My Top 4 Healthy Eating Strategies for a Successful 2009

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/12/2009 6:09 AM   :  53 comments

Trying to create new eating habits can be overwhelming. Making changes in your shopping, menu selection and cooking habits all at once causes many people to give up before they ever establish new routines. Instead, make this the year you make a few permanent changes that quickly feel normal and part of your regular daily routines. Here are my top four strategies to help you succeed.

  1. Eat breakfast every day - As the old saying goes, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. During the night, your metabolism shifts into a lower gear to conserve the energy it has on board and needs to run the body (beating of the heart, circulation, nerve impulses, respiration, etc) while you sleep. By supplying energy and nutrients shortly after you rise in the morning, you tell your body to wake up from conservation mode and shift back to normal. When people wait hours to do this by not eating, their bodies slow down even more, because they are walking around and asking their bodies to do more with no additional fuel.

    If you are someone who says you don't eat breakfast because you are not hungry, you are exactly the person who should eat as soon as possible after waking. Your body has learned not to expect fuel so it doesn't even bother signaling you with hunger any more. Instead, your body expects to continue to function with no additional fuel and readily shifts to a lower and slower metabolic gear. When you do eat, your body stores the fuel it receives for the future instead of using it. Not eating breakfast has taught your body to store energy in fat reserves instead of using it efficiently.

    If you start eating breakfast within an hour of waking, soon you will not be able to start your day without fueling your body first. It will take about two to three weeks of consistently eating first thing in the morning for your body to begin sending hunger cues again. After a couple of months, the breakfast habit will be effectively established and you will feel like you are starving if you run short on time and don't eat one morning because your body is now using the fuel it gets instead of storing it and your metabolic gear has shifted as well. It doesn't have to be a large breakfast but it should include a fruit and/or vegetable, grain (whole grain if possible) and a protein source. Here are some healthy and quick breakfast ideas to help you get started.

  2. Include a source of protein at each meal and snack - Proteins provide your body with the building blocks necessary for growth, repair and maintenance of body cells and tissues. Proteins also help keep blood glucose levels stable after meals and snacks. This happens because proteins reduce the peak and trough effect of glucose and insulin. When you eat a meal or snack that consists mostly of carbohydrates, the sugar in the blood increases. This happens whether the sugar comes from natural sources such as fruit or sugary snacks like candy. The increased blood sugar peaks shortly after you complete your meal or snack. The peak triggers rapid release of insulin into the blood stream. Shortly after the release of insulin a trough occurs because blood sugar levels fall rapidly because more insulin was release than was needed due to the rapid release. With more insulin in the blood stream, the body experiences a period of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar which leads many people to feel hungry. Some people even break out into a slight sweat and feel extremely lethargic or light headed. The body seeks quick sugar to recover from the hypoglycemia and signals the brain. This response causes many of us to instinctively seek sweets like soda or candy to feel better quickly. Many of us get into this peak and trough cycle regularly and probably don't even realize it.

    You can minimize this natural peak and trough response by eating meals and snacks that include a balance of proteins and carbohydrates. The protein is digested slower than the carbohydrates which allows insulin to be released at a slower, more even rate. This one little change can make a big difference in how you feel several hours after a meal or snack. So instead of having just an apple for your 3 PM snack, next time also include a handful of almonds or 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter as well. This small change will likely help make it much easier to avoid snacking while driving home from work or while preparing dinner.

  3. Little changes add up - Don't underestimate the benefit of making small changes throughout the day. Many small little changes can add up to a savings of several hundred calories in a day. If you used one less creamer in your coffee you would save only 15 calories. If you had your salad dressing on the side and dipped your fork tines before each bite, you could save an additional 45 calories. Instead of your typical 2% cup of milk for lunch, you could cut another 30 calories by drinking skim milk instead. Since you had a protein with your apple you probably won't crave a soda for your drive home, which will save you another 100 calories. Those small changes would save you 190 calories in one day. Extend those same small changes over the week and you save 1,330 calories with very little effort and no need for dietary restrictions. Look for the small but easy things to change and celebrate the small steps you are making toward your success. Here are 50 easy ways to cut 100 calories to help you get started evaluating where you can make small changes.

  4. Drink water throughout the day, every day - Whether you drink 6 cups or 8 cups of water a day is not near as important as whether or not you drink water period. The human brain is about 85% water, our bones are between 10%-15% water and the rest of our body ranges from 60%-65% water. Water is important in the body to assist with fat burning, maintaining skin health, aiding in digestion, elimination and maintaining fluid status. Many of us don't drink as much free water as our bodies need. In response, the body has to extract the water it needs to function from the foods and fluids we consume. Although the body has the natural processes to accomplish this, it is an inefficient way to get the water the body needs and takes energy away from other more necessary body functions. By replacing diet drinks or cups of coffee and tea with plain water throughout the day, you provide your body with the water it needs to stay well hydrated so it can run most efficiently.

    Monitoring your urine color is a great way to know if you are adequately hydrated. If you only need to use the restroom a couple times a day and the urine color is dark yellow and has a strong ammonia smell, you are dehydrated and need to drink more water. The urine of well hydrated people is nearly clear and easily remains that way when waste is flushed out frequently throughout the day. The goal is to drink 8 cups of water a day, more on the days you exercise. If that level is overwhelming to start, aim for 4-5 cups a day and work up from there. You have the whole year to reach the goal of 8 cups a day. Taking it slow will help you make drinking water a daily habit for a lifetime.


Use these four strategies to help you get started with healthy eating success in 2009.

Did you learn anything new and useful from this blog? Share the top tips that have brought you success. Others will appreciate the benefit of your experience.


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Comments

  • 53
    I always make sure to eat breakfast within 15 minutes of waking up just so I can give my body the wake up that it needs - 4/19/2009   8:19:00 PM
  • 52
    I usually eat breakfast during the week, but the weekends are the hardest. I usually sleep in and don't get up until almost lunch. I guess as long as I eat something, it counts. I'm also trying hard to get in my 8 glasses a day. - 2/9/2009   9:05:31 PM
  • 51
    informative and interesting....i dont do breakfasts but i know i should...i may need to go back to making a snack and it taking with me so that I can eat it at work at about 10am...i just cant stomach food first thing in the morning... - 1/18/2009   5:46:35 PM
  • 50
    Great Advice!! I've got off schedule the last few days and I'm eating sooo much more than if I just make a point and have my breakfast. - 1/15/2009   2:35:44 PM
  • 49
    I've always done these things. But now I've been able to use them to live even healthier! - 1/15/2009   12:49:52 PM
  • 48
    All 4 of the habits listed were ones I made.

    I went from hardly ever eating breakfast to eating it every day. I still don't eat when I first get up, but I do have breakfast midmorning. I use to not eat at all until midafternoon and then I ate non stop until bedtime.

    I also wasn't getting enough protein, among other things. If I had to pick one habit that made the most different for me it was nutrient dense eating. Changing what you eat is even more important than how much you eat - 1/14/2009   8:01:28 AM
  • 47
    I love the sentence at the end of the article: "You have the whole year to reach the goal of 8 cups a day." I need to learn that it is ok to take more then one day to cultivate a habit :) Thanks for the great article!


    - 1/13/2009   11:56:59 PM
  • WRANGLER8
    46
    never used to be a breakfast eater but have learned it is the most important meal of the day and I love my oatmeal or grits for breakfast or special K - 1/13/2009   10:35:18 PM
  • 45
    This was a very helpful article. I'm bad about waiting hours before eating breakfast. Now I think I would be much better off if I ate first thing. - 1/13/2009   7:45:06 PM
  • JOSIEMAC11
    44
    i cant survive without breakfast all these tips are easily achieved thank you - 1/13/2009   5:03:18 PM
  • 43
    Good info I've been doing these things for at least 3 years. Just started keeping track on my nutrition tracker.Although I've kept track on paper. It really helps to see how many calories you really consume in a day! - 1/13/2009   2:42:48 PM
  • 42
    Good basic advice for everyone!! - 1/13/2009   2:00:45 PM
  • 41
    I have been using these for almost two years. They work. - 1/13/2009   1:43:05 PM
  • 40
    my boyfriend is skinny as a rail (figures..I have a weight problem) and he NEVER eats breakfast...refuses to. How does this work..I've always eaten breakfast, lately way more healthy choices, and yet I gain weight easily and he has a hard time keeping it on! - 1/13/2009   12:49:12 PM
  • 39
    I wake up starving, always have. Go-to breakfasts: oatmeal with cinnamon, milk, and raisins; whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and honey; shredded wheat, oat squares, or other whole-grain cereal with milk and half a banana.

    - 1/13/2009   12:10:12 PM
  • GMAGEE
    38
    Thanks for this info. I'm a big fan of breakfast, even if it's a piece of toast and coffee. I do need to add more protein to my meals; always seem to come up short when I track on Nutrition page. I don't mind the occasional tsp of peanut butter on toast in the AM and sometimes I don't have time or the inclination to make an egg or hot cereal, so I'm always looking for new ways to add some protein into breakfast. - 1/13/2009   10:50:25 AM
  • HAFTALOSE50
    37
    I could not agree more! Breakfast is what it says it is and breaks our overnight fast. Our bodies NEED to be fueled in the mornings. I get so upset when I hear that our children and youth go to school without the needed energy for their day- and we adults need it as well.

    I am learning how to get protein into each meal and snack as well. It is one thing I lack in abundance, as I crave carbs., and when I get adequate protein I feel so much better and crave less. The nutrition calculator on SP makes me aware and educated on the amount of each of the 3 main categories I consume. A BIG help!

    I also find that when I drink adequate water, that I actually CRAVE it. The more I drink the more my body asks for more and more of it. The body is a wonderful creation, and it will cope when we abuse it, but it also tells us when we treat it right, and this website is the best in the world for helping us learn how to do and maintain that. I love SP! - 1/13/2009   9:47:37 AM
  • 36
    I agree, this is an awesome blog. Thank you very much! - 1/13/2009   9:29:15 AM
  • MARYBCUNNINGHAM
    35
    Lots of great info, thanks! - 1/13/2009   7:52:59 AM
  • 34
    Awesome--this is the most compelling arguement I've ever read for eating breakfast consistently, and the thing about adding protein to more meals/snacks makes so much sense. Thank you! Fabulous article! - 1/13/2009   7:26:57 AM
  • SBATES63
    33
    I always eat breakfast, but not until I have been up for 3 hours. I will try to eat it earlier to see if it helps me in my morning routine. As for 3, I do try to remember to cut calories where I can, but this is a good reminder that the little things add up. - 1/13/2009   7:15:14 AM
  • 32
    Great article. Thanks! - 1/13/2009   6:39:18 AM
  • 31
    Before being "sparked" I never ate breakfast, I usually waited with food until lunch. (I had noticed that when I had breakfast I got hungry again quickly, and thought it was a bad thing.) It's not, it's just a sign of my metabolism actually working and I now have oatmeal every day and need to eat a small meal before doing my workouts or go to work. I also increased my water intake a lot when I found SparkPeople and it really helps too! Great reminders! - 1/13/2009   5:46:37 AM
  • 30
    I do all of these now..but it's always great to have a refresher!! Thanks :) - 1/13/2009   12:48:43 AM
  • 29
    I don't care much about breakfast. I never get up that hungry. - 1/13/2009   12:14:07 AM
  • JAGIRL3
    28
    I really have a problem with eating breakfast.
    Now instead skipping breakfast I have a shake. I am really getting better at my water in-take. - 1/12/2009   9:08:14 PM
  • SHERI1969
    27
    I do 1, 2 and 4. It's remembering number 3 I have trouble with. Patience may be a virtue, but it can be so hard to keep it in control! :P - 1/12/2009   8:43:57 PM
  • 26
    Another great tip I would recommend to anyone: eat SLOWER. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain that you're full, so instead of wolfing that plate of spaghetti down as fast as possible, try to enjoy and savour each and every bite. - 1/12/2009   3:37:41 PM
  • CEFUHR
    25
    I quite drinking sodas as of December 31, and I've already seen huge changes. It was something that wasn't that hard to give up, and it's made a big change.
    I also went out and bought Special K so I have no excuse but to grab a bowl in the morning. It really doesn't take that much time out of my morning to eat a bowl of cereal, and I'm that much more focused when I get to work. - 1/12/2009   2:41:44 PM
  • 24
    i have learned that when you go to the store and don't buy the "junk" food that you don't eat "junk" food! so the trip to the store is very important! - 1/12/2009   2:23:15 PM
  • SP_COACH_NANCY
    23
    Love the reminders to stay on track! - 1/12/2009   1:07:26 PM
  • 22
    This is a great article for all the newbies just joining us. And a great reminder to the rest of us. Thanks. - 1/12/2009   12:56:18 PM
  • 21
    Just a small warning about drinking enough water, cut back a bit if you are applying for a new job and need to pass a UA. You only need to cut back on the day of the test at least. I couldn't pass the test on a day of drinking my standard 10 cups of water...my results came back as "deluted" from the lab. They told me to cut back to only 3 or 4 "at the most" for the day of the test. - 1/12/2009   12:27:28 PM
  • 20
    Breakfast is something I try to make a point of eating everyday.

    Oatmeal and raisins, cranberries or grated apple on top.
    Whole grain bagel and almond butter or applebutter
    Whole grain bagel and chicken, or turkey
    A fruit shake
    A banana and other fruit

    Wendy/Goldenpearle
    - 1/12/2009   12:04:07 PM
  • 19
    I always eat breakfast, but one mistake I may be making is that I don't usually eat until I get to the office at 8 a.m. That is AFTER I have already worked out for 30 to 45 minutes and taken a shower.

    I think I will try eating first, and then work out for a few days and see if I can tell a difference. Maybe if I jump start my metabolism BEFORE I exercise it will help to burn more calories and keep me going longer.

    Thank you for the wonderful information-filled articles. Keep them coming! - 1/12/2009   11:34:40 AM
  • 18
    I surprisingly found it simple to cut out my coffee in the morning totally and all the creamer that I used!

    Don't ask me how, but Yeah!!! - 1/12/2009   10:55:14 AM
  • CHERUBSAM
    17
    Very true about breakfast, and drinking water, our bodies used more enyergy to process the water, thus burning more fat!! - 1/12/2009   10:41:35 AM
  • 16
    this is a great article. I've known the basics of it all for years, but not in that much detail. - 1/12/2009   10:41:06 AM
  • 15
    It's amazing that the small changes can make such a difference.

    I've been out of "breakfast mode" for years, thinking that adding a meal would make me gain even more weight.

    I've been trying my best to eat earlier, less at a time, and with more frequency.

    Thanks for a great article! - 1/12/2009   10:36:44 AM
  • TNCGULL
    14
    Great and quite simple. Thanks for the reminder that it can be little things that bring about better results. - 1/12/2009   10:17:02 AM
  • 13
    thank you! I push myself even when I don't want it. I may compromise by eating less and taking something along for a 10am snack. - 1/12/2009   10:03:47 AM
  • COWBOYSANGEL^I^
    12
    Thanks for this great info. Still finding it hard to eat breakfast, but trying to make it my first thing to do in the morning. - 1/12/2009   10:02:33 AM
  • 11
    Now I understand why breakfast is so important, thanks. : ) - 1/12/2009   9:23:42 AM
  • 10
    These four are GREAT basics to help ANYONE get off on the right foot!

    I just LOVE to Keep It Simple Stupid...lol!

    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals and Laid Off and Staying Strong - 1/12/2009   9:15:40 AM
  • 9
    Oops - I hit SEND before answering the question.

    YES, this article has helped me face my breakfast dilemma as well as the need to increase my water intake. That is another thing I used to be really good at & have recently discovered I don't enjoy it as much & need to find alternative ways to get my water intake back up. - 1/12/2009   8:56:19 AM
  • 8
    I used to have a 3am feeding & 6am feeing. It kept me fueled & never caused a weight problem. If anything, I was underweight by 10 lbs. Since my sleeping habits changed & I miss that 3am, I am not hungry at 6am anymore.

    I do well on wkends by eating something small before hitting the gym & taking an apple & V8 with me for after my workout. Thru the wk remains a problem though & I am now 10 lbs overweight (which means I have gained 20 lbs). - 1/12/2009   8:51:58 AM
  • 7
    This was a great article. Not only did I read the article and find it informative, but I went to all the links and read them too. Although I already new most of the information, it is always good to be reminded! Thank you! - 1/12/2009   8:45:07 AM
  • 6
    Great information. Thanks for sharing. - 1/12/2009   7:55:37 AM
  • 5
    I cannot start the day without breakfast now! It was something I would force myself to do but now it's one of my favorite parts of the day. And the water thing too - I bought a Camelbak water bottle about 6 months ago (it holds 24 oz) that has this rubber spout. My coworkers make fun of me because I'll sit at my desk, typing, with the bottle in my mouth! It's hands free and I drink a TON of water that way at work. - 1/12/2009   7:35:48 AM
  • 4
    I agree with you 100%. I have always been a breakfast eater. The little change I made that really showed was I switched from a 20 oz. skim mocha no whip cream to a 16 oz. Every day I saved those calories and it has made a difference. It also showed me that I was committed to this each morning as I placed that order. - 1/12/2009   7:23:39 AM

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