know that eating well can improve our overall health and well-being. This is true even if you are currently facing health challenges. According to the National Institutes of Health, even if you already have one or more chronic diseases, eating well may help you better manage conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Mediterranean-style diets – which place an emphasis on eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and eating moderate amounts of fish while using healthy fats and oils like those found in nuts, olives and avocados – have been particularly successful in helping people age well. The Harvard Health Letter suggests following such a diet can reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke and premature death. Here are some other tips to help you eat more nutritiously.

Set a goal

Create some specific, realistic goals to improve your diet. This may be to lose 10 pounds, lower your cholesterol, or simply to feel better. The trick is to set a goal that will motivate you to continue even during those times you’re tempted to cheat. Put your goals in writing and make them SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Enlist the help of family and friends, so they can support you in your meeting your objectives.

Take small steps

For some, eating more healthfully can be a challenge. The goal here is to take small steps, making incremental changes over a period of time. For instance, you may set the goal of reducing in-between-meal snacks or substituting more healthy foods, like almonds, for less healthy foods, like potato chips. As you set these goals and succeed, then you can focus on larger goals.

Track your progress

It’s important to track your progress when you are trying to change a habit. It helps you to see if you’re meeting your goals and serves as a reminder to keep trying. Keep a journal of the healthy things you do and the progress you’ve made.

Reward yourself

When you reach your goal, reward yourself in a healthy way. This may include treating yourself to a spa day or getting that latest tech gadget you’ve had your eye on for months.

Manage setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of the process. The secret to continued success is learning how to manage these setbacks as you progress toward your goal. Use your setbacks as a chance to evaluate what went wrong, modify your plan so that you’re more likely to succeed and reapply yourself to reaching your goal.

Eat nutrient-dense foods

Make your calories count by including a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains into your diet. Foods that are particularly rich in nutrients include wild Alaskan salmon (rich in Omega-3s), blueberries (high in antioxidants), kale (a powerful anti-inflammatory food rich in vitamins), avocados (a good source of healthy fats), eggs (high quality protein and nutrients), chia seeds (high in fiber and protein), and almonds (high in calcium).

Don’t confuse “low fat” foods with good health

Many low-fat or nonfat foods are loaded with sugar (and therefore, calories), which can be more harmful to health than fats. Second, not all fats are created equal. Many foods high in fat – avocados, olive oil, wild salmon, walnuts – have numerous benefits and can actually help improve health. There are fats you should always avoid – trans fats being the main culprit, which you can identify on food labels when you see the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set June 18, 2018 as the date all food manufacturers must ensure that their products no longer contain partially hydrogenated oils for uses that have not been otherwise authorized by FDA. But that compliance date has been pushed to January 1, 2020 for those products produced prior to June 18, so there may still be some food products on the shelves that contain partially hydrogenated oils.

Get advice from experts

Carol White, MS, RD and Elisabeth Daniels, MS, RD are both registered dieticians at Kline Galland Home. They offer this advice: “The importance of good nutrition for staying healthy through all stages of life cannot be overemphasized. A balanced diet (which includes drinking enough water!) can help maintain energy, strong muscles, and a clear and focused mind, and can delay or prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Newer research even shows that diet can play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s.”

 This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Speak to your doctor and/or a registered dietitian if you have questions about your nutritional needs.