Health Goals: My Improved Eating Habits

| 1/18/2011 11:36:46 AM

L.HoltI’ve been sick (actually ill, not just minor sniffle colds) more times in the last year than the last two to three years combined. Most of those illnesses can be counted in the last six months, and I’m getting desperately tired of it. So, new goal. Stay healthy. I’m already trying to improve my hydration habits, but there are many important aspects to a strong immune system and healthy mindset.

The most immediate health issue I plan to address is that of a healthy diet.

 A healthy diet can boost energy levels and immune system response.
Photo by zirconicusso/ Courtesy

According to a recent Consumer Report poll, 90 percent of Americans say that they are eating a healthy diet. 43 percent of the respondents also said that they drink at least one heavily sugared soda or coffee beverage a day, and about 25 percent said they tried to limit their sugar intake each day. According to the senior program editor for Consumer Reports Health, this habit can sabotage a healthy diet. There is also evidence of a discrepancy between what people think of as a healthy diet and what they consume day-to-day. 33 percent of the poll-takers reported that they were at a healthy weight, when in actuality the poll showed them to be either overweight or obese. In addition to its effects on your waistline, sugar inhibits the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off infection, and caffeine can contribute to gastrointestinal problems, fatigue and general anxiety. I largely gave up soda eight years ago and haven’t been able to drink coffee for about six months, but it’s not difficult to believe that many of my friends and acquaintances are drinking more calories than they believe.

WebMD columnist Elaine Magee posits that there are five principle mistakes people make as they consider healthy eating. The one that I am most guilty of is number three: eating out more often than not. At my worst, the total bill comes to about a quarter of my entire monthly budget. It’s nearly twice my actual grocery expenses. With two jobs and a fondness for getting some exercise most nights (my second stay-healthy goal), I rarely feel like I have time to prepare anything, even on those occasions that I want nothing more than a home-cooked meal. I’ve recently started combating this with a yogurt-and-fruit smoothie after my tae kwon do workout. I like to use yogurts that have active cultures and either no sugar or only natural forms to give my body an extra helping of probiotics. This helps me give my body some protein and vitamins to start repairing itself and has the added benefit of opening up time for preparing a small-but-complete meal. Even if I have to thaw the meat first.

I’ve started trying to eat more fruits and vegetables (I aim for five full servings a day) to improve my vitamin and iron levels. The number one nutritional mistake people make is to buy all of their produce for a week at once. Because fruits begin to lose their vitamins as soon as they are harvested, buying fresh fruit to eat a few times a week will actually result in better nutrient intake. Frozen fruit can be a good option as long as there are no syrups added—fruit that is flash-frozen as soon as it is picked retains its nutrients for up to a year in the freezer.