All it takes is a little determination and discipline to get back on track with a healthy diet.
The beginning of the new year is when many people resolve to improve aspects of their health and lifestyle, whether it’s changing their diet, exercising consistently, socializing more often or focusing on their mental health.
Giving your lifestyle a healthy makeover is a smart decision to make any time of year. It’s especially important for people with Parkinson’s to keep these goals at the forefront of their minds at all times. Easier said than done, right? We all know how challenging it can be to break bad habits – particularly unhealthy eating patterns!
Just remember that making a few small (but strategic) changes to your diet can immensely improve your nutritional health, thereby keeping the body and brain in optimal condition.
Here are 10 easy tips for improving your diet that will change your life for the better.
1. Exercise portion control.
Overeating leads to lethargy and sluggishness. If the idea of eating less feels daunting, try putting your food on smaller plates and bowls. If you know you are prone to overeating, consider putting a third of your food aside to eat later on if you’re still hungry.
2. Drink plenty of water.
Water has so many health benefits! In addition to helping you stay hydrated and improving your physical performance, water can also help with constipation – a common symptom of Parkinson’s. Experts recommend drinking 1-2 liters or 6-8 glasses of water daily.
3. Increase fruit and veggie consumption.
To get the most nutritional bang for your buck, opt for a diet dense with fruits and vegetables. Incorporate them into every meal – the more colorful the better. Fruits and veggies that are high in antioxidants are particularly helpful for people with Parkinson’s. Visit our nutritional recommendations to get our list of fruits and veggies to add to your grocery cart.
4. Cut out TV and other distractions.
Turn off the TV and put your smartphone away while you eat. You’ll not only enjoy your food more, you’ll also reduce your risk of choking if you sit up and pay attention while you’re eating. You might think you’re multi-tasking if you eat while you’re on your computer work, but the same principle applies. Next time try eating in the breakroom or on a park bench.
5. Reduce sugar intake.
Eat a few too many holiday treats? We get it! But as we start the new year, it’s a great time to get back on track and decrease your sugar intake. If you’re really craving a sweet treat, try reaching for a piece of fruit or dark chocolate to satisfy the craving and get a dose of antioxidants.
6. Take time to savor food by eating more slowly.
Eating more slowly can help you safely chew and swallow your food, which can become a problem for people with Parkinson’s. Plus savoring your food helps boost your mood by helping you slow down and enjoy the moment. Studies have shown that slow eaters consume around two ounces of food per minute, while fast eaters scarf down about 3 ounces. Next time you sit down for a meal, try putting your fork and spoon down between bites and chew your food longer than usual.
7. Plan meals ahead of time.
When we’re starving and on the move, convenience tends to trump quality – hence the term “fast food.” Prepare healthy meals and snacks in advance, portion them out into containers and grab one from the fridge before you head out the door. The next time you’re famished, you’re more likely to skip the drive-through. By spending a little extra time planning ahead for nutritious meals, it can make a world of difference in our mental and physical energy levels.
8. Eat only when you’re truly hungry.
It’s common for people to find comfort in eating, and that urge to comfort oneself can lead to eating when you aren’t actually hungry. The next time you find yourself eating when you are experiencing an emotion besides hunger – be it stress, depression, loneliness, boredom, anxiety or fatigue – try to find a non-eating activity to do instead. This could be anything from taking a brisk walk to phoning a loved one to cuddling with a pet.
9. Replace junk food with healthier snacks.
Some folks assume that healthy eating entails cutting snacks out of your life, but that is not necessarily the case, especially if those snacks provide the fuel your body and brain need to stay healthy and alert. Choose kale or spinach chips over potato chips. Ditch the French fries for sliced, oven-roasted veggies. Got an ice cream craving? Stick a yogurt cup in the freezer instead. The sky’s the limit when it comes to healthy snack substitutions.
10. Curb the late-night eating.
Sleep deprivation can impair glucose metabolism and affect hormones linked to hunger, appetite and body weight regulation. In other words, when we are sleep-deprived we may confuse tiredness for hunger. If you’re tempted to keep snacking after a balanced dinner, that may be a sign that it’s time to go to bed. If you absolutely must eat something before bed, make sure it’s a healthy snack.