WELCOME BACK TO THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR!
It’s hard to believe that the new school year is right around the corner. We all know how busy and hectic it can be adjusting to a brand new schedule, but your health and nutrition need not to be compromised. Whether you are a student, parent, or just looking to maintain your overall health, consider the following tips:
Form (new) healthy habits. Quite literally, according to research and summed up by Psychology Today, “the behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways.” It’s true: habits are often easy to pick up and hard to break. The good news is that we CAN make changes. It is believed that it takes 30 days to form a new habit. Do you struggle with drinking soda? Eating fast foods? Exercising? Start replacing soda with a sugar-free or reduced calorie beverage more often. Start packing a lunch from home instead of eating fast foods everyday. Start an exercise routine and promise yourself you’ll follow through. The more times you do this, the easier it will get and thus a new habit will be formed.
Stop overcomplicating meals. Everyone thinks that in order to eat healthy, you need to spend a lot of time cooking fancy meals. In this fast-paced world, what can we do when we’re in a pinch? Instead of grabbing a burger and fries, consider a healthier alternative. For example, stop by your local supermarket and buy a rotisserie chicken. You can cut pieces of the chicken breast and pair with a bagged salad or a frozen vegetable for a meal that is ready in minutes and takes zero skill to prepare! If you are a parent on the go, consider using a pre-mixed refrigerated protein drink or a protein powder (1 serving) mixed with water, unsweetened almond milk, or a sugar-free beverage as a meal replacement. Pair with a serving of fruit. Your body will thank you.
Do plan ahead. Okay, so not every meal should be a last minute thought. Pick 1-2 nights a week to prep ahead. Purchase meats or other lean proteins, fresh or frozen vegetables, and starches that are on sale for the week and cook in bulk so you can have leftovers. Prepare with different herbs/seasonings or light sauces so you don’t get bored. Being prepared allows you to remain in control.
Get rid of the junk. No seriously, it will be so helpful to you and your family. Do you buy soda, juices, and sweets? There is no reason you should be allowing that temptation to overpower you. If you had to choose between a piece of fresh fruit and a piece of candy, what do you think will win? I guarantee you’ll choose the candy every time if it’s always in front of you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with balance. You should treat yourself occasionally, but go out to have a treat and don’t bring it home. Allow your house to be filled with healthy foods and snacks so you and your family can stay on track together. Remember that certain foods marketed as “healthy” can add significant calories and sugar, such as juice (even if it says organic) or granola (1/2 cup alone can have 200+ calories). Check out www.choosemyplate.gov for resources on how much you should be eating of certain food groups, how to read a food label and more!
Stick with an exercise routine. Don’t make excuses, just make time- at least 30 minutes per day. Whether it’s early in the morning, during lunch, or after school/work, get moving! Walk with family or friends, play a sport, or try a workout video (Youtube is a great FREE resource). If you experience significant joint pain, try something low impact such as water walking/aerobics. If you’re concerned, always reach out to your doctor for a list of approved exercises. There is something for everyone!
Arica Fratarcangeli, MS, RDN, LD is a dietitian who specializes in weight management. She currently resides in Washington, DC and works for Kaiser Permanente.