Getting older encourages all of us to focus our attention on the importance of informed food choices and the role healthy eating and physical activity play in weight management and disease prevention. But eating healthier is easier said than done. If you’re struggling with heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, you might feel discouraged by always being presented with a list of foods you’re not allowed to eat. These tips will help you move forward with your diet and lifestyle goals to promote heart health – think of it a list of definite to-dos.
1. Identify where you need to make changes and take it slow
It can be abundantly clear you need to lose weight, but how to make that happen may be a challenge. It takes many steps and changes to actually accomplish the goal. You need to know where exactly you need to make changes to move towards your goals.
Let’s say you have high triglycerides. If that is the case, you need to look at the sugar and alcohol in your diet. Where can you cut back?
If you have high blood pressure, you may need to cut back on sodium, increase potassium, and boost physical activity. There are a variety of steps you can put into play to lower blood pressure levels. But don’t try to do them all at once. Identify where you need to make changes and then select one or two to implement now. Come back and implement more a few weeks down the road. If you want to be successful, don’t try to tackle everything at once.
2. Plan ahead
A significant hurdle for improving food choices is time. The week is busy and as you run from one activity to the next, food preparation can fall to the side and you end up turning to quick and easy processed meals or dining out. There are choices that hinder achieving your goals. Plan ahead by preparing meals in bulk on the weekends and freezing for quick, easy, healthy meal choices when you are in a crunch.
3. Clean out your cupboards
Don’t rely on willpower. Purge the unhealthy foods from your cupboards so they are not tempting you. Don’t use the excuse of my kids or spouse wants this on hand. If it’s not a good choice for you, it’s not a good choice for them. Save those less healthy options for special occasions, you don’t need to have them on hand constantly.
4. Stock healthy snacks
Replace unhealthy food choices with healthy options. Snacks can be a downfall but having alternate healthy options available can give you the much needed nutrients you need. Purchase some fresh fruit. Note the word “some”. This isn’t the time to buy a large quantity of fresh fruit. You are changing habits. It’s not going to be second nature for you to reach for a banana as a snack. Have some fruit options on hand as you train yourself in new habits. Don’t have so much it’s going to spoil before you consume it. Nuts make for another heart healthy snack. Mix a variety with dried fruit for a heart healthy trail mix.
5. Schedule time for exercise
Don’t just say you are going to take a walk 5 days a week. Look at your calendar or daily schedule and actually block off the time for a walk. Set yourself a reminder to take the walk at that time. A tip to consider: working out first thing in the morning is often more successful. Planning to work out later in the day can easily get canceled due to other priorities that crop up throughout the day. Schedule a time you know you can stick with.
Utilize How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits to set yourself up for success as you work to add healthy food choices and physical activity to your daily routine.
Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.