Start the New Year with a clean plate. It is the perfect time to let go of the past and focus on new possibilities. It’s not about where you’ve been, but where you are going. A NY Times article says people who set resolutions or goals are much more likely to make improvements than people who haven’t made a formal resolution. And healthy eating is at the top of that list for many people. If you’ve resolved to eat a healthier diet, here are ten tips for healthy eating in the New Year.
Ten Tips For Eating Healthy in the New Year
- Drink water: Skip soda, sports drinks, sweetened teas, juices, vitamin waters and other sugar-sweetened drinks. The benefit? When you reduce the sugar in your diet you reduce the risk for stroke, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health issues.
- Eat the rainbow: Aim for including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue and white fruits and vegetables into your diet. When we do, we get a broad range of nutrients, essential vitamins, and fiber critical to optimal health. Here’s a chart that will help give you ideas on what to eat of each color.
- Try new vegetables: Be open to experimenting and trying new vegetables, because they are the most important addition you can make to achieve a healthy diet. You can do simple, healthy vegetables in just minutes. Baby green beans take just 5 minutes in boiling water and broccolini just 2 1/2 minutes! Dress with olive oil, salt and pepper and they taste great.
- Get your greens: Focus on adding more greens, especially dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, kale, chard, dark lettuce greens, and cabbage. Green vegetables too such as green beans, asparagus, broccoli, broccolette. Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, and calcium and have a cleansing and detoxifying effect on the body.
- Watch your portions: If portion control eludes you, buy a digital kitchen scale and start measuring your portions. I could not live without a digital scale in my kitchen. You might be amazed at how much extra you’ve been eating. For lean proteins like chicken, aim for 4-6 ounces. Love pasta? Two ounces dry is one serving (and please make it a whole grain). Another tip, learn to listen to your body. Stop when you are satisfied not stuffed.
- Choose healthy fats: Choose organic olive oil, grapeseed oil, expeller pressed canola oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and avocados as a few examples. Eliminate the bad fats. Go through your pantry and refrigerator and toss anything with partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats). This will help reduce your bad cholesterol as well as risk for heart disease, diabetes and more. And that bottle of mystery vegetable oil in your pantry? It’s highly refined and produced with unhealthy industrial chemicals. It’s best to replace it.
- Go organic: It’s about reducing the pesticides that we consume. The less, the better. If your grocery budget is tight, use the guide from the Environmental Working Group called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. Shop farmers markets and choose fruits and vegetables in season for the best prices. Another benefit to buying organic, it cannot be GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).
- Add Whole Grains: Go for nutritious whole grains like quinoa, teff, corn, brown rice, barley, millet, buckwheat, farro, whole wheat and oats. Here’s a list on Wikipedia and other links below. Whole grains reduce our risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, stroke, and other health problems. Skip foods made with white flour and white rice. Their nutritional value is stripped in the refining process. Pass on white bread and white pasta. If you are gluten-sensitive, skip wheat, barley, rye and possibly oats as they can be contaminated with gluten (or buy g-free oats).
- Eat breakfast: You’ve heard it a million times and yes it is true, so eat breakfast and get some protein in to keep you going. It’s the start of a successful, well-fueled day. I could not live without my morning fruit, almond milk and protein smoothie. Find what works for you.
- Reduce sugar: As sugar consumption in America has skyrocketed, so have lifestyle-related diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It’s clear: consuming too much sugar can have severe health consequences. Sugar dangerously hides in our diets, masked by many names. Here’s an article I wrote about how to read labels and find the hidden sugar.
I hope these tips get you thinking and off to a healthy start in the New Year. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection. Take it step-by-step and the changes you make will be sustainable for long term, positive improvements.