8 signs you’re in need of a nutrition makeover

You know how some individuals get a “makeover” – usually having to do with improving their appearance?  There is another type of “makeover” also improving your appearance but not just at the external level.  This makeover works from the inside out making you look better externally but works internally by improving your overall health- your food choices and dietary patterns.

So, what are these nutritional makeovers we all should be following to be our very best?  Let’s take a look - be honest with yourself in how many you need to improve upon:

1.     You rarely drink water as your main beverage throughout the day.

If a beverage full of calories is your main source of fluids instead of water, ask yourself why?  It’s often a lifelong habit of associating quenching thirst with a sugary or flavored beverage to where you never got used to the taste of water.  Always choosing a calorie-laden beverage (juice, milk, sodas, energy drinks, etc.) can be one reason for excess weight gain in some people.  Water should be your beverage of first choice.  We don’t make or store it in our bodies and it has many vital functions – flushes out wastes products in our urine, maintains normal bowel functioning, prevents dehydration, energizes muscles, and maintains normal body fluids. 

The fix?  Keep a full water bottle with you wherever you go reminding you to drink more water.   Still want a flavored beverage?   Add lemon, lime or orange slices to water in a pitcher placed in the refrigerator or add flavored drops to a glass of water.

2.     You skip breakfast (or any other meal)

As a clinical dietitian, I see it all the time.  Individuals who admit to skipping a meal every day and it’s almost always breakfast.  Why is breakfast so important?  One reason is research has shown that up to 80% of individuals who skip breakfast are overweight to obese.  Despite the reduced calorie intake when you skip breakfast, it also causes a reduction in physical activity in the morning which results in a reduction in total energy expenditure.  Skipping breakfast also leads to reduced cognitive functioning particularly in children and even in adults. 

The fix? Set a goal to eat breakfast so many times a week to start off with.  Then keep adding days until it becomes routine.  Keep it simple, plan the night before of what to have and make sure you include a whole grain and protein food at this meal. 

3.    You eat out more than twice a week

Frequent eating out can mean an extra 200 calories a day than cooking at home.  And that’s not factoring in the extra sugar, fat and salt restaurant meals are known for.  Restaurant portions size are bad for our waistlines, our blood pressure, our pocketbooks, and our health in general. 

The fix?  Cook more meals at home.   You’ll be in control of the portion sizes, the ingredients and besides, home-cooked meals almost always taste better anyway (and cost less too.) 

4.     You go days rarely eating a fruit or vegetable

If a produce item is a rare sight on your dinner plate, that needs to changed.  Unfortunately, it’s fairly common for many people to neglect to add in what should be a mainstay of our diet.  Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, rich in various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, they may help reduce diseases and they are a quick, natural source of  

The fix?  The good thing about produce is it doesn’t always have to be eaten fresh – try frozen, canned (water-packed) or dried.   Always have on hand fruits and vegetables to remind you to include some each day.  There are many easy ways to add fruits and veggies to your daily meal plan. 

5.     The majority of your food comes out of a box

If you find yourself primarily eating food you pull out of a box – macaroni and cheese, pizza, casserole meals, Ramen Noodles, sugary breakfast cereals, microwave dinners, etc. – that’s not good.  Often boxed foods are heavily processed meaning they have more calories, sugar, salt, fat and/or preservatives that are not health promoting. 

The fix?  Choose more often minimally processed foods close to or in their original form as Mother Nature made them to begin with.  Read the ingredient lists and look for foods with few ingredients.  Include more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry and lean meat.

6.     You eliminate entire food groups from your diet

Maybe you’ve made the decision to eliminate dairy or grains from your daily food choices for various reasons.  Choosing to eliminate an entire food group(s) means you miss out on key nutrients that may not be available in other food groups. No single food can supply all nutrients in the amounts we need. 

The fix?  Our bodies need a variety of foods to function at its best.  To keep our body fueled and functioning efficiently, foods from each food group will make this possible – grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.  By choosing foods from each group we reduce our risk of any nutritional deficiency and helping our bodies repair and nourish itself. 

7.     You go from one weight loss diet to another

You may have been fighting the battle of the bulge for years.  You’ve tried many weight loss diets with some short-term success but usually once you go off the diet, the weight returns and then some.  Repeatedly losing and gaining back weight can result in muscle wasting, less energy, higher levels of body fat and possibly increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The fix?  Get off the dieting merry-go-round staying away from gimmicky weight loss diets. A safer, more permanent approach to weight loss is to lose the weight slowly at about 1-2 pounds a week.  Eat three meals daily of healthy foods, exercise at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes each time, drink more water eliminating sugary beverages, and engage in stress-reducing activities.

8.      You eat until you feel stuffed

You probably were made to clean your plate each and every time growing up.  This did not help you to learn to listen to your body’s signals of the first feelings of fullness which is when you need to stop eating.  As a result, you probably have struggled with weight issues and feelings of guilt if you don’t eat everything at a meal or snack.

The fix?  It takes your brain about 20 minutes to know when you’re full so the first step is to slow down eating.  Putting your fork down between bites is one way to put on the brakes.  Try sipping water between each bite – it slows down eating and you get in adequate hydration for the day.  Chew each bite of food thoroughly before swallowing.  Use a smaller dinner plate.  Practice leaving a bite of food on your plate – the world will not come to a screeching halt and you will slowly enjoy not feeling so full after a meal. 

Small changes add up to a nutrition makeover

If you are guilty of many of the signs addressed, take heart.  We all have tweaks we can make to improve our diet – yes, even dietitians!  The goal is to make small, meaningful changes and to not take an all-or-nothing approach.  Choose one “makeover” to improve upon, once you’ve accomplished that, move on to another.  Before you know it, you’ll be eating like a champ making a significant impact on revamping your nutritional look.