Have you ever wished you had a reliable dietitian you could call to answer your health and wellness questions? Well, this is the next best thing. A UnityPoint Health dietitian has answered some of the most frequently asked health-related questions and provided tips to help you create a healthy lifestyle. Discover everything from weight loss tips to the real dangers of prolonged sitting, and start living your healthiest life today!
What are some easy changes I can make for a healthy diet?
There are many simple ways you can make your diet a little healthier. Two key areas to focus on are portion control and lowering your sugar intake. When having dinner at home, try serving from the stove instead of family-style with serving dishes on the table. Putting your food out of reach and out of sight will make it easier to control your portion size. When eating out at a restaurant, consider asking for a to-go box as soon as you receive your meal. Put a portion of your food in the box before you start eating, and then commit to only eating the food on your plate.
Snacks are a common source of added sugar. Instead of choosing a sugary, pre-packaged option, stock your cabinets with nuts, seeds and popcorn, and keep fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter. You won’t feel deprived, and you’ll lower your cravings for ultra-sweet foods. As a bonus, nuts and seeds are packed with protein and fiber, nutrients that are important for a healthy diet.
How do I know if I’m getting the nutrition I need?
Janet Rydberg, a clinical dietician at UnityPoint Health, says, “Include lean meats or other proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy in your meals every day. A combination of these will ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.”
Pork loin, skinless chicken breast, fish and sirloin steak are all lean protein options, along with light cheese sticks, low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and eggs. An easy way to incorporate regular vegetables into your diet is by committing to start each lunch or dinner with a small romaine or vegetable salad.
What are your top weight loss tips?
“Your body is a fine-tuned bank, and it remembers when you ‘make extra deposits’ by eating more calories than you burn,” Janet says. “It also remembers when you make extra withdraws by using up more calories than you ate.” Small changes make big differences, and by having just a few calories less every day -- like choosing a moderate portion of pasta rather than a large one -- your body will likely drop one or two pounds in a month.
Weight loss starts with a healthy diet, so try incorporating the changes mentioned above. Also, fill your diet with lots of vegetables. Sneak an extra serving of vegetables into your breakfast with a green smoothie! Blend spinach or kale, almond milk, a frozen banana and berries for an energizing way to start the day.
Make eating more vegetables easy with meal preparation. Slice and dice all of your produce and store it in clear containers in the refrigerator where you can easily see it. This will help you reach for veggies when you’re looking for a quick snack!
Lastly, it’s important to be active. Find ways to add extra walking into your day. When you need to speak with a coworker, walk to their office instead of making a phone call. Or, go for a 10-minute walk during your lunch hour.
Why do I need to exercise? How much exercise do I need?
Regular exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Everyone knows that exercise can help maintain weight loss or prevent weight gain, but there are many other health benefits as well:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Helps boost the immune system
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
- Lower anxiety
- Improved sleep
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for physical activity for adults are:
- At least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, every week, or
- One hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or running
- Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week to strengthen leg, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder and arm muscles.
You can spread your physical activity out through the week. Find a routine that works best for you, as long as you’re exercising at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time. You may also want to consider downloading a free app like MyFitness Pal or Lose It. These tools provide a convenient way to track your calories burned, all through your smartphone.
What’s best to eat before and after exercise?
What you eat can make your workout more effective and enjoyable. If you eat the right foods before you exercise, you’ll feel energized and may even improve your performance.
If you exercise in the morning, make sure you wake up early enough to have breakfast at least one hour before your workout. If you don’t eat, you may feel sluggish. Try a breakfast with healthy carbohydrates, lean protein and fluids. Healthy carbohydrates like whole wheat bread, fruits and vegetables provide quick energy. Drink plenty of water before and during your workout to stay hydrated.
After your workout, eating a snack with protein can help your muscles recover and grow. The protein could come from a hard-boiled egg, a glass of chocolate milk or a protein shake.
General Health & Wellness
How much sleep do I need? Why is it important?
An average adult needs between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep every night, although this can vary from person to person.
Sleep is an important part of your physical and emotional health. Getting enough sleep at night helps you feel alert, improves your mood and can improve memory. Too few hours of shut-eye can lead to physical health problems like diabetes and obesity. With sleep loss, there are changes in the way the body handles glucose, which can lead to pre-diabetes. There is also evidence that lack of sleep alters appetite regulation, which can lead to overeating.
Are there vitamins all women or men should be taking?
Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin,” because our bodies make enough of it when we are in the sun for 30 or 40 minutes each day. But as we often gravitate toward indoor activities during the winter, we are not in the sun for quite enough time to get the Vitamin D we need. That’s why the majority of both men and women in America are Vitamin D-deficient. Ask your provider if you could benefit from a Vitamin D supplement; it may improve your bones and immune system along with improving your nutrition!
Should I be taking a multivitamin? Are there any possible negative side effects?
“If a person is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet as described above, they probably won’t benefit much from consuming a standard multivitamin,” Janet explains. She notes that “Problems can arise when people consume more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of any vitamin or mineral,” so anyone should consult their doctor prior to starting one. Large doses of extra vitamins and minerals can cause liver, heart and kidney damage.
What are the dangers of sitting for too long?
You’ve probably heard sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to your health. Research has linked sitting for too long with health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels. A recent study shows that prolonged sitting can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 percent. However, spending a few hours a week at the gym doesn’t seem to offset the risks of sitting all day at the office.
This doesn’t mean you need to be walking all day long. There are a few things you can do throughout the day to be more active and reduce the risks associated with extended sitting:
- Have a standing meeting with your coworkers
- Use a glass of water at your desk instead of a water bottle so you can get up to refill it more often
- Try using a standing desk or find a high table or counter
How does stress harm the body?
Stress can be both a benefit and a burden on our bodies. A little bit of stress is good for motivation and focus, but too much stress can lead to various illnesses. When you feel a high level of stress, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that can raise blood pressure and blood sugar. Cortisol has also been linked to cravings for sugar and fat, and it may also cause the body to hang on to more fat. For these reasons, stress can be associated with weight gain. Stress can also be linked to insomnia, heart disease and headaches.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize the negative effects of stress when you feel it coming on. Exercise and meditation can help calm the body and minimize the release of cortisol.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply lead a healthier lifestyle, a good support system is an important piece of the puzzle. If you’re ready to live your healthiest life, find a UnityPoint Health physician or dietitian near you to help you along the way!
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