10 tips for eating to live well

Local Mom completes American Heart Association's Better U Makeover Challenge

eating healthy for a better life

Last month, I had just a few weeks left in the American Heart Association’s BetterU Makeover Challenge, which began last November and ended in early February.

At the start of my 12-week journey, I was eager and motivated to be taking such a positive step forward with my health. Then, just one week into the program, I was taken out of the running for the next five to six weeks with severe bronchitis and a sinus infection.

Once I was well, I managed to get myself back to my program workouts for about a week before life decided to throw my a few more personal curveballs.

hudson valley doctors and primary care physicians

Despite all the obstacles and frustration I encountered in my life during those 12 weeks, I did come out the other end with some positive notes. The seminars I attended on how to eat for health and get active again had some very helpful tips. Including:

1.    Rise and shine – Breakfast gives you the energy to start your day, so don’t skip it! Try to eat within one hour of waking and include some protein.

2.    Eat, eat, eat – Aim to eat six times a day - three main meals and three snacks. This helps to maintain your blood sugar levels and energy throughout the day.

3.    Be colorful – Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with lots of nutrients. Aim for seven to 10 servings a day.

4.    Keep it whole – Instead of enriched, refined grains, incorporate whole grains into your diet. They provide fiber and keep you satiated longer.

5.    Don’t forget the veggies – Eat vegetarian for at least one day a week. Limit beef to once a month (or once a week if you really love it). Fish, such as salmon, should be eaten at least twice a week.

keeping kids healthy in the hudson valley

6.    Plan, plan, plan – If you know you get hungry on-the-go or at work, keep some healthy snacks handy, such as carrots, celery, apples, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, air-popped popcorn, rice cakes, or almonds.

7.    Spice it up – Add flavor to your food by using a variety of fresh spices instead of adding more salt. Spices are beneficial to your health. For example turmeric helps reduce inflammation.

8.    Get oily – Limit the use of butter, margarine, and vegetable oil by cooking with extra virgin olive, canola and coconut oil.    

9.    Fat can be ok! Often, the full-fat version of a food is the better choice than fat-free or light versions because they will leave you more satiated and less likely to overeat and are also less likely to contain added salt and other less-healthy flavor enhancers.

10. The no-no’s – Limit sugar and avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, diet soda, and fruit juice.

hudson valley doctors

Overall, though I may not have been able to participate as much as I’d have liked, the program has been a very positive experience for me.

It has reminded me that I need to make my health and well-being a priority in my life so that I can live life to the fullest and set a good example for my son. I would encourage other women who have risk factors for heart disease and stroke to apply for 2016-2017 BetterU.  

For more information about the American Heart Association’s BetterU Makeover Challenge, log onto their website by clicking here. The application will be available in late September 2016.

Poughkeepsie native Merlyn Akhtar is a single mom to a 5-year-old. She is the Recycling Coordinator for Ulster County. This is the third of three articles she’s done for Hudson Valley Parent on the BetterU Makeover Challenge.