Do you go for frequent health checks? Whether they’re simple blood tests or nerve-wrecking colonoscopies. Why do these tests? I’m guessing you want to make sure all’s well with your body. The idea is to catch diseases before they develop, or confirm any suspicions so you may seek immediate treatment. Many of the diseases we develop these days are linked with poor dietary habits year after year. In this post, you’d get a series of questions to guide you towards a better diet for health.
By the time you finish reading this article, you should be able to identify shortcomings and start working on them to prevent disease. You can ask yourself these questions every few months. This exercise may save you a trip to the doctor’s office, or admissions to the hospital in future! This post will be crafted as a series of questions that you ask yourself. So grab a pen and paper, and jot your answers down so you don’t lose track as we go. Trust me, it’ll help!
1. Is your current diet in line with your health/weight goals?
Read this question again and ask yourself. Is it a yes, or a no?
Do you have any disease? Do you hope not to get a disease that may be hereditary in your family?
Are you trying to lose weight? Perhaps you’re trying to gain weight?
Do you think what you ate yesterday, in the last week, or the previous month, is going to help you achieve these health/weight goals?
Think about this for a moment and write down what you think before moving on to the next question.
2. What have you always wanted to change about your diet but never got around to doing?
Do you want to change anything about your diet? Yes or no?
If you’re not sure, think about whether you’ve observed a family, friend, or colleague eat? Do they have particular eating habits that you wish you had? It could be the practise of drinking more water, having breakfast regularly, or being disciplined in avoiding snacks.
Or, think about whether there any eating habits you engage in only in certain places? For example, do you tend to eat a lot of rice at your parents’ place, or drink excessively when you’re at a party? Perhaps you snack on chips when you’re with a particular group of friends, or need to nibble on something when no one is around at all? Do you like having these habits? Can they be improved on? How can you work on them?
Make a list of food habits you always wanted to kick but never actually got around to doing so. To have a better diet for health, new habits have to be formed, and old habits will have to go (or be adjusted).
3. Are you meeting national dietary guidelines for nutrient recommendations?
Do you pump diesel into your petrol-run car? I hope not, that would go against the car’s “instruction manual” and destroy it!
Similarly, are you filling your body with foods that you need, as recommended by national dietary guidelines? The “dietary” instruction manual (aka national dietary guidelines) for your body to function properly is readily available, free for all. If you’d read the instruction and care manual before using a new washing machine, or putting new clothes to wash, why not do the same for your body?
Probably only because it seems we can get away with it. But are we really? While an overused washing machine may stop spinning, and a silk blouse may tear, our bodies undergo lots of wear before eventually shutting down. Think about the diseases that lead to death these days, such as stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer. They’re different from the diseases that used to kill our ancestors—quick deaths from infections due to poor sanitation or lack of medical treatment.
Check out the Health Promotion Board’s website for recommended serving sizes of different food groups. This guide is good enough for general health, since you don’t have to count every single calorie or microgram of a nutrient you’re having. If you meet recommended serving sizes, you’re generally meeting nutrient requirements.
4. Are you meeting nutrient specific requirements for your age group, or situation in life?
Similar to the previous point, is your diet covering additional needs you may have?
If you’re a teenager, are you meeting calcium requirements to maximise your bone calcium stores?
If you’re over the age of 30, are you still meeting your calcium requirements? This is especially important because your bone calcium stores start depleting every year after 30.
If you’re pregnant, are you having enough iron and folate to meet your baby’s growth needs?
If you had diverticulitis, or are at risk of colon cancer, are you having enough fibre for prevention?
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, are you meeting your protein needs?
If you’re over the age of 65, are you having enough protein to maintain your muscle mass?
At every stage of life, we have different nutritional needs. This is similar to how you pick up different knowledge and skills at different time points of your life. A better diet for health is not just about eating healthy, but about knowing what your body needs at different time points.
5. What are the small changes you can make for sustainable life-long changes?
Whenever you want to achieve a goal, it’s human nature to seek the fastest way to get to it. However, it’s not the same with diet and health. Sometimes, achieving these nutritional goals take time. It’s more important to make tiny and slow, but sustainable changes, as opposed to drastic changes that don’t last long, or cost too much to finance.
Based on the last few questions, make a list of all the small changes you can make and prioritise them. Try making 1 change every 1-2 weeks. Set alarms on your calendar to remind you when that week of change is up, so you can add another change to it. Slowly layer on your changes throughout the year. Over time, you’d be surprised at what you’re capable of achieving!
This checklist of questions is not meant to replace regular health checks. However, if followed, should lead you towards a better diet for health in the year 2020.
If you need help with identifying your nutritional needs, or meeting them, drop me a message!