Dietary habits: small changes, big rewards

Making small modifications in your eating habits goes a long way in combating lifestyle-induced disorders

blankA healthy lifestyle begins with eating the right kind of food. A healthy diet helps in weight management and can also improve health and quality of life as you get older to control many diseases. Thus, a healthy diet and lifestyle are your body’s best soldiers that fight cardiovascular diseases and other related problems.

Assess your lifestyle

Once you learn which foods are good for you, you need to look at your eating habits. If the foods you eat are not healthy, you might want to work within your habits and current lifestyle conditions, since they are usually tough to change.

Consider these questions, and then read on for tips to help you add healthy foods:

  • Do you eat in reaction to an emotion [bored, sad, or happy]?
  • Do you snack while watching the TV for no reason?
  • Do you eat home-made meals or restaurant food?
  • Do you eat fast food and how often?
  • Do you like to cook?
  • Do you skip breakfast or lunch, and then overeat in the day?
  • Are you conscious of portion size?
  • Do you crave sweets?

The answers to these will give you a fair idea of the kind of pattern you follow, which in turn affects your lifestyle. Here’s what you can do for a healthy lifestyle.

Balance your calories

Start by knowing how many calories you should be consuming and drinking to maintain your weight. Don’t eat more calories than you know you can burn every day. If you feel you have exceeded the number of calories, increase your physical activity to match it. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. Regular physical activity keeps a check on your weight. It is best to consult a qualified nutritionist to assess your daily needs.

Eat a variety of foods

Just eating plenty food is not enough. Ensure that you have nutrient-rich foods, which is low in calories and contains vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients. To do this, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and low-fat dairy products. Here are some simple ways to change how you eat:

  1. Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and blood pressure. Stick to water, milk and 100 per cent fruit and vegetable juices as your main beverages. If you get tired of plain water, add lime to add a touch of flavour.
  2. Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fibre that can help lower blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which in turn helps you manage weight. You can also include nuts and dried fruits in moderation.
  3. Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat. Avoid or minimise eating foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat.
  4. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids [like salmon, tuna] may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.
  5. Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300mg of cholesterol each day.
  6. Avoid beverages and foods with added sugars.
  7. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
  8. When you eat out, keep an eye on portion sizes.
  9. Any pasta or baked goods should be made from whole grains.
  10. Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Switching to skimmed milk or fat-free yogurt is another simple way to eat fewer calories

Tip: Make some substitutes. Look through your cabinets or fridge and pick three foods you eat every day. Write down the nutritional content and, the next time you’re at the

This was first published in the January 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Roshni Pithawala BHSc[F.S.N] amd PGD[Dietetics] is a consultant clinical dietician and counsellor. She works as a consultant with hospitals and corporate clients in Mumbai.


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