This new year, don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to diet and physical activity. Read some of Baylor College of Medicine’s best expert tips on nutrition and fitness.

Use substitutions when cooking

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Our experts say substituting ingredients is an easy way to cut calories and keep flavor.

“If you’re trying to control overall calorie intake and you can modify a favorite recipe and still like it as much, then the calorie savings can be significant over time,” said Roberta Anding, registered dietitian at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Learning what substitutions work best does take some time and experimentation with cooking time and temperature, but reducing a diet by 100 calories per day can result in a 10-pound weight loss in one year, said Anding.

Read the full release.

Small steps you can take to proper nutrition

Anding makes the following recommendations:

  • Consider exercising during your lunch time – walk 15 minutes and take 15 minutes to eat your lunch.
  • Get a pedometer and strive for at least 10,000 steps per day.
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks including sweet tea, vitamin waters, flavored coffees and sports drinks (unless you exercise).
  • Watch the margaritas, piña coladas and other alcoholic beverages – they count too.
  • At least half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Partner with a lean grilled fish and a small sweet potato and you have a “homemade” diet meal.

Eat together as a family

“Having a family meal can be good for the body and the soul,” said Kristi King, registered dietitian at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital. “Research has shown several benefits to family meals, including consuming healthier meals and children being less likely to become obese.”

King says that research has shown other benefits including:

  • Children being less likely to consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes and try illegal or prescription drugs.
  • Children having better grades in school.
  • Parents being more likely to hear about any serious problems that might be occurring in a child’s life.

Something is better than nothing

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Regular exercise can help with weight control, enhance mood and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and more.

According to Dr. John Foreyt, professor of medicine at BCM and director of BCM’s Behavioral Medicine Research Center, something is better than nothing when it comes to diet and exercise changes.

“Physical activity helps you feel better immediately – it increases your sense of well-being,” he said.

The benefits of regular physical activity include weight control and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and even some cancers. Exercise also helps strengthen bones and muscles, improves libido, reduces depression and anxiety and aids in getting a good night’s sleep.

Read the full release.

Maintain a healthy diet

Molly Gee, a registered dietitian with BCM, offers the following reminders for maintaining a healthy diet:

  • Establish regular meal and snack times.
  • Don’t go without eating for longer than four hours.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Fill up on fruits and vegetables.
  • Try to drink water every time you eat and in between meals and snacks.

Pack lunch from home for the whole family

According to Dr. Craig Johnston, assistant professor at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital, options for a healthy lunch packed from home include:

  • A vegetable such as cut-up carrots or celery.
  • A fruit, either fresh or packed in juice or water.
  • Dairy, such as milk, yogurt or cheese.
  • A healthy drink, such as 100 percent juice, milk or water.
  • Whole-grain bread.
  • Protein from peanut butter, lean lunch meat, beans and nuts.

When exercising, make sure you’re consuming enough calories

“If you’re actively working out, training at a high volume or preparing for a competition, you really need to take in enough calories and nutrients to support the level of activity that you’re doing,” said Dr. Theodore Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM. “For an average person, the daily caloric intake might be 1,800 to 2,000 calories. An athlete who is a competitive heavyweight rower or training for long distance running races, for example, may need to eat two or three times that amount of calories daily.”

Read the full release.

Got chocolate milk?

Researchers have found that people who consumed chocolate milk after a workout compared to those who drank a more traditional fluid had a better workout the next day.

“If you look at what goes into a good workout recovery drink, it’s a combination of protein and carbohydrates - protein for rebuilding and repairing damage that occurs to tissues and carbohydrates for replenishing the energy that has just been burned. The protein to carbohydrate ratio in chocolate milk actually is very close to what we know is ideal for recovery,” said Shybut.

Read the full press release.

Help your arthritis pain

“By far, the most important thing in treating arthritis is weight loss. For every pound that you see on the scale, your knee carries three or four times that weight. Every little bit of weight loss helps, especially for arthritis in the lower extremities,” said Dr. Melvyn Harrington, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM.

Read the full release.