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New Year, New Healthy Habits

It's 2023! Along with the new year, it's time to make healthier lifestyle changes! It's never too late to start making smarter food and lifestyle choices and adding in healthier habits. Changing these things can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.


If changing your diet or lifestyle seems overwhelming, don't be discouraged! Making wise food choices is easier than you think. Keep reading for some tips on how to incorporate good food and lifestyle choices into your daily life.


There are so many diet options that promise results. How do you know which one is the best for you? Keto, Whole 30, DASH, WW (Weight Watchers), and the list goes on. Instead of a diet, consider one of these healthy eating patterns.

U.S. Style Eating Pattern- This eating pattern is based on the types and amounts of food Americans typically eat but focus on nutrient-dense and appropriate portion sizes. Nutrient-dense means foods that give you lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber without a lot of extra calories. Focus on eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, and nuts, seeds and soy products.


Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern- This eating style has been considered the gold standard of nutrition and wellness. This diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, lentils and olive oil. Red meats are limited, and poultry, eggs and dairy are eating in moderation. Limit refined grains, processed foods, and added sugar. The benefits of a Mediterranean diet include reduced inflammation, lower heart disease risk, weight loss, can help prevent certain cancers, and more.


Vegetarian Eating Pattern- This eating pattern contains no meat, poultry or seafood. It contains more soy, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. The benefits of a plant-based diet can reduce your risks of developing chronic diseases, decrease blood pressure, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and weight loss.


What and how much do I eat? For a typical 2,000 calorie diet, consider the following list as a guideline on how much of each food group to consume in a day (for the Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern):

  • Vegetables- 2 1/2 cup equivalent

  • Fruit- 2 cups equivalent

  • Grains- 6 oz equivalent

  • Protein from meat, poultry, eggs- 26 oz/week

  • Seafood- 8 oz/week

  • Nuts, seeds, and soy- 5 oz/week

  • Other Protein foods- 5 1/2 oz equivalent

  • Dairy- 3 cups equivalent

  • Oils- 27 grams

  • Limites on calories for other uses- 270 calories (or 14% of total calories)

Snacking is allowed, just try to make smart food choices. Instead of a bag of chips, have an ounce of cheese with some whole grain crackers. Instead of candy, try a piece of fruit. Other healthy options include peanut butter on whole wheat toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, raw veggies with hummus, etc.


Meal planning. One of the best ways to stick to a healthy eating pattern and a budget is to meal plan and make a grocery shopping list. Keep a list of things you need throughout the week, plan out a week or so of meals to make sure you have what you need, and stick to your list! Try not to impulse buy! Eating healthy can be expensive, but don't get discouraged. Take some time at the grocery to look at cost differences between brands, look at unit costs, focus on economical fruits and vegetables, try to buy in bulk when you can, and look for sales or coupons. There are resources available to help you plan a food budget. Visit this website for support, and for inexpensive healthy recipes. https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/


Activity. Balance the calories you eat and drink with a healthy amount of physical activity. A general rule of thumb is aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week but start out slow and do what is best for you. It's always wise to check with your doctor to get the best recommendations for you based on your current health status and activity level. What kinds of physical activity do you enjoy? Walking, running, dancing, housecleaning, or gardening? Do what you enjoy on most days of the week and increase the amount of time you do it or add in another activity.


Now it's your turn! Make a list of ways you can make some healthy lifestyle changes and start with one today! Keep a goal of a healthier lifestyle in your mind or write it on a piece of paper and keep it on your refrigerator. With some practice, these healthy choices will become part of your everyday life.


Resources: National Institute on Aging "What's on Your Plate? Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging"

Iowa State University "Spend Smart"


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