We all know that good nutrition (also known as alimentation) is vital to achieving optimum health.
Among other things, good nutrition:
- Aids in disease prevention
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol
- Increases the body’s ability to fight off illness and injury
- Increases energy levels
- Improves well-being
- Facilitates better sleep
- Enhances mental focus
Most of us want to be healthy, eat well, and exercise regularly. But it’s not always easy to break bad habits and replace them with healthy ones. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin.
If you want to improve your nutrition, we recommend starting small. Small actions make progress much more attainable and have the power to create big transformations in our lives over time.
Here are 10 small steps you can take today to improve your nutrition and get yourself on the path to a healthier you!
- Pay attention to labels. Health and wellness is a multi-billion dollar industry with thousands of products out there claiming to improve health or help with weight loss. Unfortunately, many low-fat and low-calorie food options are loaded with sugar, salt, and other ingredients that actually aren’t good for you at all. So it’s critical that you pay attention to and understand food labels. When evaluating a label, look for:
– Foods high in protein and fiber and low in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
– Foods that are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
– Real, whole ingredients (stay away from chemicals and food dyes wherever possible).
– The serving size, so you don’t overeat.
- Watch your drink calories. Everyone loves a mocha latte from Starbucks or the occasional ice-cold soda—but remember, they are full of calories! Drinking a ton of calories every day can make a big difference in how many calories you consume and can add up quickly. Be sure to pay attention to the calories in everything you’re consuming and cut back on the drinks that are full of empty calories. If you crave high-calorie, sweet drinks, use sugar-free syrup and low-fat creamers like coconut or almond milk. If you love soda, try flavored sparkling or fruit-infused water.
- Eat healthy fats. Fat in food gets a bad rap. We’re told to eat less fat and we’ll lose weight and get healthier. But what many people fail to realize is that fats serve an important purpose in our diet and nutrition. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the “good” fats) lower our risk for disease. Olive oil, fish, and nuts all have good fats that help you absorb nutrients, fuel your body, and help organ function. The two types of “bad” fats, trans fats and saturated fats, can increase the risk of disease and are best consumed in moderation. You should aim for 44-78 grams of fat per day.
- Drink more water. We know that this seems pretty obvious, but we cannot stress the importance of water in your everyday diet enough! Water is vital to all of our body’s functions. We recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day. So for example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you would want to drink 100 ounces of water each day. Here are some easy ways to increase your daily water intake:
– Drink 8 ounces as soon as you wake up in the morning and before every meal.
– Track how much you’re drinking each day so you know how much to add to your routine.
– Get a fun water bottle and take it with you everywhere.
– Add fruit or sugar-free flavor to your water.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is vitally important to our health and well-being. It helps our bodies heal, repairs damage, and improves concentration and energy, among other things. Good sleep also sets us up to implement better habits in our nutrition and exercise. You should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you struggle to get enough sleep, try going to bed earlier, establishing a calming nighttime ritual (like a bath, followed by a cup of chamomile tea and some reading in bed), and turning off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
- Make a plan. When we set ourselves up for success, we’re much more likely to achieve our goals. Nutrition and health are no different. You need to prepare yourself to make good choices. A few ways you can prepare for success are by purchasing healthy foods (so you can’t reach for the junk), finding an accountability partner for working out so you’re committed to showing up, and scheduling time to meal plan each week. We like to find recipes that can be made in bulk and then saved for dinners and lunches (and even breakfast!) for the entire week.
- Improve the variety of your food. We get vital nutrients from the foods we eat. But if we eat the same foods all the time or don’t include enough vegetables and fruits, we could be missing important nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. Try to “eat the rainbow” by adding a number of different types of fruits and vegetables to your meals each day. You can also commit to trying one new fruit or vegetable each week until you’ve discovered new healthy foods you love.
- Get moving. Obviously exercise is central to living a healthy lifestyle. But that doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym every day. Even moving for 10-20 minutes a day can have excellent benefits for your health. Find fun ways to incorporate working out into your daily routine. Play with your kids, take a walk with a friend, try a new class, or go on an outdoor adventure.
- Keep an eye on the extras. Salad dressing, condiments, and sauces can make food more exciting and flavorful, but can also add extra unwanted calories to your meal. Before adding any extras to your meal, pay attention to the calorie count and make sure you stick to the recommended serving. Substitute your favorite dressing for low-fat, fat-free, or sugar-free options, or flavor your food with spices and citrus instead.
- Don’t deprive yourself. Often, when we set out to lose weight or improve our health and alimentation, we jump in with the intent to transform everything about the way we eat. This can lead to depriving ourselves of the foods we enjoy, which can set us up for failure. No diet or lifestyle is all or nothing. You should still enjoy the foods you love most—but moderation is the name of the game! Work in a cheat meal each week or, if you’re craving something in particular, allow yourself to have a very small portion.
Phew! That’s a lot of information…but there’s more! To help you make healthier choices while still enjoying the foods you love, we’ve also created a downloadable PDF. Click below to get the 30 Healthy Substitutions for Your Favorite Foods
If you’re passionate about wellness and alimentation, we invite you to learn more about how you can turn that passion into a rewarding nutrition career. Watch our webinar to learn more about our six-month nutrition training now!