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How to Build Healthy Eating Habits and Make Them Stick

How to Build Healthy Eating Habits and Make Them Stick


    As a lifelong fitness enthusiast, I know the great importance of proper nutrition. Still being able to maintain a 30 inch waistline in my middle age, I think that I should have enough proven credibility to give you a few tips on how to build healthy eating habits and make them stick.

    Physical activity is only 50% of the overall health equation. The other 50% is nutrition. And without healthy eating habits, one will not be able to achieve good health and fitness.

    So it does depend on what you eat, and in this modern age of convenience and rushed daytime schedules, it’s easy to eat unhealthy. So here are some areas to consider that will help keep you on the right health track.

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    Educate Yourself On Food And Healthy Eating Habits

    In order to eat healthy, you have to understand which foods are actually healthy and which ones are not. Learn from reading nutrition books and websites. Maybe even consult a dietician to get you started.

    Quite often, convenient foods are laced with too much salt, sugar and other ingredients, which are not considered healthy. These ingredients can often be hidden, so it is important as part of your education to learn to read food labels while at the grocer.

    Learn what ingredients to avoid, as major components are usually listed first in the food labels. Also verify and compare fat contents since many food items — which are promoted as ‘low fat’ or ‘low calorie’ — might very well still be quite high in fat. Being educated on what is contained within various types of food will help you weed out much of the unhealthy food you otherwise might end up eating.

    Learn To Substitute Foods And Ingredients

    In the old days, healthy eating meant a diet of bland-tasting food. I still remember that veggie burger that tasted like cardboard.

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    Those days are thankfully gone as food technology has improved significantly. Many of the lower fat versions of food items (like cheese and frozen yogurt) taste just as good as their standard “full-fat” versions.

    One can also still cook great tasting food at home by simply substituting some of the ingredients. For example, use olive oil instead of butter for frying. Reduce salt by adding spices instead. Choose leaner cuts of meat and trim off visible fat before cooking. Something that I’ve done over the years is to drastically cut down on red meats at home and increase my intake of fish and poultry. By learning some great recipes with fish and poultry, I really don’t miss red meat all that much.

    One of the big areas to substitute is in snacking. Instead of candy bars or potato chips (or other junk food), try nuts or fruit. During the hot summers, I keep a supply of frozen grapes and if I feel the urge to nibble on something, I just grab one or two frozen grapes. Not only are these healthy, they are also refreshing during hot temperatures.

    Keep Related Goals In Mind

    In order to help you stick to healthy eating habits once you plan them, I find that it helps to keep related goals in mind. For example, each time I look in the mirror I make a point of looking at the condition of my abs. I want to maintain a half decent physical shape so what I see in the mirror is a constant reminder that I have to keep eating well.

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    When I see other people around my age group or even younger than me who are out of shape, I always observe that they are not eating healthy. They usually eat foods that are high in fat. Keeping observant with this helps me even more to keep away from bad eating habits since I don’t want to end up like those poor folks who have let themselves go in that department.

    Another goal that is more specific is that I want to be able to perform well on the ski slope during the winter and maintain my martial arts all year round. I can generally tie in my overall performance levels in these sports back to my diet as one of the elements required. See if there are any related activities that you want to do well that you can somehow relate back to nutrition. Then keeping this top of mind will help you steer clear of bad foods.

    After all, you don’t want to blame poor performance in your favorite activities partly on bad diet.

    Be Around Others Who Eat Healthy

    This last point is related to having others help you in your goals. Sometimes it’s hard to eat right when all of your friends, family members and co-workers eat unhealthy. So make sure that you spend time with other people who already eat well. This will help inspire you to eat healthy as well. You’re basically using teamwork to help you achieve the goal of eating healthy.

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    There’s really no magic in how to build healthy eating habits and make them stick. Good health is long term and the only way to achieve it is through all the little successes that add up when you have another healthy meal and finish another workout.

    Follow the above tips — as I do each and every day — during your meals and snack periods to ensure optimum health.

    (Photo credit: Woman Feeding Fresh Vegetables to Kids via Shutterstock)

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    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

    But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

    I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

    Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

    1. Nuts

    The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

    Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

    Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

    Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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    2. Blueberries

    Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

    When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

    3. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

    4. Broccoli

    While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

    Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

    Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

    5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

    Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

    The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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    Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

    6. Soy

    Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

    Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

    Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

    7. Dark chocolate

    When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

    Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

    15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

    8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

    Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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    B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

    Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

    Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

    To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

    9. Foods Rich in Zinc

    Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

    Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

    Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

    10. Gingko biloba

    This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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    It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

    However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

    11. Green and black tea

    Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

    Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

    Find out more about green tea here:

    11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

    12. Sage and Rosemary

    Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

    Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

    When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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