UK HealthCare

New Year, New Start for Healthful Eating

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The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Shorus M. Minella, a dietitian with the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 10, 2022) For many, the start of a new year is the perfect chance for a fresh start with your health and fitness. Especially after a busy holiday of indulgence, it is important to recalibrate with healthy choices in mind.

The best way to start is with an open mind, knowing that simple, small choices can add up in the end to make big changes.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Kentucky. Too much fast food, diets with high fat content and too much sodium all contribute to heart disease. If you suffer from heart disease, try sticking to a heart-healthy diet with reduced saturated fat, sodium and little to no trans-fat. Your focus should be on lean meat, like chicken, turkey and fish. Make sure to incorporate foods into your diet that are high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

A good place to start is your grocery list. When we are stressed, we tend to pay less attention to the food we eat and reach for the high-calorie, sugary snacks. It is important to add healthy snacks to your grocery list. Look for low-calorie items that do not have too much added sugar or fat. Pick up vegetables that you can cut up and dip into hummus or fruit that you can slice into yogurt. If potato chips are your kryptonite and you must buy a bag, put some into a small bowl when you pull them out to eat and then put the bag away. Once the chips in the bowl are gone, you are done.

Making diet changes takes consistency, but it is also important to give yourself grace along the way and remember that balance is key. If you are looking to enjoy extra sweets after dinner, look for other ways you can cut out extra calories, like skipping soda or sweet tea during the day. You could also choose low-fat milk instead of whole milk in your recipes, which will cut down on the fat content.

Exercise is another great way to improve your physical and mental health. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in many ways — one of which could be a decline in physical activity. Increasing your activity, even just marching in place, will do wonders. When you feel like eating, think about whether you are bored or hungry — if you’re just bored, find another activity, like cleaning around the house or reading a book.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.