This kills millions more people each year than tobacco
About 11 million deaths worldwide were linked to poor diet in 2017, according to major research published in The Lancet last year.
Consuming too much sodium, a major contributor to heart conditions and high blood pressure, was found to be the leading cause of diet-related death globally, the study says.
Researchers analyzed nearly 20 years of dietary data from 195 countries. They found people are eating too many foods high in sodium and trans fats and not enough nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and fibrous whole grains.
“Many people underestimate the importance of good nutrition or just have a difficult time making lifelong changes. It may be best to work on one adjustment at a time and stop thinking of dietary changes as dieting,” Stuglis says. “Lifestyle changes are when real results are seen not only in the waistline but in lab values and disease processes, as well.”
She says the following small changes can make a big difference:
- Move! You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. A brisk 30-minute walk at least four days per week is great. If you have knee issues, try water exercise classes. You will find the more you move, the more you want to keep challenging yourself.
- Eat often: There is nothing wrong with eating every few hours if you are making nourishing choices. Meals should contain 2-4 ounces of lean proteins and whole grains. Include non-starchy veggies at lunch and dinner. Save the fruit for breakfast and between meals.
- Make healthy (snack time) happen: Some ideas include a handful of cherry tomatoes with string cheese, unsweetened Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp. honey and ¼ cup berries, a piece of fruit with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter or ¼ cup nuts. These options make you feel more satisfied than having a candy bar or a bag of chips. Remember – portion your snacks out before you dig in.
- Eat whole foods: Processed foods often contain more fat, sodium and preservatives that can exacerbate many medical problems. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats with fresh herbs and spices should be eaten most days of the week.
- Drink water: Try to have no more than 2-3 caffeinated beverages per day. When it comes to sweetened beverages, proceed with caution. These are empty calories.
“Nobody is perfect – try aiming to eat healthier 80 percent of the time,” Stuglis says.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.