Oklahoma ranks eighth for adult obesity in the United States. Obesity is linked to countless dangerous diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.
Obesity is not only a concern for your health, but also for your overall well-being. Many dietitians have seen how a healthy diet directly affects their clients’ mental and emotional health.
“I have witnessed people relieve so much stress by decreasing their risk for heart disease and diabetes,” INTEGRIS registered dietitian, Meagan Ballard, said. “I have been hugged because grandparents now have enough energy to play with their grandkids. I have seen parents cry because they now feel empowered to lead by example for their children in adopting healthy eating habits.”
Eating well and moving more will not only improve your health, you’ll feel better. Fad diets may promise a quick fix, but it’s important to create a lasting healthy lifestyle you can follow for decades to come.
Quick Helpful Tips to Live a Healthy Life
Eat More Produce
Oklahoma is one of the lowest-ranking states in terms of fruit and vegetable consumption. Getting healthier doesn’t always mean cutting out things from your diet– sometimes adding foods is necessary. Make an effort to eat a vegetable or a piece of fruit as a snack when you are hungry and skip the chips or sugary snack bar.
Exercise and Move Your Body
Kristen Forbes, registered dietitian and nurse, shares how eating healthy can be a challenge, given our environment. “It’s increasingly hard with our sedentary lifestyles, high-fat foods, and the convenience of unhealthy fast food constantly being available,” she said.
Lack of everyday exercise or physical activity also contributes to an unhealthy weight. It is uncommon to see people biking or walking to work in Oklahoma, not to mention the countless advertisements for fast food.
“Transportation is part of Oklahoma’s problems,” Ballard said. “We are landlocked and use our cars to get everywhere.”
Oklahoma has plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation and there are also many different types of gyms, like yoga or cycle studios. If you prefer privacy, you can work out in the comfort of your home with no equipment. You can do body weight exercises like push-ups, or simple cardio exercises like jumping jacks.
“Working out on a regular basis will not only boost your energy throughout the day but also help with muscular strength and endurance,” Ricardo Ibarra, Gold’s Gym fitness manager from Penn Crossing, said. “Incorporating more physical activity into your routine will allow your body to become more efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients, which will improve your overall health.”
Educate Yourself and Seek Accurate Information
Forbes said she recognizes many Oklahomans want to eat healthy but don’t have the tools or knowledge to make the right choices.
“In my experience, about 90 percent of calls I get are in regard to weight loss,” Forbes said. “They are navigating through the nutritional diet dogma online trying to find out what is and isn’t a good strategy. They need help losing weight in a healthful manner.”
It’s important that you find accurate sources to get information about healthy eating.
Helpful Oklahoma-specific nutrition sites and resources:
I On Your Health
Shape Your Future
Oklahoma Nutrition Information and Education Project
Eating healthy starts with stocking your pantry with healthy foods that are ready to grab and go. Below are some common items to include.
Seasoning is essential when creating healthy, yummy meals full of flavor. Having a wide selection of spices in your pantry helps bring boring dishes to mouthwatering creations. Adding spices to food is a healthier alternative than using sauces, which typically contain high fat and sugar.
Ballard mentions how you can cook the same thing often but change the spice profile hugely by sprinkling on different spices.
Forbes is also a huge proponent to a spice-filled pantry. Dried oregano, cumin, curry powder, Italian herb mix, paprika, and turmeric are a few of her favorites.
“A variety of spices allow you to continuously change the flavor and inspires you to keep cooking and trying new things,” she said.
Mrs. Dash, carried in Homeland stores, has a selection of wonderful spice combinations pre-mixed to make meal preparation even easier. Changing the spice used on your meats can quickly change its taste; our favorites are the barbecue and lemon pepper mix.
Another way to change up staple ingredients and typical flavors is to prep them different ways. Corn, for example, can be boiled, roasted, or grilled.
While canned goods might not sound as appealing as fresh produce, keeping several on hand can help you stay on track when hunger strikes and you don’t have anything prepped.
Beans are a must-have canned good. Ballard suggests including beans in many of your meals to add fiber and protein.
“They are a cheap option and expand your dish,” Ballard said. “Give the beans a good rinse before preparing and choose the low sodium option.”
Forbes recommends her clients have canned salmon, sardines, and oysters for those busy days. They provide protein and are easy to eat quickly.
If you aren’t used to eating vegetables on a daily basis, incorporate canned vegetables. Canned vegetables provide the same nutritional value and have a longer shelf life than fresh vegetables.
“I suggest having a variety of canned vegetables like artichokes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and pureed pumpkin,” Forbes said.
Carb-loading every day won’t help anyone reach a weight loss goal, but, like many things, grains are OK in moderation. The ideal amount also depends heavily on the type of grains you are eating.
Ancient grains like barley and quinoa offer a great carb fix that’s healthy to enjoy in moderation. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta are also filling staples to have on hand.
Refrigerator and Freezer Essentials
Just like you need a healthy stock of products in your pantry, you need smart choices in your refrigerator and freezer as well. When you open your refrigerator, you should be greeted by bright colors and lean meats.
Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Ballard recommends frozen fruits and vegetables to her clients, especially for ones who are new to incorporating more produce in their diets. Some research has even shown that frozen is more nutritious.
“Look for flash-frozen,” Ballard said. “You don’t want preservatives.”
Flash-frozen vegetables still contain important nutrients found in fresh vegetables. Typically, they are frozen at their peak condition before any nutrients are lost. To prep frozen vegetables, Ballard recommends steaming rather than boiling because the intense heat from boiling may eliminate key nutrients.
Frozen fruits are also convenient to keep in your freezer. They can be thawed and easily thrown into your morning oatmeal or smoothie.
While frozen produce may keep longer, there’s nothing quite like fresh produce in season. Learn how to appreciate the beautiful color and texture of produce.
We all know that half of your plate should be filled with vegetables and fruits. However, it can be a challenge to incorporate that many into your diet, especially if you don’t like them. It’s key to find veggies that you like, and learn how to cook them properly.
Dark leafy greens should be kept in the crisper drawer to keep them fresh longer. Combine these greens with other leafy vegetables and a lean protein, or beans, to quickly create a delicious nutrient-packed salad.
Fresh herbs, along with spices, are the keys to enjoying a flavor-packed meal. Try some new herbs this year and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Discover which herbs you like and which you don’t like. If you’re new to using herbs, experiment with these first: rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and parsley.
Having sources of lean protein is an important part to staying healthy and supporting your muscles. Forbes recommends meat like chicken and turkey, or fish like wild caught salmon.
Ballard advises if you aren’t going to be eating meat you’ve purchased within the next 24-48 hours, it’s best to freeze it.
Banish these Items from Your Pantry and Fridge
While we believe in moderation, some items are better to just not have in sight. For example, if you can’t buy a bag of chips without eating it in its entirety, consider not keeping them in your home, but rather treating yourself to a side of chips when eating out.
“I recommend people to get rid of trans fat,” Forbes said. She explains how trans fat increases blood levels of bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, which can lead to increased risk of chronic disease. Forbes suggests making healthy swaps like replacing vegetable oil with higher quality oil, like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, grass-fed ghee, or organic coconut oil.
The refrigerator culprits Forbes suggests ditching are soda and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you have a soda habit, try to slowly replace it with water. You can add some fruit to make it more exciting, like lemon or lime.
Quick Healthy Recipes and Meal Prep
Having quick recipes and meal ideas can really help you stay on track.
“The key is meal planning,” Forbes said. “Sit down and write out your meals for the week and prep on the weekends by chopping your vegetables, or measuring ingredients for the meals later in the week.”
Homeland has all the essentials you need to be successful in your healthy eating. Plan out your meals, write out your grocery list, and head to your nearest Homeland.