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10 Simple Tips to Shape Up Your Diet and Protect Your Health

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Looking to enhance your nutrition profile?

These 10 science-based nutrition habits can promote your best health and help protect you from chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

1. Hit your daily fiber goal. Did you know only five percent of Americans meet their daily fiber goals? Women need approximately 25 g each day of fiber while men need 38 g per day. Think healthy carbohydrates in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Fiber is known to reduce risk for heart disease and some types of cancer. Since it adds bulk and creates a feeling of fullness, it can also reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes.

2. Bite into fruits and vegetables every day. Every time you eat, try to grab a fruit and/or vegetable to ensure you get the recommended five to nine servings a day. The broader the variety you choose, the wider the range of nutrients you capture. Try to double up on vegetables at lunch and dinner and strive for two different colors on your plate. Keep things fresh and exciting by varying the way you eat them, as in soups, smoothies, sauces and of course, dessert.

3. Get your daily dose of nuts and seeds. A one ounce handful of nuts or 2 tablespoon serving of seeds arms you with the heart-healthy benefits to reduce harmful cholesterol and increase protective cholesterol. Enjoy a variety of almonds, peanuts and walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower, hemp and chia seeds.

4. Go for fish at least twice a week. Eight to 12 ounces of fish per week provides you with the anti-inflammatory properties in omega-3s and helps reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and even boost brain health. Some examples of fatty fish high in omega-3 are salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and sea bass.

5. Make a meatless meal with beans each week. Legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils, are nutrition gems. A half cup serving of these high-quality proteins are great sources of fiber, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Beans are great for your heart, reducing your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.

6. Downsize your portions. To manage your portions, one of the best strategies is to eat smaller meals throughout the day. That way, you never reach a starving point and eat like there is no tomorrow. For a lean plate with the right size servings, fill half with low-calorie options such as fruits and vegetables, one-fourth with a lean protein and the final fourth with whole-grain carbohydrates. You cannot go wrong with these winning plate rules!

7. Drink more water. Choose water as your beverage of choice. Replace sugary beverages such as sodas and sports drinks with water to help control calories and weight. You also get credit for water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, which tend to be more filling and lower in calories!

Water also keeps your skin healthier, keeps your kidneys functioning properly, helps maintain normal digestion and energizes your muscles. An easy way to stay hydrated is to always carry a bottle of water with you.

8. Eat more whole grains. Go for unrefined carbohydrates in whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. These help satisfy your body’s need for carbohydrates, while maintaining a healthier blood sugar. Enjoy small amounts of wholesome grains to reduce your cravings for other less healthy carbs.

9. Start your day with breakfast. Get energized with a hearty breakfast. Your best bet is to combine lean protein with a little whole grain and some fruit and/or vegetables. Try a small bowl of oatmeal topped with mixed berries and crushed nuts or a whole-wheat English muffin with a few scrambled egg whites made with spinach and topped with salsa. Studies show that people who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat the rest of the day.

10. End your last meal several hours before bed. There is no real magic to dining by 6 p.m. or not eating anything after 8 p.m.; however, it is good practice to finish your last bite at least two hours before bedtime. Give your body time to digest your food and you will more likely rest better. When you have better sleep, you will feel more energized during your waking hours to eat well, exercise and practice healthy habits that will maintain your best self.

Follow these tips to start your journey toward a happy and healthy year! For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDCES, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, Cooper Clinic Nutrition.