By Laurin Lambert, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with Singing River, Gulfport
It’s that time of year again — new year, new possibilities! We all have that area in our life that we promise to change in the new year. If moving toward a healthier version of yourself is the promise you’re making, here’s where to start:
1. Make the perfect plate. If you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, your goal is to eat 2 cups of fruits, 2-and-a-half cups of vegetables, 6 ounces of whole grains, 5-and-a-half ounces of lean protein (chicken, lean ground beef; seafood twice a week), and 3 cups of dairy or dairy substitute if you are lactose intolerant.
2. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Our bodies naturally are equipped to tell us when we are hungry or full; we just have to listen! However, it’s hard to listen to your body when you’re distracted. Put down the cell phone when you pick up the fork, and remember to chew your food slowly and savor the flavors.
3. Rethink your drinks. We know food can contain many additives like sugar and bad fats that can lead to weight gain. But what about your drinks? Your morning coffee with extra cream and sugar? The large soda? The evening glass or two of wine or girls-night margaritas? Even seemingly healthy options, like vitamin waters, often are loaded with sugar — which is very sneaky source of weight gain. Use sugar free or zero-calorie substitutes to help limit sneaky sugar.
One sure fix: water. Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. Feel free to add fresh fruit, Crystal Light or other flavor enhancers if desired.
4. Work hard, play hard. Cardio and strength training are essential to losing fat and building muscle. The weekly recommendation is at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity (like taking a brisk walk but still being able to carry a conversation) or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (breathing hard and difficulty having a conversation). A step class or a 40-minute jog are a couple of ways to get this activity in. Add muscle strength training on two or more days.
5. Celebrate non-scale victories. Step away from the scale, and stop beating yourself up if your number isn’t trending the way you’d like. As you limit portion sizes, add physical activity and hydrate with water, you may notice your weight goes up (because muscle weighs more than fat). Focus instead on how you feel. Can you get into your smaller-sized clothing more easily? Do you feel energized? Do you have a new sense of confidence? All these things are worth celebrating.
With the new year comes new promises and fresh starts. Let this be the year that you focus on creating a healthier you!