New Habits for a New Year

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Submitted by Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center

With the ringing in of 2021 many of us will feel compelled to start a new diet, lose weight or become a better version of ourselves. Most of us will have given up on those plans within the month and resume our old habits. Here are a few ideas for making some simple lifestyle changes to improve the new you in 2021.

Make it simple! Pick a couple of things to change and go for it. Do not get overwhelmed with making too many changes at once. If you are successful, you can add on additional changes. It can be as simple as changing one meal a day and working from there.

Try intermittent fasting. We have been trained that we need three meals a day with two to three snacks, eating every three to four hours. We are finding that is not true. A Harvard study has shown that if we eat two to three healthy meals in an eight to 10-hour window without snacking is much healthier for us. So, try to eat during the daytime hours and not in the evening. An example is a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. window. By having that 14-hour window of fasting, you actually can boost your metabolism! If you are eating in a much bigger window than this push for a 12-hour goal. By changing your hours of eating, you will also find you are not as hungry (this is for those of us NOT pregnant, and not with diabetes on insulin).

Opt for a plant-based diet. Now this does not mean you have to be a vegan, but eating a majority of plant-based foods will improve your overall health. Think of your plate and divide into four portions. Two portions should be vegetables, one portion protein, one portion a healthy grain. Proteins can actually be
from grains as well. If you are eating meat, try to limit red meats/pork to no more than two times per week, as they can be high in saturated fats. Ideally try to eat fish two times per week. Good grains include things like oatmeal that needs to be cooked (not instant), quinoa, lentils, buckwheat and millet. These are much
healthier than white rice and processed cereals and breads.

Eat more fiber! Numerous studies show that those who eat the most fiber tend to maintain heathier weights. Fiber will keep you fuller longer; it will bind up cholesterol and remove it from your body; and it can keep your blood sugar more stable if you are diabetic. It is recommended to try to eat 30-35 grams of
fiber a day. Most of us get less than 15 grams per day. You can find fiber in your whole grains as well as fibrous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach. So, learn to read a food label and look for fiber.

To learn more about different eating habits and ones that might work best for you, talk to your primary care physician or find one at


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