March 8, 2019

Small Victories Boost Nutrition in Big Ways

article is also available in Spanish

For Ola, it was switching from white to brown rice.  For Julie, it was buying less soda for her and her family.  For Kim, it was experimenting with new vegetables in her cooking.  For Amin, changing his diet allowed him to stop using some of his prescribed medication.

All four are in our Heartland Health Centers cooking classes at sites around the North Side,  and all four are healthier, happier and more confident as a result.

Do one Internet search and you can find multiple diets claiming to be the best, claims about “superfoods” and advice about foods you should never eat. But the truth is, a few simple guidelines and celebrating the small victories are often all you need.  Here are some tips to help you work toward your own victories!

1. Eat fruits and vegetables every day  Try to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Diets high in fruits and vegetables lower your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer.  Whether you eat organic, non-organic, fresh, frozen or canned, you’re going to be making a good choice for your body if you choose more fruits and vegetables

2. Make half of your grains whole grains  Whole grains are foods like oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole corn. Refined grains are foods like white pasta, white rice, desserts like cake and cookies, and many breakfast cereals.  Whole grains help keep you full, regulate your blood sugar, and maintain your intestinal health, lowering your risk of many diseases including diabetes and heart disease.

3. Eat lean proteins, especially plant proteins  Lean proteins are foods lower in saturated fat, such as chicken, turkey, pork chops, fish, and eggs (instead of sausage, chorizo, bacon, and hamburgers!)  Plant proteins are things like beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and lentils. Plant proteins also contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Research has linked diets higher in plant proteins to a lower risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

4. Choose low fat dairy  Dairy foods are the best source of calcium in the average American diet which is needed to build strong bones, for our muscles, nerves and heart to work properly, and for our blood to clot.  If you don’t eat dairy, you can get calcium from foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, sardines, and leafy greens. If you buy non-dairy milk such as soy milk or almond milk, make sure it is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

5. Watch your sugar intake  Sugar is delicious, but in high quantities it can be harmful to our bodies!  Higher sugar intakes increase your risk for weight gain and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.  Save sugary drinks and desserts for just occasionally during the week.  If you crave something sweet, try snacking on frozen fruit or a sparkling water instead of those cookies or a soda.

6. Move a little every day  It’s recommended to get about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk, each day.  However, even a little movement such as standing up, stretching, or going on a walk can lower your risk for disease and make you feel better!

7. Work on stress reduction  Chronic stress puts your body in a constant state of emergency. Over time, this stress can increase your risk for diseases. Some things that can help reduce stress are:

  • meditation or deep breathing
  • laughing
  • getting enough sleep
  • seeking professional counseling
  • exercise
  • eating a healthy diet

Are you interested in learning more or working toward a victory of your own? If so, fill out our class survey or call Amanda at 312-718-0660.