Need a strategy for sticking with your resolution to eat healthy? Think COLOR!

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in The Food Well | Comments Off on Need a strategy for sticking with your resolution to eat healthy? Think COLOR!

Need a strategy for sticking with your resolution to eat healthy?           Think COLOR!

We recently shared this color story on Penobscot McCrum’s Mainely Potatoes blog:

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions made each year is to “eat a healthier diet.” But as we flip the calendar page from January to February, a sorry fact must be faced: Most of us will soon abandon our good intentions.  Why do we give up so soon? According to Psychology Today’s Tamar Chansky, PhD, it’s because we live in an age of instant gratification, where expectations to “go big or go home,” make it hard for us to go small and go slow. And as Aesop tell us, slow and steady wins the race.

When it comes to sticking with your resolutions, there is plenty of advice out there. Psychology Today reminds us that “a slip is not a slump.” It takes at least three weeks to establish a new habit––and perfection isn’t the goal. Shape.com suggests that we choose more attainable goals, while Entrepreneur.com thinks we should make our goals more challenging.  Writing for Time, Gary Belsky suggests we practice our resolutions before we actually commit to changing our behavior, citing a study published in the Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology.

The key may be in admitting that behavior change is hard. Establishing new habits requires jettisoning old ones…and we all need tricks and strategies to help us. So here’s an easy one that may help with our resolve to eat healthy.

Color is Habit Forming

Nutritionists agree that one of the most important changes we should make to improve our diets is to eat more fruits and veggies––a habit that starts in the supermarket produce section. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily––2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of veggies. So to help you incorporate the habit of buying––and eating––more produce, here’s a trick: think color.

Fruits and veggies come in an amazing array of colors, each with its own associated set of benefits. When you get in the habit of including each color in your daily diet, you achieve two goals: 1) healthy variety and 2) healthy quantity.

When you find yourself in the produce section, let color be your cue to choose from the full spectrum and begin to form a healthy eating habit.

Color: Cues You Can Use

In addition to the rich concentration of vitamins, minerals and fiber that is found in fruits and vegetables, they are powerhouses of phytonutrients––plant-based compounds that are associated with a wide range of potential disease-fighting benefits due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For example:

  • Red fruits and veggies get their color from either Lycopene or Anthocyanin, two powerful antioxidants. Lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers. Strawberries, raspberries and red grapes are rich in the flavonoid anthocyanin, associated with a range of health benefits including anti-aging and reduced heart attack risk.
  • Yellow-Orange fruits and veggies get their color from the antioxidant beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. This vitamin is essential for the repair of tissues, formation of bones and teeth and the development of healthy eyes, and may help defend against cancer and heart disease.
  • Green fruits and veggies have a variety of health-promoting phytonutrients, including carotenoids like lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye health found in dark leafy greens as well as peas, kiwi and avocado. Green cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale also have compounds that may reduce the risk of cancer and help protect your heart and lungs.
  • Blue-Purple fruits and veggies, including blueberries, blackberries and purple potatoes, are rich in the flavonoid anthocyanin, which give them their bright color and their potential brain boosting, heart protecting properties. Their powerful antioxidant capacity helps prevent cell damage that is associated with a wide range of chronic diseases.
  • White fruits and veggies are also the source of disease-fighting compounds. Garlic and onions contain allicin, which may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables have cancer-fighting indoles. And white potatoes contain a wide range of potent phytonutrients including flavonoids and carotenoids.

In short, color offers cues you can use to buy and eat more fruits and veggies. Shopping by color is a resolution that’s easy to make…and a habit that’s easy to keep.  Good luck and may 2013 be the year you keep your resolution to eat healthy!