There’s plenty of drastic changes we can all make to our lifestyles to live healthier or manage our weight better. Big moves like going vegan, cutting carbs or not eating out will shrink your waistline as well as dramatically improve your health. However, in all reality, these extreme diet attempts rarely last for the long term because they’re just simply not practical for our day to day lives.
Many times, the healthiest eaters are not the carb counting veteran dieters, but rather the everyday simple folk who stick by just a few manageable rules. Like them, you too can take advantage of easy maxims which don’t require a completely new life. Here are a few simple things you can do to have the biggest impact on your health.
- Drink More Water
The first and easiest way to improve your diet is to do something which you have been told so many times before. DRINK MORE WATER! Keeping hydrated will regulate your hunger, give you more daily energy and help you think more clearly. Brain cells, made up of over 90% water, only function best under super saturated conditions. Other bodily systems follow the same suit, requiring that they have abundant water for important processes. In short, your body is meant to be well hydrated at all times and we constantly go with less than adequate amounts of water.
Needs vary between people and environments, but try to drink at least 1.75L of water each day. You can make a rule to drink a little bit from every fountain you pass in the day. Or, if you don’t pass many fountains you can just fill a water bottle and aim to finish it before the day is done. Lastly, if you are concerned about harmful chemicals or other substances in the water supply, pay up and get a good filter for your water system. Of all the things you can do for your nutrition, drinking more water is a habit that should be taken seriously.
- Add 2-3 More Serves Of Vegetables
Vegetables have amazing potential to impact our health, probably more than any other food group. Unfortunately for many, it is also the food group that is missing in our diets. By simply making it a point to add 2-3 more servings each day, you can help fend off future disease, have better blood sugar control, boost immunity and even lose weight.
All vegetables are good for you, but the best ones are the ones which you will repeatedly make a decision to eat. It doesn’t matter what kinds are packed full of antioxidants if you only eat them twice a year. Look for vegetables that you know you enjoy and can eat day after day. If you can’t think of many vegetables which appeal to you, use a low fat dressing or hummus for dipping. You can also go experiment with new produce you’ve never eaten much before to try veges in new and different ways.
Don’t worry about picking out all organic or fresh vegetables. Frankly, we don’t yet have the evidence to say eating organic will make a large difference in our health. People should be more concerned with just eating enough vegetables in the first place. If pesticides and chemicals are a concern to you, use a produce spray to wash your vegetables before you eat them. Fresh vegetables can be expensive when out of season, so try frozen ones for a fraction of the price too. After a little experimentation, you’ll find eating vegetables every day is cheaper than most of the other foods you eat already.
- Track What You Eat For a Week
Everyone needs to evaluate what they eat from day to day. Sometimes though, we lose track of our choices between meals. Many people say they keep a strict dietary program while overlooking the nutritional fibs and frequent splurges. A couple of years ago, Consumer Reports did a test which compared how people thought about their diet compared to how they were actually eating (1). 90% described their diet as “somewhat”, “very” or “extremely” healthy, when actually, a third of these people had diets consisting of sugar sweetened beverages and lacking vegetable intake.
The point being, majority of us are shocked when we actually see a summary of what we eat. Thankfully, there are tons of ways to do this now. You can simply write down what you eat in a log of some sort or you can use one of the many free smart phone apps available. Many people find benefit by just tracking a certain nutritional aspect they’re focused on controlling (ex: fat, sodium, calories). Not only can tracking your intake be surprising, it can offer lots of guidance as to what habits you may especially want to change in the future.
Just remember that improving your nutrition and health doesn’t require you to live a different life. Instead, try to always focus on habits that can be maintained with your current lifestyle. Though some may need radical change, many can benefit from a little diligence each day.
- “Diet & Nutrition.” Healthy Diet. Consumer Reports Health Survey, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/diet-nutrition/diets-dieting/healthy-diet/overview/index.htm>.