Long life comes from eating right, studies say. Here’s how to begin

According to the study, the greatest gains in longevity were found by eating more legumes, which include beans, peas, and lentils; whole grains, which are the entire seed of a plant; and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios.
Plant-based diets are win top nutritional honors. In fact, diet can be as vital a sign as blood pressure, temperature and pulse, said Dr. David Katz, a specialist in nutrition and preventive and lifestyle medicine who has published research on how to use food as preventive medicine.

Ready to get healthier? Here are five expert-recommended ways to change your diet for the better.

1. Track your current eating habits

Many of us eat without thinking, without really understanding everything that we put in our mouths. That’s why becoming aware of your actual eating habits is the first step, said registered dietitian nutritionist Kathleen Zelman.

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“Write down everything you eat for a day and include details like time, place and other factors that affect your dietary habits,” Zelman said. “So sit back, take a closer look and make a plan on how you can do better.”

Don’t try to be perfect when you start changing your diet, he added. “Instead, find small steps that you can stick with. Then do it again next week.”

2. Plan for success

“We eat what’s around us,” said Dr. Tom Rifai, who teaches a continuing education class on nutrition and metabolic syndrome at Harvard Medical School.

He suggests changing your food environment, including your home, work, and car, by planning ahead. Pack healthy lunches and snacks, and don’t forget to travel. “Stop at a grocery store before you get to the hotel so you can stock your room like you would your house,” he said.

Stocking your pantry Having healthy staples you can fall back on on a busy weeknight is another way to fuel your successful transition to a healthier eating style.

3. Eliminate sugar from breakfast

Start your day with a healthier bang by cutting out sugar from breakfast, suggests Dina Aronson, senior dietitian for Diet ID, which focuses on dietary assessment and health behavior change.

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“There are so many benefits to reducing sugar in the first meal of the day,” he said. “Your blood sugar stays level; your energy and creativity stay high and set the tone for the day.

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“Rethinking breakfast is a powerful approach to behavior change because it’s a meal most people eat every day,” he said. “If sugar doesn’t become a rule, people learn to love it and that becomes a habit.”

4. Make a meal without meat

The easiest way to start eating more plants is replace one meat-based meal a day with a plant- or grain-based option, the experts say. Start with lunch: Adding lentils, whole grains, or beans to a meatless salad helps raise blood sugar levels slowly, giving your brain the energy it needs to push through an afternoon slump. It also reduces binge eating at night, experts say.

5. Eat what you love

We all know that eating fruits and vegetables is good for us, but they are not usually our favorite foods. However, for this new habit to stick, you need to enjoy eating delicious and healthy foods, Aronson said.

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“How can you enjoy healthy food so that it’s never a punishment and always a reward? Find out what you love,” Aronson said. “Love to barbecue? Grill some cauliflower with barbecue sauce. Yummy!”

“Work with an expert or think of ways to incorporate the flavors of the foods you like into your daily routine until it becomes a habit to eat those foods,” she said.

food is a part

But food alone does not guarantee a longer and healthier life. Daily exercise is key — and it doesn’t have to be in a gym. Studies find that simply moving as often as possible each day, such as walking in nature, can improve health and reduce stress.

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