When you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle it might seem like you’re living in an unhealthy world. About two-thirds of American adults are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And portion sizes keep getting bigger. In 1990 the average bagel was 3 inches in diameter and 140 calories. Compare that to 2014, when the average bagel was 5 inches in diameter and 350 calories.
There are three factors that can contribute to weight gain and chronic disease, says Lindsey Wohlford, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson:
- genetics or family history
- food environment
- lifestyle choices
“You can’t change your genetics, but you can make some changes to your lifestyle choices and your food environment,” Wohlford says.
Follow her tips for staying healthy in a not-so-healthy world.
Be aware of your food environment.
It’s important to understand that the food in the environment surrounding you could be keeping you from reaching your health goals. Do your friends prefer to eat at restaurants that don’t offer healthy options? Do you keep unhealthy snacks, like chips and candy, in your desk at work? Does your family prefer meals that are loaded with unhealthy fats and empty carbohydrates?
These types of situations can lead to making negative choices for your diet and health. Too many calories create an imbalance when it comes to energy. This can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity increases your risk for several chronic diseases, including cancer.
But once you recognize that, you can start to correct it. While you can’t control the larger food environment, you can control the environment directly around you.
Try making unhealthy foods less visible in your home or office. Or better yet, don’t bring them into your home or office at all.
“If you don’t buy it, it’s not in your house,” Wohlford says. “Knowing what’s at stake can help motivate you to change your food environment.”
Knowing what’s at stake can help motivate you to change your food environment.
Choose whole, fresh foods.
It’s best to choose fresh foods whenever possible. Processed and package foods often contain a lot of sodium and sugar. Added sugars introduce extra, empty calories into your diet, which can lead to weight gain. Excess sodium may increase your risk for cancer.
When you’re grocery shopping try to avoid these or look for foods with as few ingredients as possible.
“Shopping around the perimeter of the store is a great way to avoid some of the processed foods,” Wohlford says.
Try shopping at your local farmers’ market. And, whenever possible, cook at home.
Watch your portion sizes.
Studies show that eating from a large container or package can cause people to eat more.
“We tend to fill these large containers, instead of controlling our portions, so try using smaller bowls and plates,” Wohlford says.
By moderating your portion sizes, you can cut back on excess calories and manage your weight.
“Planning is essential to your health,” Wohlford says.
Before you head to the grocery store, plan your meals for the next few days. Create your grocery list and stick to it. Eat breakfast and bring your own snacks to ensure that you have healthy choices.
“This way it won’t matter if the larger food environment isn’t healthy,” Wohlfordsays. “Because you’ve created a healthy one for yourself.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.