Have you ever tried some sort of diet or program meant to help you “become the new you” or lose weight quick? Let’s be honest, a lot of people do. Usually these diets don’t work because there are too many restrictions or you become too overwhelmed with all the information and rules you need to follow. The truth is that there are no quick fixes when it comes to your health, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were small dietary changes you could make now to improve your health in the future? Guess what, there are! This will be easier than you think, just let me explain.
This week I came across a very interesting article from American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Health and Fitness Journal. The journal article titled “Understanding and Using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans” (DGA) brought to mind some very important dietary information that can be taken advantage of to improve people’s health. In early 2016 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture jointly published the updated the eighth edition of the DGA, which is a practical resource for those people seeking nutritional guidance. Most resources for nutritional information tend to provide a lot of scientific information, but usually doesn’t provide any value to the user when it comes to incorporating the science into their daily lives. The information provided in the DGA is very valuable and is in line with our way of thinking at Happily Ever Healthy. Disease prevention is another key focus of this nutritional resource, which we believe is of great importance especially for young professionals with desk jobs like us. There is no better time than now to start a healthy diet that can be maintained for a lifetime.
The DGA highlights how American diets are lacking vegetables; fruits; dairy; oils; whole grains; and seafood, but their diets are excessive in added sugars; saturated fats; and sodium. So basically Americans are eating a lot of the bad stuff and not enough of the good stuff. Small changes to your diet to add more of the good stuff, while getting rid of the bad stuff can gradually progress your diet to a healthier one over time. It is also recommended that the vegetables in your diet vary quite a bit by subgroups including “dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), and starchy” vegetables. Think about making your plate colorful! When you are able to make better dietary substitutions then you are well on your way to creating healthier eating habits that can be maintained for life. This means that by following the recommendations of the DGA you are able to eat preferred foods at an appropriate caloric intake. With this approach to nutrition you are encouraged to develop a healthy eating pattern specific to yourself. Just remember that a healthy eating pattern cannot be created all at once or else it might become too difficult to follow. Very similarly to a physical activity program, you must make small changes over time that you can maintain to reach your goals, which will lead to better health outcomes.
Image from Menslifeadvice.com
Now, how can the DGA be practically used to improve your diet for a healthy lifestyle? One section of this article that I felt was very practical was the “Substitutions to Promote a Healthier Diet”. This is exactly why I felt this section of the DGA was appropriate for our Healthy Swap Saturday. Substitutions or “small shifts in food choices” is listed as number 8 on “The Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans“, which is a great resource for some of the points I’ve mentioned. Listed below are some examples of healthy food substitutions that you could start trying today based on the DGA recommendations (as well as Happily Ever Healthy Approved!):
Original Choice: Whole milk
Healthier Substitution: Low-fat milk
Original Choice: Sugary cereal
Healthier Substitution: Unsweetened cereal with added fruit
Original Choice: White bread
Healthier Substitution: Whole wheat bread
Original Choice: Regular soup
Healthier Substitution: Low-sodium soup
Original Choice: Soda
Healthier Substitution: Water or carbonated water
Original Choice: Fruit products with added sugar
Healthier Substitution: Fruit
Original Choice: Chips and dip
Healthier Substitution: Veggies and hummus
Original Choice: Salted nuts
Healthier Substitution: Unsalted snacks
Original Choice: Cream-based salad dressing
Healthier Substitution: Oil-based dressing
Original Choice: Creamy pasta sauce
Healthier Substitution: Light sauce with vegetables
Original Choice: Sugary dessert (cake, ice cream)
Healthier Substitution: Fruit or fruit smoothie
Remember to begin with small swaps at your own pace and then work your way up to more and more swaps. Start this Healthy Swap Saturday by making at least one good food substitution to become even more Happily Ever Healthy!