Get a Healthy Start to the New Year
There’s a stigma out there that eating healthy is expensive, lacks flavor, and is hard to maintain long term. I like to subscribe to the idea that eating healthy is much easier and tastier than it sounds. Not everyone will agree and I understand that. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you need to become a vegan or vegetarian. It doesn’t mean you need to count every calorie, check fat grams, or even eliminate your favorite foods. What it does mean is that you can impact your health in a positive way by making small changes to your daily eating habits. In the same way you would approach your exercise routine, set small goals, and change those habits a little at a time. Before you know it, your body will be craving things like a cold, crispy sweet apple over an entire box of chocolate.
The best advice to set you into a positive mindset is not to think of it as a diet—because it’s not! You should feel free to eat as you would like, whenever you want. Those cravings you have are real, and, if ignored, may send you into a downward spiral that will only end in you feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Far too often, we go on extreme diets we can’t maintain which keeps us from developing any long-term, healthy eating habits.
In general, you should try to base healthy eating habits around these food groups:
- Vegetables: Should play a fundamental role in most meals. They are low in calories, yet, full of important micronutrients and fiber.
- Fruits: A naturally sweet treat—fruit provides micronutrients and antioxidants that can help improve health.
- Lean meats and fish: Meat and fish have been the major sources of protein throughout evolution. Look for leaner cuts of meat and increase your poultry and fish intake. Remember that baking, roasting, and grilling are all healthier alternatives to deep frying.
- Nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes: Are not just for vegan and vegetarian diets. High in important nutrients, they are also great sources of fiber and protein. Nuts and seeds are considered some of the best sources of healthy fats you can find.
- Eggs: Whole eggs pack a powerful combination of protein, beneficial fats, and micronutrients.
- Dairy: Dairy products such as natural yogurt and milk are convenient and low-cost sources of protein and calcium.
- Healthy starches: Starchy foods like potatoes with the skin, quinoa, and whole-grain bread can be healthy and nutritious.
- Herbs and spices: These are often very high in nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Dried or fresh, they can pack a ton of flavor into your cooking.
Remember no foods need to be eliminated, however, some foods should be limited or saved for special occasions.
- Sugar-based products: Foods high in sugar, especially sugary beverages, are often linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as other chronic diseases.
- Trans fats: Sometimes called partially hydrogenated fats have also been linked to many chronic illnesses, including heart disease.
- Refined carbs: Foods that are high in refined carbs, such as white bread, are linked to overeating, obesity, and other metabolic diseases.
- Processed foods: Often these are disguised as healthy alternatives, but make sure you read the label as they usually contain a high amount of sugar or sodium to make them taste better.
Optimal health goes way beyond just nutrition. Exercising, restful sleep, proper hydration, and minimizing stress are all crucial to your success
Make it simple and easy to follow small steps at a time. Allow for some balance and enjoy your treats. The total elimination of the foods you enjoy may increase cravings and decrease your long-term success. Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate to help you control portion sizes. The adage “our eyes are bigger than our stomachs” really does apply. What’s right for you might not be right for your brother, sister, friend, or significant other. Find your balance and stick with it. Have a safe, healthy, and happy new year.
*Always consult your physician if you have questions about your specific needs based on your specific health condition.