I have a slight confession to make: yesterday (Halloween) I ate WAY too much candy. I could blame the small, easy-to-grab candy sizes that manufacturers make and the fact that high-fructose corn syrup is addictive. But the truth is: my willpower crumbled as I sampled bite-size Milky Way bars, Milk Duds, Mike & Ike’s, Twizzlers, and more—all between visits by trick-or-treaters.
Horrible. That’s the way I feel today as if I drank too much yesterday and woke up with a hangover.
But when you fall off the wagon, the next day you just pick yourself up and get back on track. That’s what I’m doing. But something else (besides just feeling like I have a sugar hangover) is motivating me: my dad just had stents put in two of his arteries, almost completely clogged due to coronary artery disease—which runs in the family. (His dad died of a heart attack in his 50s, his mom died of a stroke.) If that isn’t a wake-up call to eat healthier in general, then I don’t know what is.
While slight digressions in diet (ahem…what I went through yesterday) are okay every once in a while, what’s key is following simple dietary do’s and don’ts regularly—and getting almost daily exercise. You don’t need to overhaul everything you eat and become a strict vegan. That’s not it. Just incorporate a few of these changes into your diet, slowly, over time—and you’ll find you won’t feel deprived, you’ll lose weight, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll be healthier!
1) Limit red meat. Who doesn’t love a juicy burger or steak? But this stuff simply isn’t healthy for you. Cut it out or limit it to once a week, or better yet, a couple of times a month, max. Substitute lean meat (sans the skin) or beans (my favorite) for much-needed protein.
2) Eat more fruits and veggies. Fresh is preferred but frozen works just as well (as long as there are no added sauces, seasonings, or sugar). At least nine (half-cup) servings a day is best.
3) Cut down on the sweets. I know it’s hard, particularly when faced (as I was yesterday) with a giant bowl of Halloween candy. But cutting down on it will give you more energy and make you healthier in the long run (this stuff, as I well know, is crazy addictive). Some researchers even believe that sugar is the food that cancer thrives on—cut it out and you’ll reduce your risk of developing cancer, they say.
4) Skip that white bread in favor of whole grain—and eat more whole grains while you’re at it. Break out of the box: try quinoa, amaranth, brown rice, millet, and more.
5) Pass on the salt shaker—or limit your use of it. Salt is like sugar: the more you use it, the more you become “addicted” to it. When you start cutting it out, you realize that you just don’t need much of it any more. Substitute fresh or dried herbs.
But eating the right thing isn’t easy: if it were, we’d have a whole lot of healthier people in this country. What is making it easier for people: just being released today is the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best diets http://health.usnews.com/best-diet, a super-helpful guide to what will help you meet your goals—whether it is to be healthy (which should always be your #1 priority) or lose weight. DASH (think: low sodium) diet ranks #1 http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet, followed closely by my own fave: the Mediterranean Diet http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet. Check it out: this ranking is simple, easy to understand, and offers clear descriptions (charts, scoring systems, recipe links, and more). You can even mix and match: pick a few bits of advice from each diet and incorporate them into your own.
But I digress: the key is that you’ve got to change your eating now—before health problems manifest themselves, as in my dad’s case.
And as for me, I’m tossing out all the leftover candy and taking it out to the garbage bin before my willpower weakens again!