Beginner Nutrition: Six Things You Should Know (part 1)

After four sweltering years of college cafeteria food, skipped meals and too much beer, here you are at Next Jump wondering how to get started with your new nutritious life.  Whether you’ve been here for some time or just getting started, there are six things you can do today that will better your habits.  Here are the first three, tomorrow I will provide the second.  #1: Include a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.  You need at least 5-9 servings per day (1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked = 1 serving).  The least you can do: include a whole fruit or vegetable with each meal – get those immune-boosting effects.  #2: Avoid drinking calories with meals and snacks.  Drinking fruit juice, regular sodas and adding sugar to coffee or tea is an excellent way to pack on pounds without trying.  The least you can do: keep a water bottle at your desk and fill it up a few times per day.  #3: Stop weekend splurges or “cheat days.”  A “cheat day” is not a scientific term.  People who binge on anything will add fat weight to their body.  The restrict-gorge-cycle affects metabolism negatively (think: slowing it down).  The least you can do: stop bingeing.  Include a portion of the unhealthy “cheat food” into your normal daily diet.  To read more about each of the topics above, visit the Full Engagement Center.

#1: Include a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.

As mentioned in a recent post about getting your 5-9 per day, including a vegetable or fruit with most if not all meals and snacks will not only help you hit the daily minimum of five servings of fruits/vegetables per day.  It will also help you maintain a healthier body weight, reduce chronic diseases, boost your immune system and add more (REAL) vitamins and minerals to your system.  Marissa’s #1 Tip: choose dark leafy greens and bright orange shades because they provide the most nutrients per bite. Check out “the least you can do” up top, too!

#2: Avoid drinking calories with meals and snacks.

Drinking beverages like soda, juice, and sugar-laden coffees can add up to “empty calories”—exactly what it sounds like.  Marissa’s #1 Tip: try low calorie and nutritionally-rich drinks in our fridges, such as coconut water, seltzer, and 1% milk.  Check out “the least you can do” up top, too!

#3: Stop weekend splurges or “cheat days.”

A “cheat day” refers to one day of the week where people decide to give themselves whatever they want to eat or drink in excess of what they would normally consume.  A “cheat day” does not refer to overeating at meals, but rather a day filled with an extravagant amount of calories – thousands above your usual daily amount.   As mentioned above, a “cheat day” is not backed by science.  Your metabolism does not “reset” after a day of splurging.  Any exercise or fad diet program that touts “cheat days” as healthy or effective is false.  The bottom line: bingeing on calories that the body does not need is disastrous to metabolism, mental health, associates a feeling of guilt to the foods consumed, increases the “need for discipline” during the week, and might bring on a full-blown eating disorder.  The restrict-gorge-cycle, as I like to call it, will not fit into a healthy lifestyle.  Physiologically, there are too many risks for long-term illnesses, such as gastrointestinal disorders, DM2 (type 2 diabetes), hypertension, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome (certain conditions that will lead to DM2).   Marissa’s #1 Tip: the goal is to end cheat days forever and to strive to eat well all week long.  To first break out of the restrict-gorge-cycle, you will need to

(1) not skip meals,

(2) in each meal, include all macronutrients (carb, protein and fat) with the #1 nutrition bit in this post (fruits and vegetables), and stick to a “meals and snacks schedule.” 

(3) After successfully manage these practices, turn toward mindful eating strategies, mentioned in a previous NJU: Portion Control.  Check out “the least you can do” up top, too!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s part 2 of “Beginner Nutrition: Six Things You Should Know.”

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