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Jumpstart your nutrition

Al Waller: We’re back with another edition of ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth SM.

You know, embarking on a new healthy lifestyle can be pretty intimidating. I mean, it may seem like you'll have to make enormous and disruptive changes to your everyday life, especially when it comes to nutrition. But then again, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

I’m your host Al Waller, and today we’re joined by Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute®, as well as Christina Badaracco, registered dietitian, to discuss small changes you can make that could translate to big health benefits.

So, Mihaela, at the beginning of the year, a lot of people are often full of high hopes and inspiration, anxious to embark on their journeys to attain healthier lifestyles. How can they go about successfully achieving this objective?

Mihaela Vincze: That’s a good question since we’re coming up on the time of year when holiday indulgences make way for annual health-related resolutions. According to U.S. News & World Report, approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail, so it’s wise to set realistic and measurable goals. This means starting small and actively preparing for the steps you need to take to achieve your desired goals.

Al Waller: I think that’s spot on, Mihaela because look – we’ve all been there, trying to tackle some herculean goal, only to later fold under the pressure because of the sheer enormity of its size.

Well, Christina, since you’re an authority on this topic, why do so many people have a particularly hard time maintaining their goals when it comes to healthy eating?

Christina Badaracco: Al, there are so many reasons. People often lack supportive environments and communities to help them make and sustain positive dietary changes. They lose motivation after a short time when they don’t see immediate benefits to their health or appearance. They are tired of restricting certain foods or food groups and have a desire to indulge. And some people become very strict about counting their calories and logging their exercise, but they tire of this quickly or become overwhelmed by having to follow this regimen.

Al Waller: I hear you and I think if we’re being honest, most of us are looking for that immediate gratification of success. In this case—no pain, no gain, right?

And if you have a big set of unrealistic goals, you can run yourself into the ground trying to meet them and that ultimately can be very deflating and your undoing.

So then, Mihaela, what are some ideas you’d recommend to give your nutrition a jumpstart?

Mihaela Vincze: Commit to your plan. Write down all the reasons and motivations you have for improving your dietary choices. Make sure to have your list handy so you can access it whenever you need reminding. It may be a good idea to have a copy of this list written in a place where you’ll see it regularly, such as on your bathroom mirror, or in your Notes app on your smartphone for easy access.

Chrissy Badaracco: Working with a dietitian can be a great way to prioritize and set your goals while also getting the information and guidance you need to make the right dietary changes for your body and lifestyle. Everyone’s motivations may be different; some people want to be healthier so they can be active enough to play with grandchildren for many years to come. Others may be fighting a chronic illness and want to maximize their odds of a positive outcome and improve their quality of life through treatment. Other examples of motivating factors may be to minimize healthcare costs, improve mental health, reduce their environmental footprint, or improve focus and productivity at work.

Al Waller: Well, you’ve got that right – everyone’s bodies and lifestyles are uniquely different. And therefore, it just might be worth the investment to speak to an expert and make an individualized plan that’s tailored specifically for you.

Now what else would you recommend, Mihaela?

Mihaela Vincze: Plan out your meals. Creating a detailed meal plan can help you stay committed. You can consider your own likes and dislikes and curate meals to your personal preferences (and those of your family members). When you create your menus, you can also plan out what you’ll buy at the grocery store.

Chrissy Badaracco: And I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Transamerica Institute on the Healthier Traditions Cookbook series for the past several years. We have come up with dozens of recipes using healthy, easy-to-find ingredients that can please a variety of palates. They can be easy to fit into meal plans for single people all the way up to large families, using many ingredients you may already have on hand.

Al Waller: And Chrissy, I can personally attest that those cookbooks have some delicious yet--- nutritious recipes! As a matter of fact, one of my favorites is the Bolognese in the Italian Healthier Traditions Cookbook. It’s actually a healthier spin on classic Bolognese and garners some rave reviews in the Waller household!

Now Mihaela, what else have you got for us?

Mihaela Vincze: Avoid skipping any meals. Waiting too long between meals can leave us feeling lethargic and zapped of energy, and it can lead to overeating. While everyone’s body and metabolism are different, it can be helpful to not let more than five hours go by during the day without eating. You may find you need to eat a healthy snack between meals to hold you over to the next meal, especially if you’re physically active. It’s important to snack mindfully, though, and choose whole foods that fuel your body.

Christina Badaracco: It’s helpful to get into the practice of preparing basic foods, and maybe even whole meals, over the weekend to set you on the right track for a busy week. This can mean roasting a tray of vegetables, boiling a pot of quinoa or beans, or baking whole grain muffins for breakfast. It will always be quick and easy to throw together a quick meal, or pack one on-the-go, to help you avoid skipping meals.

Keeping a couple of leftovers in glass containers in the freezer can also help with this. For snacks, I suggest pairing a fiber-rich carbohydrate with a source of protein to keep you satiated. Think carrots and hummus, yogurt and berries, or apple and peanut butter. These can all be made quickly, packed to go, and last a long time in the refrigerator. The Healthier Traditions Cookbook: Quick & Easy has lots of recipes that are easy to assemble with common ingredients.

Al Waller: Agreed. Some upfront planning goes a long way towards ensuring good habits are sustained, especially when you’re on the go all day long, right?

And as for meal-prepping, I know some folks swear by it. So, I’m thinking it’s probably worth a shot and besides, once it’s prepared, you wouldn’t want it to go waste, would you?

Now Mihaela, have you got any other tips for someone who is trying to maintain a healthier diet in the New Year?

Mihaela Vincze: Be mindful when eating. Turn off your phones, TVs, computers, iPads, and other screens that prevent us from being present during meals.

Christina Badaracco: That’s right, Mihaela. It’s important to pay attention to what—and how much—you’re eating. Those distractions prevent us from being able to follow our hunger and satiety cues, which tell us how much we should be eating, and when we are starting to feel full and should stop. It’s OK to save some leftovers for another meal!

Al Waller: So basically, staying in the moment by staying with the meal and cutting out the extraneous distractions (iPad, TV, etc.) sounds like a great idea.

Who knows, by losing the technology at the dinner table, you may wind up having a good conversation over dinner and get reacquainted with your family. Now, how’s that for a concept?

Any final thoughts you want to share before we call it a day, Christina?

Christina Badaracco: Yes, please check out Transamerica Institute’s Healthier Traditions Cookbook series and try out some of the recipes, and read some more background and tips for swapping ingredients.

Mihaela Vincze: And if you’re wondering where you can find these free cookbooks, they’re at TransamericaInstitute.org/cookbooks. Recipes include Quick & Easy, Italian, Soul Food, and American Classics. Also, follow us on Twitter at @TI_insights to stay up to date with our latest releases. We also have a Facebook and LinkedIn page.

Al Waller: Well, thank you Mihaela, and thank you, Christina for sharing your extensive research and thoughtful insights with us today.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is brought to you by Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching, and educating the public about retirement security and the intersections of health and financial well-being. You can find our weekly podcast on WYPR’s Podcast Central and mobile app, wherever you get your podcasts, and at transamericainstitute.org.

And, just in case you missed it, please check out our recent episode on how to kick-off your new year with healthy habits.

Clearpath is produced by Transamerica Institute with assistance from WYPR.

Al Waller is a long-time Baltimore native and employment expert with a 30-year career in leading and advising locally and globally based corporations on matters including: Talent Acquisition and Retention, Employee Relations, Training and Development.
Mihaela Vincze is a public health expert and experienced health care educator. Serving as Transamerica Institute’s health care content developer, she shares insights on health and wellness on ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health and WealthSM. Mihaela earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public health at California State University, Northridge.