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Each year, an estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet in hopes of making a change in their lives. The decision to change what and how you eat is a big one as it affects several aspects of your life; including where and how you shop for groceries, where you go out to eat, how much time you spend cooking and preparing food, and how much money you spend on food each day.
Depending on the type of diet you’re adopting, these can be big and dramatic changes in a person’s life — especially if you’re adopting a very different diet from your usual one, such as the popular keto or vegan diets. However, although you may be changing your diet in hopes of making a positive change in your life, it’s crucial to transition into your new diet carefully to ensure your body continues to receive the vitamins and nutrients it needs, and so that this new eating lifestyle can be a long-term one.
Getting Proper Nutrition
Throughout the year, there are a few occasions in which people often decide to change their diet; such as for a new year’s resolution, or a few months before summer in hopes of getting a good summer body for when they spend time outdoors. Unfortunately, many of these diets are often short lived and given up on, and one of the main reasons for this is that most individuals don’t know how to change their eating patterns and create sustainable diets. Oftentimes, people adopt unhealthy diets that involve simply eating far less than their bodies need in hopes of losing weight, or for a keto or vegan diet, they simply restrict the foods they eat to meet the guidelines of the diet without supplementing their diet for the foods they’re no longer eating.
Any diet, even one of strictly fruits and vegetables, can be unhealthy if it’s not balanced with the different elements that a diet needs to properly nourish your body. Most commonly, fruits and vegetables are the food group that adults are not eating enough of — 9 out of 10 adults in America don’t get their recommended serving of fruits and vegetables. Generally, most diets could use more food from the bottom of the food triangle, which are fruits, veggies, and foods that are high in carbs, like potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. That being said, it’s also important to get the calcium and protein your body needs to build strong muscles and bones.
When dieting, it’s not uncommon for people to adopt cheat meals, such as health or protein shakes, which are made of prepackaged powders that are then prepared by being mixed with ice and milk or water. Although these aren’t necessarily considered unhealthy when taken between meals to increase a person’s protein intake, some protein powders can be high in sugar and calories, which can cause unintended weight gain and a spike in your blood sugar. When possible, health experts recommend getting protein and other nutrients from natural sources, such as raw nuts, seeds and legumes.
Focusing on Health
One of the most difficult aspects of changing your diet can be the time it takes to build new healthy eating habits. If you’re a person who is always on-the-go and in need of quick meals, paying attention to your food consumption can be difficult, especially if you’re simply used to getting fast food on the way from one place to another. Although you may not think you have the time to break this habit, by setting a few hours apart one day a week, you can meal prep for your entire week, which will save you time in the long run and will ensure that you’re eating the healthy foods you want to consume. Preparing all your meals yourself will also help decrease your chances of becoming one of the 76 million Americans who suffer from food poisoning each year, because you’ll be carefully preparing your meals yourself.
If your job requires you to travel, this can also create an additional obstacle in ensuring your stick to your diet because your only option is to eat at restaurants, unless you have a kitchen available for you to cook in. However, if you’re traveling to cities around the world, it can be a good rule of thumb to avoid American chain restaurants and simply eat local as much as possible. Many countries, especially in asian cultures, have cuisines that are much healthier than the traditional American diet. In cities like Osaka, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; and Shanghai, China, diets consist largely of coastal foods, such as fish, rice and veggies, which are some of the more important food groups.
If you’re changing your diet in hopes of making a healthy lifestyle change, it’s important to consider other aspects of your health that contribute to your overall health. Even with the most balanced diet, a person who drinks heavily or in excess throughout the week won’t ever feel at their best. Similarly, individuals who don’t treat their overall health by going to the doctor run the risk of developing serious health issues. If you’re a person who suffers from chronic pain, and all you do about it is take over the counter painkillers to manage your pain, you run the risk of developing high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems and kidney damage as a result of chronic use of painkillers in lieu of treating your underlying health problems.
Changing your diet is difficult because it’s a very integral part of your life. When you change your diet, you’re not only changing what you eat; you’re changing the way you think about food and the way you think about yourself. If you want to make long-term changes through your diet, you need to be dieting the right way and for the right reasons. If your main goal is to lose weight, it’s important to ensure that you continue to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to survive — otherwise, any dieting will not only be unhealthy, it will also be unsustainable. By changing your lifestyle habits and adopting healthy eating and living habits, you’ll have a better shot at reaching your goals and feeling great for a long time.