Health & nutrition insights.

A Registered Dietitian’s Top Nutrition and Exercise Trends in 2014

1. Fewer supplements, more real food

Gone are the days when everyone needs a vitamin supplement. In fact, may people take too much, which can actually be harmful to your health, and is like throwing money down the drain.  There are specific instances when supplements are needed, such as vegans who need B12. However, in research, most nutrients show better results when they are from food, not supplements. They may be better absorbed or there may be a synergistic effect from several things in the food (which means they work together to get a better result). Eat more healthy foods and lots of variety to get the nutrients you need.

2. WHAT you eat is just as important as how much

All calories are not the same, and different foods are processed very differently in your body.  Choosing whole foods that are full of nutrients your body needs can help you lose body fat, increase muscle, and prevent disease. You should eat foods that are healthy for your body at least 90% of the time. You should also include plenty of foods that have lots of nutrients and antioxidants. Look for posts on these super foods this year!

Some foods that are not healthy for your body just taste good, or are offered at a social event-you don’t have to avoid all of these all of the time, but you can’t eat lots of unhealthy foods and expect to be at the best healthy you can. Research continues to show that eating whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits, veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats is the healthiest way to eat for most people. Beware of diets that omit any of these foods in entire groups. These diets are not usually backed by quality research and may be more harmful than helpful.

3. Healthy Fats

Including healthy fats in small to moderate amounts at every meal and snack is a great way to get these important foods in. Some examples of the healthiest fats are olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, seafood, and other plant based oils. These fats are important because they may help you decrease your risk of heart disease, improve absorption of vitamins from your food, and help you feel full longer.

4. Balance

Unfortunately, there will probably be another fad diet or supplement this year, and many people will spend too much money on the company’s empty promises. It is so easy to fall into this trap because it always sounds good, and lets face it, it is easier to give up foods entirely or to just take a pill or drink a shake than to plan, prepare healthy foods, and decrease how much you eat to lose weight. Fad diets are not all bad if people use them to get started with a healthy lifestyle, and if they are not too restrictive. There is no “one size fits all” plan, though and you need to eat in a way that improves your health and helps you stay at a healthy weight. This includes balancing lots of healthy foods with a little bit of the other stuff. Balancing exercise, healthy eating, enjoying life, and rest works great (unfortunately, there is no WOW factor to that, so many people look for something more exciting).

5. Organic foods/local foods/farmers markets

Organic foods are produced without pesticides and often have higher nutrients, and are better for the environment. Local foods and farmers markets are also great ways to help the environment and ensure that you are getting the most nutrients in your food. Spending a little extra to support these great programs and to ensure you are getting a quality product is a good investment in your health so you and future generations are not paying the price in the future.

6. High intensity interval training

This type of workout continues to be a force in the exercise community and for good reason. It works! And, it is quick, fun, and challenging. You are using your muscles in a very functional way (which means all those daily things you do like getting up and down, carrying groceries, playing with kids or grandkids, etc. are easier and you can keep doing them longer). There are many variations and you can get apps on your phone, go to a class, or make it up yourself. Add these types of workouts to your routine 2-3 days a week instead of your usual workout and see your body change and your stamina increase!

7. Skip the all or nothing attitude and ENJOY LIFE!

Life is short! I am a huge proponent of healthy eating and exercise, but so many people set their expectations of themselves way too high. Then, they try to be perfect, fail, fall of the wagon and then start over again, never being happy or satisfied where they are.  One of the keys to being healthy for the long haul is NOT trying to be perfect all the time. Just be YOUR best each day and if that means taking a day off exercise or going out for ice cream with your family (and you having some too), then do that! I encourage fully participating in life. This does not mean that you should eat whatever you want all the time and never make time for exercise. But, it does mean that you should not necessarily try to eat perfect and look like a fitness model (unless you are trying to be one).  If you stop being so hard on yourself, you may find that you can stick with your healthy eating and exercise plan better, feel better, and be healthier than ever before.

8. Strong and fit is the focus, not just being skinny

Everyone needs to have muscle and work on keeping it or gaining it. You need to focus on consistently challenging your body so you are improving or maintaining. If you are not doing this, then you are losing muscle, which can negatively affect your health! Everyone can benefit from building muscle and pretty much everyone is capable of it, no matter what your age or where you start. If you don’t know what to do or how to start, then read a book about it or contact a qualified trainer and gain some valuable knowledge you can use the rest of your life.

9. Listen to your hunger

We sometimes forget that our body does a great job of telling us what we need and how much. Busy lives, lack of planning and ignoring our body are all reasons why we don’t listen to our hunger. Work on this important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, especially when you are eating out or not sure about the calories of a certain food. Focus on not getting overly hungry or too full. Somewhere in between is perfect!

10. Get enough rest

This is such an important part of being healthy! You need at least 7 hours of sleep every night. It is even better to get to bed around the same time and get up around the same time every day. This is hard, but it really will help you feel better and research shows you may burn fat more effectively and have a higher metabolism if you get enough sleep!

 11. Take responsibility for your health and fitness level

People who exercise and eat healthy do not have any more hours in the day than those that don’t. I hear so many excuses, and really there are none that I have heard over the years that are really valid. You may miss a workout or even a week or weeks for something you can’t control, but to miss out on working out for a year or months and rationalizing it to yourself is not ok. Eating healthy foods and exercising consistently is hard and takes planning and time. But it is not impossible, and is actually very enjoyable after you get into it! You feel better, have lower risk of diseases, and have a longer life expectancy (and your quality of life will probably be better!) Why would you not spend this time on yourself? Stop making excuses and get started or keep going…if you don’t take the initiative, no one else is going to do it for you!