Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with rising pop sensation and New York native Kristine Elezaj for a healthy eating advising session and was thrilled by her current take on healthy living. At the age of 24, she's already honed some super habits. At this age, many 20-somethings feel they are invincible, thinking that whatever they shove down their throats today won't have consequences for tomorrow.
But the statistics are showing that is does. From numbers on the growing rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and maternal mortality (associated with being overweight) for young women, it's clear that embedding a sense of mindfulness about eating early in life is critical. Women aged 20-29 were nearly 29 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared to 1960 - the largest increase among all age groups for females according to the CDC.
Although it's Kristine's job to stay fit for the red carpet (she recently hit the Grammys), demanding shows, and grueling hours recording and rehearsing (she's currently working with Britney Spears' choreographers), she makes a conscious effort to think about what she eats because she realizes that not only does it affect her energy levels and body shape today, but will create a strong foundation for future good health. It's all about prevention! Kristine doesn't have a chef or food service delivering her meals, she's working at it like everyone else.
With a lot of young folks burning the candle "from both ends" these days, its pretty cool to find voices that can speak to the amazing benefits of living balanced and natural. It's not something we should start thinking about after we hit 40 -- it's something that needs to be taught and instilled as early on in life as possible.
Here are three easy healthy eating tips for beginners from our chat:
1) Get intimate with your food and take control. The more you know about the growing, processing, packaging, and ingredients that go into the food you eat, the easier it becomes to make smart, healthy choices when at the grocery store, restaurant or deli counter. Each year, nearly 17,000 new products line grocery shelves and you need to have the tools to cull through the madness. Start examining the labels on packaged foods you frequently purchase and better yet, try to cook more! Preparing your own food will ultimately give you the most control over your diet. Shopping local and in-season also brings you closer to the source of your food.
2) Stay on the lookout for added sugars. Consumption of natural sugars (e.g. fructose) in balance are fine but these days sugar is everywhere in our food environment. It's a hidden ingredient in processed foods with a variety of names like maltose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, corn sweetener, cane juice solids, and so on. It's found in yogurts, bread, soups, ketchup and other condiments, and particularly in drinks. Try your best to find the less processed alternatives and use less refined sweeteners like pure maple syrup.
3) Eat whole grains. Less than five percent of Americans eat the required amount of whole grains (which contain all three parts of a seed -- bran, germ and endosperm) per day and whole grains make up only 10-15 percent of all grains on supermarket shelves. Instead of eating refined (mostly wheat) products like a majority of breakfast cereals, opt for whole alternatives like whole rye (e.g. pumpernickel) bread, slow-cooked oatmeal, barley and brown rice. Research has shown that eating whole grains as opposed to refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases like heart disease (reduced by 25-28 percent) and stroke (reduced by 30-36 percent) as well as being protective against cancer.
Below is a little teaser for Kristine's brand new single "Souvenirs". More on the upcoming debut of her CD at kristineelezaj.com.
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