The keys to sustaining a healthy diet


The keys to sustaining a healthy diet

It’s not uncommon for patients of Tidelands Healthy family medicine physician Dr. Matthew McCoskey to ask for help improving their diet.
In many cases, he says, people recognize they need to make changes, but struggle with how to get started or sustain their efforts.
The key to success, Dr. McCoskey says, is not to hop on a fad diet but to stay vigilant about what we’re eating and how it can impact our health.
“I encourage people to be mindful about eating,” Dr. McCoskey says. “The goal is to choose foods that are both nutritionally nourishing and satisfying to you.”

New guidelines

That concept is supported by new dietary guidelines from the American Heart Association that promote balance in our diets to improve heart health.
Rather than focusing on adding or removing one type of food or ingredient, the guidelines encourage people to pay more attention to our overall dietary patterns. The focus is on looking more holistically at what we’re eating over the course of a day or week.

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That doesn’t mean we have to completely cut out all the “bad” stuff in our diets. We just need to put more emphasis on eating the “good” things that keep us healthy and well.
And we need to step back from the mirror, at least in the short term.
“The goal is not to achieve an ideal body weight,” Dr. McCoskey says. “The goal is to achieve health, which translates into a healthier body weight.”

Gradual change

One of the most common challenges for people is cutting back on sugary drinks such as soda, Dr. McCoskey says. He encourages people to gradually replace those drinks with water rather than going cold turkey.
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” he says.
He also encourages patients to consume a greater share of their protein from plant-based sources such as nuts or legumes rather than meats.

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When choosing which meat to consume, Dr. McCoskey advocates more fish such as salmon, which is higher in healthy fats such as Omega 3 fatty acids.
Although people tend to see chicken as a healthier choice than beef or pork, that’s not always the case, especially if it comes processed as a nugget, finger or fast-food sandwich, Dr. McCoskey says.
Whenever possible, trade processed foods for whole foods — swapping white rice for brown rice, for example, or trading jarred pasta sauce for a quick homemade marinara, he says.
Of course, modern life can put plenty of barriers to healthy eating in our way.

Busy lifestyles

These days, with time to prepare meals limited by our busy lifestyles, Americans eat out more than we did in the past, and we’re also using pre-made meal kits and subscription services that can short-circuit healthy eating, as well.
“In restaurants, you tend to get a larger-than-life portion,” McCoskey says. So, don’t feel like you have to finish everything in one sitting — that’s why they make doggie bags.
With restaurants and meal kits, McCoskey recommends paying attention to ingredients and calorie counts if available. You can ask to see the list of ingredients at many restaurants. Federal law requires large chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus specifically to encourage diners to make healthier choices.
In short: Whether you’re eating out or cooking at home, healthy eating means finding a balance of foods that are both healthy and enjoyable to you. Rather than trying to make many changes at once, try making smaller, incremental changes that will add up over time.

Dr. Matthew McCoskey, who practices at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road, treats adult, pediatric and geriatric patients. He provides comprehensive health services including weight and lifestyle management, wellness checkups and dermatology and offers in-office procedures including biopsies, excisions and joint injections for knees and shoulders. Dr. McCoskey is accepting new patients. 

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