As the season of making resolutions comes upon us, we challenge you to make lifestyle changes that enhance your overall liveliness. This starts with fueling your body for success. Sure, you may hear of quick fixes to "jump start the new year" -- maybe you even have done some of those before -- but are you able to sustain that routine?
When you focus on food as fuel for your mind and body, you are intentional about setting your body up for success to do the things you love, rather than focusing on what you can't eat or drink. So where do you start? Thankfully, there are some awesome (and free!) tools to get you on the right track. First, make sure you're giving your body a variety of food groups. To find out what's recommended for you, get your MyPlatePlan from the USDA (https://www.choosemyplate.gov/resources/MyPlatePlan). After you enter your info into the online tool, a calorie goal will be given to you - click the calorie goal that corresponds with your age range on the table that appears below for the recommended number of servings of each food group for you. As you browse the site, you'll find other helpful information to help you incorporate food groups into your lifestyle, as well as meal prep and budgeting tips.
Once you have a guide for your snack and meal routine, it's time to analyze your choices. Even when we make lots of "healthy" choices, we can still be short on nutrients our body needs for optimal performance mentally and physically. Once again, there are a number of free resources to do this for you. One of the most common is MyFitnessPal. When you use the food diary portion of this app, you can scroll to the bottom of your daily food log and click the "Nutrition" button. On the next screen, select the "Nutrients" tab and you'll find information about your potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C intake! If you find that one of those nutrients is lacking, the fix is simple. Use your favorite internet search engine and type in "foods rich in vitamin A (or whatever it might be)." From the list that appears, find one or two you enjoy, and add it to your weekly shopping list.
As you build your healthy routine, the other part of the lifestyle change is to get rid of the things that don't help you reach your goals. How do you feel after eating foods high in sugar, sodium, or are highly processed (usually things with a long shelf life)? As you finish a sweet and creamy coffee drink, do you feel like you are ready to tackle whatever life throws at you, or do you maybe feel a little sluggish as the sugar crash happens and the cream starts to wear you down? While a drive-thru breakfast and lunch saves you prep time in the morning, how are your energy levels a couple hours later?
So, what are some substitutions for these foods and beverages? There are lots of convenient and cost effective alternatives to explore that can work whether you're planning for just yourself or getting a family fed in a rush between kids' activities. Just remember these tips: protein and fiber keep you full, and to always have at least two food groups represented.
Let's start with breakfast.
Everyone loves waffles, right? There are a number of brands that now sell frozen waffles with higher levels of protein than the traditional toaster waffles we tend to think of. Put two in the toaster, get a ping-pong ball-sized amount of peanut butter and smear it on them, and grab an orange or a banana and you're out the door in less than 3 minutes! Or perhaps you're craving an omelette but don't have 5-7 minutes (or don't want to clean up a pan)? Have your favorite veggies ready to go in the freezer - spray a coffee mug with non-stick cooking spray, put veggies in the bottom, crack a couple eggs into it and whisk them with a fork, then put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Keep microwaving little by little until the eggs are done to your liking. Don't have 3 minutes? When you buy a bag of your favorite frozen berry, put them into portion-sized baggies and toss them back in the freezer. Grab one of those and a packet of instant oatmeal (again - there are a number of brands that have released varieties with higher fiber and protein levels), and as you get to work grab your coffee cup and some hot water and make your oatmeal while your computer boots up. Toss the berries onto it for a well-rounded breakfast full of fiber, protein and antioxidants.
Remember the rules of eating to fuel your body - protein, fiber, and at least two food groups. Sure, a 100-calorie pack of cookies might keep you under your daily calorie goal, but what nutrients are you getting from it? Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins to keep your energy levels up, but alone, they aren't very filling. Almonds, walnuts, string cheese, Greek yogurt, whole grain crackers, hummus, guacamole, and peanut butter are easy on-the-go options. Many of these even can be purchased in single-serving containers for your convenience. If you're buying in bulk and portioning yourself, do take some time to research what the recommended serving size is.
Food prep - you hear about it all the time, and it's because it truly works. So again, FOOD PREP! Try a salad! When you buy your salad mix on the weekend, look for a date that will get you through the week. As soon as you get home, put it into individual containers so that your "base" is ready to go. Add any other veggies that won't get soggy as they sit with the greens during the week, so that in the morning, you can toss on your protein, dressing and any other add-ons (just remember - croutons, cheeses, etc. can quickly add calories and fat if you're not careful) and be on your way. With the cold weather, sometimes a salad doesn't quite cut it and you need something warm - look for low sodium soups with at least 10 grams of protein, and bring some fruits and veggies to go with it. If sandwiches are your thing, look for whole grain bread. If you love carbs, look for whole grain breads in "light" varieties - these have 45 calories per slice as opposed to approximately 90 calories per slice. Choose lean, low sodium deli meats, trying to stay away from the hodge-podge, highly processed varieties that are full of extra ingredients.
Keep it simple. Grilling lean cuts of meat and steaming veggies in the microwave is a quick and simple dinner that is full of vitamins and protein to help your body recover from a busy day! Crockpots are also a staple when schedules get busy - simply put your lean meat with some veggies and a low-sodium soup (if choosing a cream of mushroom, etc. variety, pick a low-fat option), and dinner is ready when you walk in the door. When choosing your carb for your dinner, choose whole-grain varieties such as brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, and potatoes. Remember to check the serving sizes to avoid feeling bloated before bed.
From everyone at the Y, we wish you a 2020 full of healthy success. We are here to support you and help you reach your goals. To schedule an appointment with a personal trainer click here or talk to the Front Desk about setting up an appointment with a dietitian. See you soon at the Y!