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Image of health foods.

My last blog put a spotlight on walking as a prescription for good health. As we work our way to getting at least 10,000 steps each day, we are certain to get hungry. But, how do we eat “right?”

Last year, the American Cancer Society reported a definite link between obesity and an increased risk of many types of cancer. Obesity is quickly overtaking smoking as the number one preventable cause of cancer in the U.S.

We often hear we should avoid eating processed foods, fast food, salty foods, and foods high in sugar. Makes you wonder what’s left!

Should we be eating a paleo, low carb, Okinawa, Mediterranean, vegetarian or vegan diet? If you are simply looking to lose weight, consider this: One randomized study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that regardless of the percentage of protein, carbohydrate and fat intake, all participants who significantly reduced their caloric intake had a considerable decrease in weight.

I thought this was interesting. We have weight loss summarized to a simple equation of eating less calories. Now, what we really want to know is “what’s the most nutritious fuel to keep us healthy long term?”

To help us narrow down the optimal diet that factors in our lifestyle and unique tastes, let’s start with data from the National Institute of Health and other reputable sources. Comparative studies show the Mediterranean diet to be the most effective in promoting health, weight loss, longevity, and the prevention of diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open in December 2018, women participants on a Mediterranean diet showed a 28% reduction in cardiovascular disease.

In simple terms, the traditional Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based eating and the consumption of whole foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes that are grown locally and enjoyed in-season when possible. Fish and poultry are consumed in moderation, while red wine, meat, sugar and salt are rare indulgences.

OK, so how could you apply a Mediterranean-inspired diet to your day-to-day eating? For example, breakfast can start with Greek yogurt with strawberries and oats, or an omelet filled with tomatoes and onions with a side of fresh fruit. Lunch can be a whole grain sandwich or salad topped with grilled chicken and vegetables drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. For dinner, enjoy tuna salad or grilled salmon served with brown rice and vegetables dressed in olive oil and some fresh fruit for dessert.

If you become hungry in between meals, a small handful of nuts, seeds, vegetables or fruit can satisfy your cravings. Greek olives, Greek yogurt or apple slices with almond butter are always a healthy snack.

You can still enjoy going out to eat too as long as you make healthy choices, such as grilled fish, seafood or chicken prepared with extra virgin olive oil. Ending your meal with fresh fruit is a great way to avoid sugary desserts.

In today’s digital age, there are so many ways to get a better handle on what we are consuming each day. A good way to start, and stay on your journey to healthy eating, is to record your food intake.

The most highly rated calorie-counting app in 2018 was MyFitnessPal, which I use and continue to enjoy daily. The app is free, has a large food database, tracks calories, water intake and even counts my daily steps. Other apps to support your diet and exercise goals include Lifesum, Healthifyme, MyNetDiary and MyPlate calorie tracker.

Hope you are continuing to walk and now look forward to exploring the flavors and food options available in a Mediterranean-inspired diet. Health is a lifelong pursuit—enjoy the journey!