Any nutrition counselor who has seen thousands of patients or clients can tell you: No two people have the same eating habits or schedules, nor do they eat the same types of foods. Everyone has a different medical or weight history, and different family backgrounds too. Which means, fad diets don’t work for the long haul.

Many people have gotten off track with their dietary goals over the quarantine and now transition into living with a pandemic. Now may be a good time to check in with yourself and set some goals.

Find out About Your Family History

The reason that your doctor asks you about your grandparents, parents, and siblings, is because your family medical history impacts your health. When someone in your family has diabetes for instance, you have a chance of developing it at some point in life too.

Eating well can help reduce your risk. It isn’t a magic bullet of prevention, but it does help. Plus, if you begin a healthy eating routine before you’re diagnosed, you’ll better handle it since you’ll already be following a good eating plan. If you have a disease of any kind (high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, bowel or digestive diseases), fad-dieting can really be a problem. Having a pre-existing condition also puts you at higher risk for coronavirus complications. Ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian to review the specific diet therapy related to your medical history.

Carbohydrates Aren’t the Enemy

I see people shunning carbs everywhere I go – Skipping the bread basket, eating sandwiches without the bun. It would be nice to think that one simple ingredient could be the cause of our nation’s unhealthy waistlines, but so many other factors have impacted health and body weight over the past century. In spite of the Keto craze (yes, eating a diet high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrate will promote weight loss), I’m not convinced it’s healthy or sustainable for most people.

Think about all of the changes in the environment. Both adults and children have certainly become more sedentary. Desk jobs and technology have replaced a lot of jobs that required physical labor. Children are using their phones and tablets, instead of running outside to play after school. There are also many more types of junk foods on the market, as well as over-sized portions. Restaurants are on every corner and more people eat out and take out.

Food is everywhere. It’s not just the sugar or the bread.

Instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t eat, focus on what you should eat. Avoid getting into a diet rut, dwelling on the negative – this can happen with any aspect of your life. Step back. Resolve to focus on your whole diet and your total nutrition. Think about the whole day, not just one meal.

Mind-body Reboot

Don’t waste money on “detox plans” or low calorie diets. Set some simple goals for better daily diet and exercise habits:

  1. Skip alcohol.  If you enjoy a cocktail, that’s fine. Just be sure not to drink daily, and to limit your servings to 1 to 2 drinks per day. Perhaps you’ve just developed a “wine after work” habit. You’ll feel better if you skip it for a week or two once in a while. Make yourself some hibiscus iced tea with lemon or a nice cup of hot tea with honey, then settle into an easy chair to relax for an hour.
  2. Add antioxidants. Brightly colored fruits and veggies are loaded with important vitamins and are a healthy addition to your diet. Antioxidants help protect your body’s cells. Look for leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, or kale to cook up or add to salads. You can even make a fruit-and-veggie smoothie for a refreshing way to add important antioxidants to your diet.
  3. Add lean protein at breakfast and lunch. Studies have shown, that once you’re over 40, protein becomes even more essential to maintain a healthy diet. It’s not the carbs in general however, it’s that the carbohydrate foods (cereal, toast) aren’t being balanced with protein. You may need to just drill down your portions of starchy food like bread, rice or pasta instead. Research has shown that protein is best utilized when it’s spread out through the day however.  An ideal amount is about 20-30 grams at each meal. Milk, eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, or Greek yogurt can boost your breakfast protein. Choose a lean meat and vegetable at lunch as opposed to filling up on carbohydrates. Add protein to salads such as tuna, salmon, cottage cheese, beans, or chicken. Beans are a good source of protein too, and an excellent source of antioxidants – include them on salads, or in soups and chili.
  4. Limit sweets and dessert. If you’re someone who turns to sweets when stressed, did you overdo it over the last few months? Take a few weeks to focus on balanced meals, and skip dessert.
  5. Focus on fruit at snack time. It’s watermelon and cherry season! Enjoy some fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s likely that your fruit intake isn’t where it should be for optimal health.  You can enjoy fresh fruit in between meals to ensure that you get the servings that you need each day. If you’re in a banana rut, change things up a bit. Look for sale items in the produce section and treat yourself to some fresh berries, kiwifruit, nectarines, melons or pineapple. Frozen fruit is also economical and can help with food waste.
  6. Add a variety of whole grains. Try to plan and cook at least three meals at home each week. While refined grains are fine, include some whole grain.  Grains like quinoa, brown rice, wild rice or barley are economical, easy to prepare and can be eaten as healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. Try new recipes, like these quinoa crusted chicken fingers, and enjoy new flavors!
  7. Schedule exercise. Set small goals to get 10-15 minute of exercise in 6 days a week. Make time for it. Everyone has 15 minutes. As you get into that routine, you can add minutes. Before you know it you’ll be moving more each day.

If you limit yourself to one drink, make it a good one with benefits! Try my Mango G&T.