Your diet: little steps toward a healthy life

All along the route to living healthy are unhealthy temptations. It's so easy to up-size your fries, stay up late watching television or movies, or to buy that huge BLT and eat the whole thing. Thankfully, the easiest way to a long and healthy life involves taking natural, painless steps. A little daily monitoring of your diet helps you to do just that.

Your diet: little steps toward a healthy life

Fruits and veggies

Ask yourself: Did I eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables today?

Your goal: A total of seven to nine fruit and vegetable servings a day if you can.

Tracking trick: If you regularly wear jewellery, wear nine bangles on the same arm. Each time you have a fruit or vegetable, move one bracelet to the other arm. If you're not a regular jewellery wearer, keep nine paper clips in your pants pocket. Move one to another pocket for each serving of produce you consume.

Added bonus: Aim to put lots of colour on your plate every day — green broccoli, purple grapes, yellow peppers, red tomatoes and orange peaches, for example.

How to catch up: If you've had breakfast and lunch with little or no fruit or vegetables, make up lost ground with an apple, orange or pear in the afternoon, a big salad for dinner, and another fruit or vegetable snack in the evening.

Whole grains, nuts and beans

Ask yourself: Did I have three whole grains plus some nuts and/or beans today?

Your goal: Two to four servings of whole grains and one or two servings of nuts and/or beans.

Tracking trick: Think 3-2-1. That's three whole grains, two legumes or vegetables and one serving of nuts.

Added bonus: Make at least one of your fibre-rich grains a soluble-fibre powerhouse such as oatmeal.

How to catch up: If you've eaten a low-fibre breakfast and lunch, then try snacking on nuts during the afternoon and having beans in your main dish at dinner, along with a slice of whole-grain bread. Take a soluble fibre supplement if necessary.

Relish in the rewards

You will soon see that your efforts are paying off. Long before you go back to your doctor for a blood pressure check and a new cholesterol test, the following lifestyle measurements of success will show you that you're on the right track. Expect to begin experiencing these benefits fast — some within a week or two of starting this plan.

  • More energy: You've got more bounce all day, even during the notorious 3 p.m. slump.
  • Better sleep: Your slumber is deeper; you wake up feeling more refreshed.
  • A tighter belt: You can take it in an extra notch or two.
  • Better-fitting clothes: You look better in your pants or skirts, maybe you can even wear your "skinny" jeans again.
  • More money in your purse: You've got cash left over from the weekly food budget because you're eating less fast food and buying fewer processed items.
  • Better moods: Minor irritations don't bother you and you're laughing more. Your outlook is more optimistic.
  • More strength: It's easier to lift the grocery bags or pick up your children or grandchildren.
  • Real muscles: Are those biceps you can see in your upper arms? Your muscles are gaining definition.

To help you reap these benefits of a healthy lifestyle, keep this article's diet monitoring tips in mind.

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