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How Do You Reach Your Optimum Diet?

March 16, 2012

If you want to make healthy changes to your diet, but don’t know how to get from Point A (your current diet) to Point B (your optimum diet), don’t get discouraged. The most important thing to realize is that you don’t have to make changes all at once. In fact, it’s better not to. It’s more likely you’ll improve your diet for the long haul if you go slowly, one little step at a time.

For example, I recommend that people start with some healthy substitutions. Say you’re drinking soda and you want to stop. Try swapping seltzer or mineral water with a dash of juice, or a squeeze or lemon or orange. That’ll give you the fizz plus a little bit of sweet that might just help you get over the soda habit. A few months later, you might find you don’t need the fizz as much as you thought you did, and you move to water with some lemon or cucumber in it.

I’ll give my own experience to demonstrate what I mean. Although my diet four years ago wasn’t as depleting as it was 20 years back, it still was lacking in terms of nutrition. For example, it contained far more refined foods. I bought English muffins and often ate them toasted with peanut butter or jam for breakfast; today, I eat mostly cooked oats or plain yogurt with fruit and nuts for breakfast. My sandwich at lunch back then was deli turkey with Hellman’s mayonnaise, and I might include a side serving of low-fat Cape Cod potato chips. Today, I mostly use hummus or mashed avocado as a spread for sandwiches. For dinner back then, I ate a lot of refined white pasta – probably several times a week – which these days I have replaced with whole-grain varieties a few times a month. My between-meal snacks in 2008 were packaged granola bars and cookies like Fig Newtons; nowadays, a snack might be a piece of fruit or a handful of organic raisins and nuts. And oh yeah, I ate a fair amount of ice cream and other sweets.

Second, my consumption of fruits and vegetables was much lower then than it is today. I did pretty well with fruit, but vegetables were pretty much confined to salad. Today, however, I get vegetables of various colors at each meal – at breakfast, in homemade juice; at lunch, in my sandwich or in a salad; and at dinner, at least one or two different varieties.

Third, my protein sources have changed since 2008, too. Then, I relied on poultry and seafood for lunch and dinner (I haven’t eaten red meat in many years); today, I’ve shifted more to beans, legumes, nuts and soy.

Finally, my water consumption has changed. Whereas two years ago I estimate that I drank about two or three glasses a day, in 2010 I am up to six to eight glasses.

My point is, I didn’t get here overnight. And I’m not at the end of my nutritional journey – not by any means! I’m constantly rethinking what I eat, trying new foods and working toward greater nutritional health. I believe that you can get there, too.

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