Healthy Weight Awareness Month Meatless Monday: 5 Tips to Make Healthy Eating a Habit

69% of Americans are overweight and 35% are considered obese. This obesity crisis impacts the Hispanic community as well, with 39% of Latinos in the United States considered obese. Fortunately, we can control our weight with healthy eating and regular physical activity. This January, which is Healthy Weight Awareness Month, adopt healthy habits that will keep your body strong all year long.

Achieving a healthy weight is not about how you look, but ensuring that your body can function properly. Carrying excess weight puts strain on your heart, lungs, and joints, while maintaining a healthy weight can increase your mood and energy level and decrease your risk of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

¿So what is a healthy weight?

Your BMI, or Body Mass Index, determines the target weight for your height. A BMI of 19-24 is considered healthy, while individuals with a BMI of 25-29.9 are considered overweight (having more bodyweight than is healthy for your height), and those with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese (having excess fat).

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Of course I'd love to maintain a healthy weight, but the diets I have tried never last.

Maintaining a healthy weight isn't achieved through fad diets or skipping meals, but by committing to a lifetime of healthy eating.

Easier said than done? Not with these simple habits:

5 Tips to Make Healthy Eating a Habit

  1. Identify healthy options: Knowing which foods are best for you is key to making healthy choices. Be aware of both what is on your plate and how it is prepared. Opt for a balanced meal with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein and avoid cream or cheese-based dishes. Choose baked and steamed options over fried foods and eat your fruits and veggies raw as often as possible. Brush up on good-for-you foods here.
  2. Surround yourself with (healthy) foods you love: It is easy to make a healthy choice when you have delicious good-for-you options readily available. I always have frutas for a smoothie in my kitchen. Identify 1-2 healthy dishes you love to eat at each meal and keep ingredients on hand.
  3. Make your own: Cooking meals yourself can help you cut calories and fat as fast food and restaurant entrees often have larger portion sizes and excess salt, sugar, and butter. Don't have time to cook every night? Me neither. Set aside a few hours on the weekend and make several large dishes you can freeze for later in the week.
  4. Everything in moderation: Even healthy foods can lead to weight gain when eaten in excess. Avoid overeating by drinking plenty of water, eating slowly, and stopping when you being to feel full. Check out this link to see portion sizes for adults.
  5. Cut back on animal products: Meat and dairy are often higher in fats and cholesterol than plant foods-- it's no wonder vegetarians are less likely to be obese than meat-eaters. If giving up meat all together isn't for you, try cutting the carne out of one meal each day or one day a week. Click here to read my Meatless Monday recipes.

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In addition to eating well, regular exercise is vital to keeping your body strong. Aim to get 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and strength training twice a week. Click here for my fitness suggestions.

Any lifestyle change is easier when you focus on what you will gain rather than what you are giving up. Maintaining a healthy weight increases your chance of a long, healthy life. Make healthy eating a part of your routine this month to feel and look your best for years to come.

¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.

Natalie Wagner FierroA teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What do you do to keep your body healthy?