As the holiday season approaches, many people will face the challenge of making healthy food choices. Mindful eating can be easy when you make the simple diet choices to improve overall health.
Brenda Rea, MD, DrPH, PT, RD, family and preventive medicine physician at Loma Linda University Health, is an expert when it comes to understanding healthy food choices. “Mindful, healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to cut out all the foods you enjoy,” Rea says. “Being deliberate about moderation and preparation can help keep you healthy during the holiday season.”
Rea provides the keys to unlocking a healthy diet:
Simple is better. “The more whole, the better — meaning if you use whole, unprocessed foods, you’re likely to get more of the nutritional value from the foods,” Rea says. Eating the apple over the applesauce, or the brown rice over the white rice, can keep a meal tasting good while allowing the foods to maintain their nutritional value. “Foods in their whole form are more likely to be anti-inflammatory, meaning they can alleviate inflammation and can reduce tissue or joint pain caused by inflammation,” Rea says. She also says a good rule of thumb is to try to avoid eating anything with more than five ingredients — or with ingredients that are hard to pronounce.
Baked over fried. When you fry foods, you’re consuming a lot of extra oil, which turns into extra, unhealthy calories. Most oils are pro-inflammatory when used to fry. The inflammation in the body can cause damage to the tissue or joints. Oils also cause oxidation. “Oxidation sounds like a healthy process, as oxygen is necessary for life, but it’s actually destructive to the body’s cells,” Rea says. When considering how to prepare food, try to find out which method is least damaging to the food, she says. She also recommends having a support system when making these changes, saying making changes for a healthier diet may require encouragement from friends and family, and sometimes resources from healthcare providers.
All in Moderation. Eating healthy doesn’t mean cutting out all the foods you most enjoy, but eating them in moderation when accompanied by lots of healthy foods. “You can build in a protective layer of healthy foods around the less healthy options,” Rea says. “Food is something that can make the holidays special, and the foods you love don’t need to be cut out. But wrapping those foods with healthy choices can help protect you from some of the negative effects they may have.”
Getting into healthy eating habits doesn’t need to be confusing or restrictive. Knowing what you’re eating is sometimes the hardest part, Rea says. “Being deliberate about knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body can be a huge first step for many people,” she says. “With this and moderation, meals during the holiday season can be both healthy and taste great.”
Consider a lifestyle visit consultation with one of our Lifestyle Medicine physicians at the Center for Health Promotion. They will work closely with your primary care physician to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Please call the Center for Health Promotion at 909-558-4594 to make your Lifestyle Consultation visit today.