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Healthy Life

Take small steps to achieve a healthy lifestyle in the new year | Entertainment/Life

When it comes to eating, the new year should be more about establishing healthy lifestyle changes than setting impossible diet goals.

“It’s all about adding healthy lifestyle changes that you can do along the way so that you won’t be miserable,” said Rosa Folgar, family medical doctor for Ochsner Health in Baton Rouge.

Folgar said, bottom line, people will get off track.

“Where do you have a birthday party or people bring king cake for the next two months — but keep in mind that you are human,” she said. “What you do is one meal at a time to get back on track and recall the progress you’ve made so far.”

Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian with Ochsner Health in New Orleans, agrees.

“The term ‘clean eating’ is sort of the cool kid way to say ‘healthy eating,'” Kimball said. “It’s a phrase to refer to a variety of approaches to healthy eating, but it’s different for everyone.”

Kimball, who is also the founder of Ochsner’s EatFit NOLA restaurant initiative in New Orleans, added that it’s important to implement healthy lifestyle changes in small steps.

She agrees with Folgar that no matter how perfect people try to be in meeting their goals, they’re only human and prone to occasional failure.

“That’s why you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself by trying to meet one big goal,” she said.

First, any plan should have the endgame of overall good health.

“I think it doesn’t matter what your definition of clean eating is, your overall goal is to have more nutritious foods and to be healthy,” Folgar said. “When we talk about clean eating, we talk about making that a lifestyle choice and how to go about making those changes so that they’re helpful to you.”

The next step is setting timelines that will enable you to sustain your healthy lifestyle choice.

“You might think about how you can dial back on carbs, white starches and sugar,” Kimball said. “For instance, if you decide to cut back on sugar, the first step could be identifying added sugar in your beverages and removing them.”

Kimball suggests one way to do this is to change your beverage choices by replacing sugary soft drinks and juices with such alternatives as flavored vitamin water.

“But you don’t even have to do that all at once,” Folgar added. “Say that you’re drinking two or three sodas a day, and you want to eliminate that from your diet, and you say, ‘I’m going to drink only water.’ But then you’re miserable.”

To avoid the misery, Folgar suggests taking baby steps.

“Instead of saying, ‘I’m just going back to drinking soda, because no one can stand around me,’ start out by substituting water for one of the sodas,” she said. “My whole point is that you can make small changes to make big changes happen over time.”

Back to the overall plan, Kimball said after getting the sodas in check, the next step could be cutting back on added sugar by cutting out desserts. Again, this doesn’t have to happen all at once.

After that, focus on cutting out starchy foods such as pasta and rice, trading them for healthier options that can be found in most grocery stores.

“Banza has a chickpea paste that would be a great healthy alternative,” Kimball said. “And then there’s cauliflower rice, which is a good alternative to white rice.”

To take more control over changing your eating habits, Kimball also recommends more cooking at home.

Still, that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating out. Ochsner offers suggestions for healthy selections at restaurants on its EatFit web page, ochsner.org/lp/eat-fit, and its subsequent apps, both of which include links for New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Acadiana restaurants.

Folgar added those looking for ideas to make healthy lifestyle changes but don’t know where to start can also check out Ochsner’s Healthy You page at ochsner.org/healthyyou. She also recommended Tulane University’s website for its culinary medicine teaching kitchen, goldringcenter.tulane.edu/about-the-teaching-kitchen, as another source for healthy lifestyle ideas.

Finally, Kimball said, no matter what steps you take, be sure to stay hydrated.

“Staying hydrated optimizes your energy recovery,” she said. “Sometimes, people think that when their energy level is low, they need to eat more carbs, when what they simply need is more fluids.”

Sparkling water is always the preferred solution for hydration. It can be supplemented with electrolyte tablets or sugarless flavor packets.

“The trick is taking your body weight and dividing it by two,” Kimball said. “That’s how many ounces of fluids your body needs every day, and the fluids could be smoothies, yogurts, soups, fruits, vegetables and even caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea. Just don’t go wild with the coffee.”