Many of us start the New Year with good intentions of eating healthy and exercising regularly.

By March – National Nutrition Month – it’s safe to say that old habits have often begun to resurface.

“Rather than be disappointed, now is a great time to refocus and feel reinvigorated,” said SSM Health Dean Medical Group – Janesville East Family Medicine Provider Dr. Paul Garcia.

A vital component of true success is to identify what is realistic and fits your lifestyle needs.

“A lot of people aren’t able to keep up with resolutions because they try to change too much at once,” Dr. Garcia said. “Small steps and actions that are sustainable are much better in the long run.”

This March, challenge yourself to focus on improving one or two of your nutritional habits. These small changes can make a tremendous impact on your overall health.

“Once you’ve truly gotten into the habit, it will be much easier to begin adding on new goals,” Garcia said.

Make better choices

  • A healthy, balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and proteins. Try your best to limit food items with added sugars, sodium, and fats, which do not contain helpful nutrients and are high in calories.
  • Challenge yourself to “eat the rainbow.” Foods of different colors offer variety in your diet and lots of different vitamins and minerals.
  • Focus on fiber, something that many adults do not get enough of. Fiber aids in digestion and helps to control blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fiber also helps you to feel full.
  • Limit sugary drinks. Many people are shocked by how many calories they consume through drinks. Capitalize on the benefits of drinking water!

Practice portion control

  • A healthy lifestyle is all about balance. Simply cutting back on portion size can help to reduce/maintain weight and still enjoy your favorite foods or treats.
  • When eating out, know that many restaurants offer portion sizes that are drastically larger than a person needs to eat at one meal. Try splitting an entrée, or immediately box up half of your meal to take home for another time.
  • Make your home portion friendly. If you buy bulk-size items, be sure to repackage into smaller containers. When eating, serve your portions on a plate or in a bowl. Snacking straight from a package can lead to overeating and excessive calorie intake.

Consistency is key

Research has indicated that it takes most people 1-2 months to truly form a habit. Take nutrition one meal at a time, one day at a time. Eventually, it will become easier, and you’ll begin to feel the benefits.

Remember your why

Continuing to keep good nutrition habits in mind will help you to feel better each day and live a healthier life. It’s not always easy, but remember that being overweight or obese is linked to a multitude of health problems, including:

  • All-causes of death
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Many types of cancer
  • Body pain and joint issues
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns

It’s never too late to make positive changes. Visit My Plate for more information on healthy eating, family-friendly recipes, activity ideas and more. If you need help getting started, be sure to speak with your primary care provider.

Guest author: Dr. Paul Garcia, Janesville East Family Medicine Provider at SSM Heath

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