Easy tips to change the way we eat

January 22, 2014 Brett Daniel, MD

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and obese. With this trend, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout, arthritis and sleep apnea have become commonplace with my patients.

While there are key steps that we can all take to be healthier – don’t use tobacco, limit or abstain from alcohol, make exercise a part of our daily routine – I want to focus on a few simple ways to change the way we eat.

I think Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other books on food, said it best: “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

So how can you get started and make it permanent?

1. Eat real food
Foods that can sit on a shelf for years are usually loaded with salt, genetically modified ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial preservatives. This is not the food our body was meant to eat.  Instead:

  • Buy organic produce for things where you eat the skin/kernel
  • Check labels for high fructose corn syrup and choose alternatives without it
  • Choose lower sodium options for soups and frozen foods
  • Avoid drive-thru food; pack your breakfast and lunch to resist temptation

2. Not too much
Many of us eat too much and spend most of our time sitting in front of a screen. If you have ever kept track of your calories for a day, you know how quickly they can add up. Eating out for dinner is usually enough calories for a full day and more! Try to:
  • Share a restaurant meal with someone else
  • Skip the soda and fries and have the salad and water instead
  • Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate at home
  • Measure out portion sizes instead of eating out of a bag

3. Mostly plants
My patients that turn to a vegan lifestyle often see dramatic reductions in weight and correction of almost all abnormalities in blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. While going vegan can be extreme for most, my patients also have experienced success with these methods:
  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Fill half of your plate/meal with fruit and vegetables
  • Make your lunch vegetarian or a fruit/veggie smoothie
  • Sign up for local produce delivery to keep things on hand

4. Make it permanent
I added this one, because my patients who choose to commit to a new lifestyle, and not just a fad diet, are usually those that maintain their weight loss and reverse their abnormalities in blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Changing a routine or habit is difficult, and it takes two to three weeks of adopting a new routine before it begins to stick. Here are tips I share with patients to help make their changes more permanent:
  • Don’t buy things that you want to avoid
  • Commit to not eating sweets at work
  • Keep track of what you eat, using an app or diary
  • Avoid places with cues that trigger your old habits; for example, go to a new coffee shop to break an unhealthy coffee/breakfast routine

I rarely find a patient that does not know what they should be doing to be healthier. Most of the time, we just need motivation to take that first step down a new path. Find your motivation and  choose to live your best life. Be well!

Ed. note: This is the second post in a four-part series to inspire Ballard residents to keep health in mind as we kick off the new year. Each week will highlight a different health topic, from women's health and nutrition to sports medicine and cancer care and prevention. Additionally, Ballard businesses such as Ketch Shop, Bastille, Olympic Athletic Club and Suite 300 Skin Care are offering promotions as part of the 'My Health' series.

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