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Shorus Minella: The new year offers a new start, and the chance begin the path to more healthful eating

For many, the start of a new year is the perfect chance for a fresh start with your health and fitness. Especially after a busy holiday of indulgence, it is important to recalibrate with healthy choices in mind.

The best way to start is with an open mind, knowing that simple, small choices can add up in the end to make big changes.

(Photo by Wand_Prapan, iStock/Getty Images Plus, via University of Kentucky)

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Kentucky. Too much fast food, diets with high fat content and too much sodium all contribute to heart disease. If you suffer from heart disease, try sticking to a heart-healthy diet with reduced saturated fat, sodium and little to no trans-fat. Your focus should be on lean meat, like chicken, turkey and fish. Make sure to incorporate foods into your diet that are high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

A good place to start is your grocery list. When we are stressed, we tend to pay less attention to the food we eat and reach for the high-calorie, sugary snacks. It is important to add healthy snacks to your grocery list. Look for low-calorie items that do not have too much added sugar or fat. Pick up vegetables that you can cut up and dip into hummus or fruit that you can slice into yogurt. If potato chips are your kryptonite and you must buy a bag, put some into a small bowl when you pull them out to eat and then put the bag away. Once the chips in the bowl are gone, you are done.

Making diet changes takes consistency, but it is also important to give yourself grace along the way and remember that balance is key. If you are looking to enjoy extra sweets after dinner, look for other ways you can cut out extra calories, like skipping soda or sweet tea during the day. You could also choose low-fat milk instead of whole milk in your recipes, which will cut down on the fat content.

Exercise is another great way to improve your physical and mental health. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in many ways — one of which could be a decline in physical activity. Increasing your activity, even just marching in place, will do wonders. When you feel like eating, think about whether you are bored or hungry — if you’re just bored, find another activity, like cleaning around the house or reading a book.

Shorus M. Minella is a dietician with the University of Kentucky Gill Heart and Vascular Institute

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