Cleaning up the diet

All Woman

Dear Donovan,

I read your column each week and would like to make a fresh start on my diet and eat cleaner. What advice would you give to make a healthy lifestyle work for someone like me, who is used to eating improperly?

I am quite aware that this is the time of the year when many people are trying to make lifestyle changes. However, I am also quite aware that many people are not able to carry out this desire beyond January.

Making healthy lifestyle choices is never easy, especially for a person who usually eats junk food. However, I must tell you frankly that now more than ever I have seen the need for people to adopt a healthy lifestyle involving healthy foods and exercise. The number of people dying from diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases in Jamaica and the rest of the world is cause for concern. I am almost sure that each Jamaican family has lost at least one family member to a lifestyle disease in the last year or two.

Sad to say, we live in an age when lifestyle diseases are taking a toll on our population. Human beings, who are the smartest and most intelligent mammals, have now become the sickest. Our poor health is putting pressure on the health system as well as our resources, and we spend most of our young adult life working hard, only to spend most of our savings and most times our children's savings on medications and health professionals. This is definitely not good. The need to watch what we put into our mouths has never been more important.

Before you start your change in diet, I would suggest that you make an assessment of why you have not been eating healthy food. Is it your family, your friends, your job, or is it just from personal choice? Once you have decided to make the change to cleaner foods you will also need to make the practical changes. You may have to learn to cook, you may have to take lunch to work or school, you may have to learn to shop at the market, and you may even have to give up some of your friends who are enabling your poor eating habits.

In your situation, it might be good to start with small changes each week. For example, you could reduce your sweet juice intake by a half in the first week. In the second week you could also reduce your sweet pastry intake by a half. Making small changes each week will allow you not to become bored with your eating programme.

It would be wise to avoid buying certain foods if you are not going to eat them. In addition, if you have kids at home, don't buy them snacks. Eating on time, as well as having many smaller meals every day rather than one or two large meals, might also be helpful. Drinking water between meals will also help to reduce your cravings when you start eating cleaner foods.

Getting a support team would also be helpful. In the long term, having a diet with more fruits, vegetables, vegetable juices, whole grain, soups and yoghurt will do wonders for you. In addition, when you start eating cleaner foods the taste buds will need some time to adjust. In general, you like unhealthy foods because of the sweet, salt or oil in them. But at this point it should be about your health.

It is also important to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.

Good luck!

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight, or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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