As we get ready for the New Year, our focus turns to goals and resolutions. These historically do not last, but what has a longer impression is making healthy choices each day. I was on a teleconference recently with a group of ladies that were making changes in their lives. They were choosing to become healthier through increased exercise, better eating and focusing on personal values. I was the guest speaker answering questions about nutrition and health. One thing I realized by the end of the call was the impact our choices have on our everyday lives. This is not new to us, but it is good to be reminded of the basics now and again. Small changes through simple choices can have big impact over time. Many times we found ourselves discussing the concept of good, better, best. Through the lens of healthy choices I would like to expound upon this.
One of the questions they asked me was “what is the one thing that I should be eating for a healthy diet?” The more we discussed this idea, the more apparent it became that there is no “one thing” or magic bullet that we can do for perfect health. Despite what many websites and infomercials will have you believe, there is no magic fruit or vegetable that will turn us all into centurions. That being said, we do have many options that can move the needle toward health and away from dysfunction and disease.
In the realm of food, I discussed with them the slogan that has gained popularity over the last few years, J.E.R.F., which stands for Just Eat Real Food. Looking at this with the perspective of good, better, best, there are many companies that have tried to make healthy versions of their not so healthy foods. For example, frozen dinners can be macaroni and cheese or broccoli and rice. One of these would be better than the other, but the reality is they are both processed and void of nutrients that we need. Something better would be frozen vegetables that you could cook yourself and pasta to make your own cheesy casserole. While best may be fresh vegetables with a whole grain pasta and organic cheese. On that same note you have to be wary of some of the health claims on packages. Just because it says “all natural” doesn’t always mean it is healthy. Remember sugar is all natural, but in large quantities is not good for us.
For many Americans, the simple act of adding a vegetable a day is a good choice. It is sad how poor many diets are today. So a better choice would be to add vegetables to each meal while best is to make each meal 50% vegetables. To do that you could eat canned vegetables, better would be frozen and best are fresh vegetables. Getting your vegetables from the supermarket is a good idea, buying organic would be a better choice while going to the farmers market to get organic local vegetables would be best.
Good, better, best can also be applied in our daily activity and exercise. Something as simple as parking on the far side of the parking lot can have an impact. That would be a better thing to do. Riding your bike or walking to the store could be the best but may not always be an option so you have to do what you can with each situation. Taking the stairs is another example. The quote that comes to mind is, “no matter how slow you are going on the track or treadmill you are lapping the one on the couch.” While most of us are not getting up early and hitting the gym 5-6 days a week for an hour, our daily better choices can lead to better health outcomes.
With so many choices it can be daunting to do the right thing every time. I urge you to not get discouraged or compare yourself to other people. Health is a process, not an event. It takes time to get to where we want to go. Look at your health goals and make a plan to get to where you want to be. If you make a bad choice one day, there is always tomorrow to make a better or best choice. I tell my patients to live by the 90-10 rule. If you are making good food and activity choices that will increase your health 90% of the time, then you can afford to go off the grid and enjoy some not so healthy choices 10% of the time. We can’t all make “best” choices all the time, but if we are on the good, better, best side of the equation and not on the bad, worse or worst side of the equation, I believe we can continue to move toward our health goals and not away from them.