It’s that time of year again – time to make resolutions designed to improve your life to become a happier, healthier, and wealthier person. Unfortunately, some resolutions are not realistic and set us up for failure from the start. A very small percentage of us manage to maintain these lofty resolutions.
However, there are small changes you can make today that can help you enjoy a healthy lifestyle. You can start by simply reading the nutrition fact labels on your favorite foods. Smart dietary choices include eliminating or cutting back on these 5 commonly used food items.
- Added Sugar: Some foods, such as milk (lactose) and fruits (fructose), naturally contain sugars. Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) are added to prepared foods and drinks. Many prepared and processed foods are stocked with added or refined sugars for supplemental sweetness. Added sugars are often called “empty” calories, because they contain extra calories and few or no vitamins and minerals, and can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health. Alternatives: Instead of eating foods with a lot of added sugar, try a piece of fruit or use other options such as raw honey, Stevia or maple syrup.
- Sodium: is found in many processed foods, and is commonly known as salt. Excess sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, and that creates an added burden on the heart. Too much sodium will increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Alternatives: You can reduce the amount of sodium in your diet by limiting the amount of salt you add to your foods, avoiding processed foods, and by choosing “reduced sodium,” “no sodium added,” or “low sodium” options when available. Try experimenting with fresh or dried herbs/seasonings to flavor to foods without adding salt.
- Enriched Flour: this ingredient is included in many of the processed foods that we eat including pasta, cereals and breads. Whole grain flours are often stripped of their nutrients. Then, to be considered enriched, vitamins, sugar, and other additives are added back in. Alternatives: Instead of white bread, pasta or rice, choose whole grain products instead.
- Saturated Animal Fats: this type of fact, in the form of lard, butter, eggs, cheese, and tallow come primarily from animals and are known to cause health issues such as high cholesterol and heart disease. Minimizing intake of unhealthy fats allows you to reduce calorie intake in a healthy manner. Unsaturated fats offer important health benefits and should be included in everyone’s diet. Alternatives: A simple alternative to saturated fats in your diet can be unsaturated fats found in non-animal, plant products such as fruits & vegetables, oils, nuts and seeds.
- Hydrogenated Oils; commonly called Trans fats, or Trans Fatty Acids. Hydrogenation is the process of converting a pourable oil into a more solid, saturated fat, and is often added to a product in order to extend its shelf life. Partially or fully hydrogenated oils promote cardiovascular diseases by raising your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowering your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Alternatives: Choose oils that are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, such as olive, safflower and peanut oils. Another healthy alternative to hydrogenated oil is Omega- 3 oils from fish. Also, try broiling foods instead of frying.
Overly ambitious New Year’s Resolutions often fail because they require major changes in a very short amount of time, making them almost impossible to stick with. Instead of broad, life changing goals, your New Year’s Resolution should include small lifestyle changes, such as starting with cutting back on or eliminating these 5 items.
University of Florida IFAS Extension;
American Heart Association:
USDA Choose MyPlate.gov:
Laurie B. Osgood, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Gadsden County Extension, UF/IFAS Extension, Quincy, FL 32351 (850) 662-3287 Osgoodlb@ufl.edu
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.