Lifestyle changes for a healthy New Year

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Rohini Diniz

Over the last few decades lifestyle changes such as increased consumption of polished cereals instead of whole grain ones, preference for convenience foods, street foods and fast foods, inadequate water intake, decreased physical activity, increased stress and inadequate sleep have collectively led to a steep rise in the number of people suffering from chronic disorders-obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, cancer and other non-communicable diseases across the world. Healthy habits need to be promoted early in life so that the productive years of adulthood are not cut short by such disease.

Here are some lifestyle changes that have to be made to lead a healthy life.

Eat sensibly: Nutrition and health are closely interlinked and the type of food that one eats is the only major determinant of health that is totally under one’s control as each of us has the final say over what we want to and what we don’t want to eat. Food can be nourishing and healing when eaten in moderation, and harmful when eaten in excess. Good eating habits need to be cultivated right from early childhood itself since dietary habits of childhood and adolescence persists into adult life. Here
are some tips.

► Eat whole grains instead of polished ones: Unpolished grains such as brown rice, products made of whole wheat flour (atta), millet flours and pseudocereals like amaranth and buckwheat are healthier as compared to polished grains. In addition to the nutrients, whole grains contain dietary fibre and other phytochemicals that have been linked to the reduced risk of obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart diseases, hypertension, cancer and other chronic diseases.

► Make sure to include plenty of local and seasonal vegetables and fruits: A diet rich in vegetables and fruits helps meet the body’s needs for key nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, folic acid and antioxidant plant chemicals that have beneficial effects on health. It is not only the quantity of vegetables that is eaten which is important, one needs to eat a variety of vegetables too. Fruits should be eaten whole rather than juiced.

► Include a protein food at every meal. Proteins along with fibre provide satiety to a meal, helping to keep hunger pangs at bay thereby preventing unnecessary snacking.

Learn to cook foods with less oil but follow the traditional practice of using a specific oil for a specific recipe. Avoid using margarine and vanaspati in your home cooking and minimise the consumption of ready-to-eat fast foods, bakery foods and processed foods.

► Learn to sweeten beverages with less sugar, use dry fruit purees to reduce the amount of sugar that needs to be added while preparing desserts and cakes. Serve desserts in shot glasses so that one can enjoy them in smaller portions. Reduce consumption or better still avoid soft drinks, fruit juices, fruit flavoured beverages, fruit yoghurts, cakes, biscuits, pastries, ice creams, etc. Read food labels carefully to check the total sugar content of the food.

►Season your foods with less salt. Cut back on salty foods such as chips, wafers, nachos, salted nuts, salted biscuits, namkeens, pickles, papads, sauces, dips, ketchup, soya sauce, cheese, olives, salted fish, instant noodles, instant pastas, frozen dinners, pizza, cold meats such as ham, bacon, salami, sausages, packaged mixes, soup powders, salad dressings, etc.

► Enjoy a variety of foods but in smaller portions. When eating out stick to regular-sized portions of snacks or food. Avoid large, extra large or jumbo portions.

► Stay adequately hydrated with water instead of other beverages. Water is the best zero calorie drink that one can have as it does not add calories to the diet as most
other beverages do.

Increase your physical activity: Whether young or old everyone can improve their health and well-being by adopting a more active lifestyle. Physical activity does not need to be strenuous. All that needs to be done is to weave physical activity into the daily routine. At work avoid sitting continuously for too long at the computer or your desk. Take breaks, get up, walk around and stretch. Studies have shown that sitting for long hours may change peoples’ metabolism in ways that promote obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. 

If you haven’t been active in a while, start slowly and build up. Learn about the type and amount of activity that is right for you and choose activities that are appropriate for your fitness level. Walking is an ideal and generally safe exercise as it does not require any special equipment and can be done at any time and any place. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that walking reduces the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

To be continued . . .

(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 22 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on [email protected])