Dread. Fear. Apprehension.

Many people feel these emotions as they consider making healthy diet changes.

We have an emotional and social connection with food. Changing what we eat might require that we eat less of what we love or find new ways to pass time with our friends. It is the unknown effects of these changes on our lives that causes us to dread the first dietitian appointment, or feel apprehensive about what foods we may have to eat now.

What people fail to realize is the benefits that healthy foods have to offer. There is much to be gained from eating healthy, and overall quality of life improves once new habits are in place.

Are you apprehensive about making positive changes to your health because of what you fear you might lose?

The gains will far outweigh what you give up. Consider what these benefits could mean to you and your health, and you’ll see there is not much to dread after all.

Increased energy

This is one of the first noticeable changes. Our bodies work better with natural fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. As these foods begin to push out the highly processed foods, your body works and feels better. You may even feel like going for a walk.

Stop heartburn

Diets high in fat tend to cause more heartburn, reflux and upset stomach. Avoiding fast-food restaurants by eating at home makes a big difference. Even choosing chicken or Canadian bacon over pepperoni pizza helps. With less fat, foods digest faster and cause less inflammation and discomfort. Most people can improve, and often eliminate, their symptoms of heartburn or upset stomach with diet changes and a little time.

Reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Cholesterol levels stem from a higher intake of saturated fat, and triglycerides are increased by processed carbs and sugary drinks. With more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, you can reduce both in time.

Initiate weight loss

Whole foods take longer to digest and fill us up with less calories. It is a simple equation. Fewer calories plus more satiety equals weight loss.

Feel happier

Better control of blood sugar levels really improves both energy levels and mood. When our blood sugars swing into the extreme zones of high and low, it takes our mood with it. Natural foods tend to control those swings due to lower sugar content, combined with higher amounts of protein and fiber.

Get glowing skin

Sugar is a known inflammatory and can age our skin over time. Hydrated skin sustained by antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables glows.

Feel less anxious

Stimulants and too much caffeine can increase our anxiety. Replacing high-calorie caffeinated drinks with water, low-fat milk or natural decaf iced tea can reduce anxiety caused by over-stimulation.

Love what you eat

As you reduce foods high in sugar and fat, you will become more aware of the sweetness of an apple or the creaminess of a cashew. As you associate feeling better with these healthy foods, you will find you do not miss your old eating habits so much after all.

Niki Kubiak is a registered dietitian who specializes in sports dietetics. She works as the director of nutrition and health at Infinite Sports World in Ralston. She writes regularly for livewellnebraska.com.

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