5 Steps to Healthy Eating

1. Think Positively

Our thoughts and feelings have a deep connection with the lifestyle choices we choose. Furthermore, these choices we make greatly affect our overall health and well-being. Positive emotional health promotes improved mental and physical health while positive self-talk, encouragement, and self-instruction act as positive reinforcements. When we believe we can control our behavior and make solid commitments to ourselves, we have a greater chance of success in achieving our goals (Taylor, 2015).

Allowing ourselves to feel empowered and believing that our steps toward healthy eating are genuine, our positive and committed attitude will take us far. Learning coping skills may be helpful to maintain this optimistic attitude – for example, seeking social support from friends and family, expressive writing, and/or relaxation and meditation practices. Caring for our bodies and choosing real and nutritious foods to nourish ourselves will also support and strengthen our healthy attitude.

2. Maximize Your Energy

How? By supporting steady blood glucose levels throughout our day. We do this by providing our bodies with balanced wholesome meals, which include complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein from reputable sources. As such meals are broken down in our bodies, a healthy gradual rise and fall of blood glucose develops. If simple carbohydrates, sugar and/or highly-processed foods are consumed, blood glucose levels rise above or fall below normal, which may lead to dizziness, weakness, or fatigued (Whitney & Rolfes, 2016). Eating at regular intervals also helps the body maintain overall balance.

This blood glucose concentration chart illustrates the dramatic rise and fall of blood glucose levels when we consume a candy bar versus an apple. (“Blood sugar,” 2017) The recommended foods for maintaining healthy blood glucose levels are whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and milk products (Whitney & Rolfes, 2016). Consistent moderate glucose levels support our bodies to continually maintain and repair our efficient systems while allowing our blood glucose levels to drastically rise and crash throughout the day can send our bodies into overdrive, which over time often results in Type II Diabetes.

3. Boost the Immune System

We tend to find it easier to stay on track with proper nutrition when we are healthy, so let’s increase our chances of remaining healthy through boosting our immune systems. Immunity, protection from viruses and bacteria, depends on optimal nutrition. Adequate balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals support a strong immune system. Certain functional foods also play a significant role in boosting our bodies’ immune systems.

  • Garlic: Garlic has been widely used in traditional medicine with protective and curative purposes. It plays a role in maintaining the homeostasis of the immune system and also has anti-inflammatory properties (Arreola et al., 2015).
  • Lemons: Lemons restore acid-alkali balance. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in water, or adding it to tea, salad dressings, baking or cooking, helps maintain the body’s internal “climate” at a pH that supports healthy bacteria instead of the viruses and harmful bacteria that thrive in more acidic environments (“Boost,” 2010).
  • Broccoli: Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory effects on the body (Glade et al., 2015), both of which are vital in properly-functioning immune systems.
  • Onions: Onions have been shown to contain 25 active compounds and several scientific studies have shown that including onion in the diet stimulates the immune system (Mirabeau & Samson, 2012).
  • Berries: Berries are a source of polyphenols (Basu et al, 2010), which are an important determinant of the immune cell function (Neyestani, 2008).

4. Plan Ahead

Having a plan is critical to every health goal. When we have healthy food ready to eat, we are less likely to make impulsive decisions and to reach for junk food. Try starting with one small change, such as replacing chips at lunch with an apple or keeping fresh vegetable sticks and hummus in the refrigerator for snacks or sides to a meal.

When we plan, we are aware of and ready for the challenges that may present themselves along the way. Planning meals ahead of time and making a list of what to cook before shopping is also helpful to keep ourselves on track. The shift we feel towards healthier habits from meal planning goes hand-in-hand with increased confidence in preparing healthy meals (Garcia et al., 2017).

5. 5 is the Magic Number: Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which profoundly enhance the physiological effects on the body. By its ability to act as antioxidants and to destroy bacteria, chronic diseases can be prevented. (Whitney & Rolfes, 2016).

When meal planning, let’s try to incorporate at least five fruits and vegetables into each day. One technique to support an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption is to spend most of our time along the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping. Why? This is usually where we find the produce and fresh foods. Consistent consumption of these fresh foods will positively energize us, which will further fuel our motivation to stay on track.

Resources

Arreola, R., Quintero-Fabián, S., López-Roa, R. I., Flores-Gutiérrez, E. O., Reyes-Grajeda, J. P., Carrera-Quintanar, L., & Ortuño-Sahagún, D. (2015). Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds. Journal of Immunology Research, 2015, 401630. http://doi.org/10.1155/2015/401630

Basu, A., Rhone, M., Lyons, T.J.(2010). Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(3), 168-177.

Blood sugar stabilization: The key to healthy eating & healthy weight loss success. (2017). The Healthy Way. Retrieved from https://thehealthyway.us/about-us/?doing_wp_cron=1507737800.4842588901519775390625

Boost your immune health. (2010). Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, 39, 176. Retrieved from http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxyau.wrlc.org/docview/761071659?accountid=8285

Garcia, A.L., Reardon, R., Hammond, E., Parrett, A., & Gebbie-Diben, A. (2017). Evaluation of the “Eat Better Feel Better” cooking programme to tackle barriers to healthy eating. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(4), 380. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxyau.wrlc.org/10.3390/ijerph14040380

Glade, M. J., & Meguid, M. M. (2015). A glance at... broccoli, glucoraphanin, and sulforaphane. Nutrition, 31(9), 1175-1178. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxyau.wrlc.org/10.1016/j.nut.2015.03.003

Mirabeau, T. & Samson, E.S. (2012). Effect of allium cepa and allium sativum on some immunological cells in rats. African Journal of Traditional Complementary Alternative Medicine, 9(3), 374-379.

Neyestani, T.R. (2008). Polyphenols and immunity. In: De Meester F., Watson R.R. (eds) Wild-Type Food in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Human Press.

Taylor, Shelley. 2015. Health Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Whitney, E. & Rolfes, S.R. 2016. Understanding Nutrition. Stamford: Cengage Learning.

About the Authors

Trina C. Ulrich, MD is a Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Health Studies at American University, teaching Sports Nutrition, Lifecycle Nutrition, and Sports Psychology. Trina studied Sports Medicine during her undergraduate years at the University of Virginia and was a Graduate DAAD Scholar in Pharmaceutical Biology at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Thereafter, she earned her MD degree from Howard University School of Medicine. As Trina’s clinical work transitioned to educational work within the hospital setting, she furthered her education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition based in New York City. Trina founded a nutritional consulting business focused on promoting overall wellness in 2012 and joined the faculty at American University in 2016. Trina is passionate about incorporating her medical & nutrition knowledge, experience in clinical medicine, hospital education, wellness program development, private consulting and teaching. She takes special interest in the overall science of the human body as well as interactions between the body, mind and environment, all while respecting human biodiversity. Trina brings a unique angle to the students in the Department of Health Studies by incorporating her diversified background into her teaching and mentoring.

Lindsey VanWagner is a Master's student in the Nutrition Education program at American University. She earned her Bachelor's in Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2009. She is currently employed by the National Institutes of Health as an Administrative Officer for the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute.

If you are interested in learning more about the online Master’s in Nutrition Education and how you can help educate others on living healthier lives, contact us at 855-725-7614 to speak to one of our admissions advisers or request more information.