Tag Archives: healthy choices

New Year’s Resolutions

I am a big believer in setting goals.  The start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate where you are in many areas of your life and set some goals for improvement.  I hope you will set some health related goals for the new year among your other resolutions.  Here are some tips I have for making any goals, but they might especially apply to any diet or weight goals.

– Be specific.  Don’t set the goal to “eat more vegetables” or “exercise more”.  A nebulous goal makes it almost impossible to measure your success.  For example, my goal last year was to exercise at least four times each week.  It gave me a specific number to aim for, but also didn’t give me an excuse to sleep in every fifth day.

-Think through the execution of your goal.  Sometimes you will realize a goal is not possible because you aren’t willing to make the changes necessary.  Say you want to pack your own lunch for work every day.  Thinking this through, this requires buying extra food for those lunches as well as probably getting up 10-15 minutes earlier to make that lunch.  If those aren’t reasonable changes for you, don’t make the goal about packing lunch.

-Put your goals somewhere you will see them frequently.  I use a note on my phone for my daily to-do list.  I keep my goals at the top of that list.  It means I have to see them every time I open my list and helps me remember to put those items among my to-do’s.

-Re-evaluate frequently.  You may reach a goal faster and easier than you thought.  Great!  Challenge yourself to something new.  Maybe a goal is harder to attain than you anticipated.  This gives you a chance to think of new approaches.

-Call an audible.  This kind of goes with the last one.  Don’t be afraid to just say something isn’t going to work.  If you set the goal to go to the gym three times a week and you discover you hate the gym, call an audible.  It’s ok to give up on a goal that is dragging you down.  What isn’t ok is to just give up on yourself.  Take what you learn from the failed goal to create a new, better goal for yourself.

What are your diet or health related goals for 2015?  I’d love to hear them in the comments.

For more on “healthy” resolutions, read here.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Beyond vitamins

Salads are a great way to incorporate a rainbow of colors.

Salads are a great way to incorporate a rainbow of colors.

People often wonder if they can just take a multi-vitamin and skip eating their fruits and vegetables. I always say no! A pill does not contain all the phytochemicals your foods do, among the many other benefits of foods over supplements.

Phytochemicals are substances that naturally occur in plant foods. They can contribute to the color, flavor, or odor of the plant. The difference between a phytochemical and a vitamin is that phytochemicals are not known to be essential. A phytochemical can have health benefits, though. You might be more familiar with the names of some of the common phytochemicals than the term phytochemical itself: flavonoid, carotenoid, isoflavones, phytonutrient.

There are many health claims out there for phytochemicals. Some are thought to help fight cancer, such as lutein and isoflavones. Resveratrol, a phytochemical in grapes and red wine, may help slow the effects of aging. Beta-carotene may boost the immune system and help with vision. Research is ongoing on how these substances effect the body and in what amounts.

How do you get enough phytochemicals? By eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables. The color of the plant can correspond with different phytochemicals. For example, beta-carotene is found in dark orange or dark green leafy vegetables. Lycopene is found in red foods, particularly tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit. Anthocyanidins are found in red and purple berries. By consuming a balanced diet with many different colors of fruits and vegetables, you will get a variety of phytochemicals and all of their health benefits.

So make sure you are getting not only your recommended number of fruits and veggies each day, but also make sure there are a rainbow of colors in there, too.  Happy eating!

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Q&A: Holiday Eating

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Q: During the holidays, I eat at other people’s homes frequently. How do I eat healthy and control my weight when I am not planning the menu?

A: Great question! The holidays are often a difficult time for making healthy choices. Treats are everywhere, and big meals become the norm. Here are a few tips for eating healthy when you are eating at someone else’s home.

-Make sure your other meals are very healthy. If you know you are eating at a party for dinner, make sure you eat extra fruits and veggies at breakfast and lunch. Then your daily total will still be adequate.

-Eat light at other meals to balance overall intake. However, make sure you aren’t making yourself go hungry. Excessive hunger will just lead to overeating.

-Try and focus on any healthy dishes that are available.

-If you can, stick to one plateful. If this will leave a bad impression with your hostess, take a second helping before you finish your first. I know that seems strange. But, if you add just a little bit of a second helping to what remains of your first, your plate will look more full and you will eat less food.

-Spread food out on your plate. Avoid tall mounds of potatoes. By making food a thinner layer, it looks like your plate is full when you have less food on it.

-If the event is potluck, bring something healthy yourself.

-If you are hosting a holiday event, try to focus on health when planning your menu. Make it easier for others to keep their goals. If we all try to help each other out, everyone’s holiday eating will be healthier.

I hope that helps. The most important thing to remember is that a little splurging here and there in the holidays isn’t horrible. But being conscious of your choices and trying to minimize the splurges will make for healthier and happier holiday season.

Happy holidays and holiday eating!

Also, I just found a new online resource for healthy recipes. Check it out: https://aloha.com/shop/recipes/

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Rethinking a “balanced” diet

I found this article on the diet of hipsters very interesting. It talks about how hipsters have a hypocritical diet – eating lots of kale and organic food along with high-calorie beer and large amounts of bacon.

The article makes an interesting point about the balance of healthy and unhealthy items in our diets. We all like to think we’ve made enough good choices to justify a treat every night, but we probably haven’t. Also, these things don’t balance out like that nor should you want your healthy/unhealthy scale balanced at the end of the day.  You want it tipped to the healthy side.

I know I struggle with this in general, but even more so recently. I am training to run a half marathon in a few weeks. When I go on my long training runs, my running app on my phone tells me I’ve burned more than a thousand calories. I try to focus on protein and complex carbs to refuel, but I often let it be an excuse for a second dessert that evening.

The article and I are not saying you can’t indulge. We are saying instead of looking at your healthy choice as an excuse to indulge, look at it as a springboard to be even more healthy. Why essentially negate one healthy choice with a bad one? Think instead: I ate a healthy breakfast and feel great, which means I’ll feel even better if I eat a healthy lunch.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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If broccoli tasted like chocolate…

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I have often joked that if I could ask God one thing, it would be why he chose to make broccoli taste like broccoli and chocolate taste like chocolate.  Why couldn’t the flavors be reversed?

A new study indicates that while we can’t reverse the flavors, we may be able to change the reward these foods give us.  It has been documented before that the reward centers of the brain “light up” more on MRI when we eat or think about eating unhealthy foods compared to when we eat or think about healthy foods.  In this study, overweight people were shown pictures of healthy and unhealthy items while having an MRI before and after 6 months of diet education and following a weight loss diet.  The “after” images showed that the reward centers lit up less for the unhealthy foods and more for the healthy foods than they had at the beginning.  Short version, after following a diet, people got more pleasure from healthy foods and less pleasure from unhealthy foods.

There are always limitations to research.  This was a small study.  They only used a limited number of food images.  Perhaps if they had shown different foods the results would have been different.  But it is encouraging.

Take home message:  Eating healthy foods may get easier in the long run.  Broccoli and carrots may never taste like chocolate, but we may get more pleasure out of eating them if we follow a healthy diet over the long run.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Healthy on a Budget

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Lots of store brand items with a dash of national brand for making tomato soup. This is what my pantry looks like.

A recent Freakonomics podcast discussed research on trends for people who buy store brands versus name brands in various products.  Some of these products were food and drink – sugar, salt, baking soda, etc.  Chefs were slightly more likely to buy store brands than the average consumer.

I found this podcast very interesting based on my own experiences at the grocery store and looking in family and friend’s pantries.  I buy A LOT of store brand items, but I know may people who do not.  Flour, sugar, herbs, spices, canned tomatoes, applesauce, and yogurt are just a few things I can think of that I buy regularly that are not name brand.  Store brand products offer a significant savings for me.  I’m on a fairly tight grocery budget.  Every dime I save on a store brand packaged product can be spent on fresh produce.

Also, I focus my store brand purchases on objects that have no nutritional differences from the national brand.  Flour is flour.  Sugar is sugar.  As long as there are no salt added tomatoes, Hunts has no premium over Walmart brand.  I have found some differences at times, however. For example, I bought Crisco shortening over store brand to avoid trans fats.  I recently purchased Campbell’s Tomato Juice in order to get a lower sodium version.

In the long run, it is your decision what to buy at the store.  But if your grocery budget is tight and you feel you don’t have enough money for fresh fruits and vegetables, look at your pantry purchases.  The money you save switching to store brands may be enough to make your budget stretch that much farther.

This post was not sponsored by any brands, companies, or stores.  The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Bribes for health?

From a recent visit to Sea World.  I doubt this sea lion would keep performing without his rewards.

From a recent visit to Sea World. I doubt this sea lion would keep performing without his rewards.

A recent Freakonomics radio episode discussed the importance of incentives for people to make healthier eating choices.  Studies indicate that educating people on the benefits of healthy eating is not enough; an incentive or “bribe” is necessary for actually making a change.

With my limited financial resources, I cannot bribe any of you to make a change in your diet.  I can only provide you with information on how to make healthier choices.  Taking the step to change is definitely up to you.

But I agree with the economists from the radio show – incentives are important.  Future health and well-being are not the best motivators for making healthy choices right now.  Here are some ideas for more immediate incentives you can use to help yourself make a diet change.

–  Save money on each day that you make a healthy choice.  Treat yourself to a concert, play, sporting event, or other activity you enjoy.

–  Indulge in something else that makes you feel good, such as a makeover, spa day, or professional shave.

–  Set a short-term weight loss goal, and buy yourself some new clothes when you reach them.

–  Try a biggest loser competition with friends or family.  Paying money for not making good choices works for some people.

I would recommend avoiding any food incentives.  Many of us over-indulge when we eat our reward food and negate most of the good choices we made.  Besides, food is what we eat because we need to survive.  While we can enjoy what we eat, we need to take out the extra emotional baggage of eating – “I earned dessert”, etc.

Hope these tips help incentivize your healthy choices!  If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments.

To learn more about the original Freakonomics episode, click here.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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