Tips for establishing healthy eating habits and exercise routines for improving well-being
Establishing healthy eating habits and improving exercise routines often top the list of New Year’s resolutions - perhaps even more so during a pandemic. Virginia Tech expert Brenda Davy, a professor and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, offers the following lifestyle advice for improving well-being.
Cook at home. Consuming a diet high in ultra-processed foods for two weeks increased calorie intake by about 500 kcal/day, according to a study done at the National Institute of Health. This led to a weight gain of 2 pounds. In contrast, consuming a diet with no ultra-processed foods led to a weight loss of about 2 pounds. Other studies have linked ultra-processed food consumption to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
“With many of us spending more time at home, the interest in home cooking has increased. The new year is a great time to increase cooking skills, try new recipes, and avoid using commercially-prepared convenience foods as much as possible,” says Davy.
Reading food labels can help consumers identify foods as being “ultra-processed.” If a product’s ingredient list contains items that are not typically used in home cooking, such as high-fructose corn syrup or the emulsifier polysorbate 80, then it is considered an ultra-processed food.
Stay hydrated. Switch from calorie-containing beverages to those with few or no calories, such as water, to stay hydrated and aid weight management efforts. Recent trends indicate that added sugar intake may be declining, at least among some population segments, Davy says. Some of this may be due to our consuming fewer sugary beverages, and the growing popularity of flavored waters and seltzers.
“Aim for at least 9-13 cups per day of calorie-free fluids. For middle-aged and older adults interested in reducing their weight, drinking two cups of water prior to a meal may help to manage hunger and reduce caloric intake,” says Davy.
Aerobic and strength training. Regular physical activity such as daily walking is critical for long-term weight control, says Davy. “The benefits extend well beyond body weight – to improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of daily walking is a great New Year’s resolution for 2021.” Strength training, also called resistance training, helps us to maintain our muscle mass and preserve physical functioning as we age. Current physical activity guidelines recommend strength training two times per week.
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