With the holidays over, you may be making a New Year’s resolution to eat better and improve your health.
Eating well is a good choice any time, but doing it right can help you make your resolution last all year.
EvergreenHealth’s nutritionists warn against making healthy eating an all-or-nothing proposition. Making a sweeping resolution, like never eating another carb or giving up sweets forever, is unrealistic.
Instead, make a series of small changes that you can incorporate every day all year long.
1. Drink more water. The standard recommendation is 64 ounces per day, or eight cups, of water or other non-caffeinated beverages. Often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty, so make sure to stay hydrated.
2. Cut back on soda. Regular soda is loaded with sugar, so all you get is empty calories and no nutrition. Cut back on diet soda, too, because some t artificial sweeteners can elevate blood sugar and increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Opt for water or flavored seltzer instead to meet your daily fluid requirement.
3. Eat breakfast. Eating breakfast may reduce your hunger level throughout the day and keep insulin levels stable. If your hunger levels are stable, you may make better food choices rather than grabbing convenient but unhealthy snacks.
4. Fill your plate the right way. Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables, especially those that are colorful. Fill the rest of your plate with lean protein and whole grains.
5. Choose healthy snacks. Eliminate processed foods and refined flours and sugars from your diet. These are found in many convenience snacks like chips, crackers and cookies. Keep healthy snacks on hand – whole fruits, cut vegetables, almonds, Greek yogurt, low-fat popcorn – for your own convenient options. You’ll eliminate lots of saturated fat and sodium by making smart snack choices.
6. Make dessert a special occasion. You don’t have to deny yourself your favorite sweet treats when you eat well. Just limit dessert to once or twice a week and savor every bite. If you simply have to have something every day, try sticking to dark chocolate (at least 50-70% cocoa) which provides antioxidants, improves hypertension and improves cholesterol. Be sure to compensate for the calories and fat grams in your chocolate fix by cutting back elsewhere.
7. Try a new food at least once a month, weekly if you’re adventurous. Try a new vegetable or fruit. Parsnips can be prepared like potatoes or carrots. Pummelos, a citrus fruit, are larger and sweeter than grapefruit. Or try a new grain like quinoa, a versatile whole grain.
8. Go meatless once a week. Health and fitness experts recommend incorporating plant protein sources like beans, chickpeas, and quinoa into meals to cut out the saturated fat found in many animal proteins. Many flavorful, healthy dishes, such as our Farmer’s Market Fried Rice below, can be made with no meat.
9. Replace salt with spices. Get flavor without salt by using a variety of spices when you cook. Curry, chiles, cinnamon, and herbs provide flavor, and many also contain antioxidants.
10. Make whole-grain swaps. Swapping refined grains (white bread and pasta, white rice) for whole grains (whole grain bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn) will help you increase your daily fiber intake and reduce your risk for diabetes and certain cancers.
11. Make “secret” swaps. It is easy to hide healthy ingredients in foods when you cook at home. Use applesauce or other pureed fruits in place of oil or butter in baked goods to cut most of the fat while retaining moisture. Puree vegetables and add them to marinara sauce, soups, chili or stews.
12. Get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation affects the way our bodies process carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. It can also alter levels of hormones that affect our appetite. Get enough sleep and you’re more likely to make good food choices.
Any one of these tips can help improve the way you eat. Try all 12, and you’ll be eating well all year long.
Visit our Healthiest Best Foods homepage for more great ideas to get you and your family eating healthier.