10 tips for eating healthy in the new year:
Load up on H20! Hydration is so important, especially as we age as water contributes to almost every function in our bodies. Research shows having a glass of water before each meal can result in consuming fewer calories at the meal. Note: personal fluid needs depend on age, height, weight, activity level, climate and more. Tips to increase your water consumption: use a water tracker, get a cool water bottle, make water available in every room you are in, and vary your water flavors by making “spa water” by adding citrus or cucumbers.
Focus on adding foods, not eliminating. When you eliminate a specific food or food group from your diet, you can’t help but think about it 24/7. I call this, “the chic-fil-a effect”. What is the one day of the week you always want chic-fil-a? SUNDAY. So instead of restricting yourself, focus on adding foods into your diet. This positive mindset will help you in turn to make healthier choices and feel good about it! Choose a new veggie this week, try a different fruit, branch out on your recipes, the possibilities are endless when all foods fit.
Don’t fear carbs! Hi. I’m Caroline, a Carb Crusader! Carbohydrates have such a terrible reputation and it makes this dietitian very sad. Yes, it’s true, not all carbs are created equal, but to simply demonize the entire food category is not fair. We have decades of research associating complex carbs with decreased risk of developing heart disease, stroke and chronic conditions. Additionally we know that folks who consume a high fiber diet (fiber found in whole grains which is fantastic for bowel movements) have a more diverse gut microbiome (good for your bacteria in your gut). Some great choices of complex carbs: whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, beans, pasta made from beans, brown rice, fresh fruit, starchy veggies, oats, peas, lentils and legumes.
Naturally occurring sugar is just fine. Remember back in the 90s when we were so terrified of fat? Well sugar is the new fat. But here is the secret, sugar is not the bad guy. In fact, naturally occurring sugar occurs in two forms: fruit (fructose) & milk (lactose). In addition to natural energy, fruit and milk provide a host of other nutrition benefits like vitamin A, C, D and calcium. Have diabetes or prediabetes? Watch your portion sizes and always pair your fresh fruit with a lean protein.
Choose lean. Lean protein is not only an essential nutrient imperative to many bodily processes but research shows consuming lean protein contributes to satiety (that feeling of staying fuller, longer). Protein can be found in both animal and plant sources. Remember to choose lean. Reach for fish, lean beef, Greek yogurt, beans/peas/lentils, chicken, pork, cottage cheese, eggs, peanut butter, tofu and shrimp.
The perfect pair. (I want to write pear as a food pun so bad! Ah, dietitian jokes!) I tell all my clients to always pair complex carbohydrates with lean protein at every meal and snack. The complex carbs provide energy while protein provides that feeling of satiety. Pair both together to balance out blood sugar levels. This will prevent you from being “hangry” later. (Hungry and angry is no fun for anyone.)
Seafood twice a week. Most Americans do not consume enough seafood meaning we are missing out on some serious health benefits. Consuming seafood like salmon, mackerel, trout, mahi-mahi, tuna, herring, pollock, is associated with prevention of cognitive decline, prevention of heart disease and stroke and is also associated with improving moods / easing symptoms of depression symptoms. Add seafood to tacos, salads and pasta.
Stock up. Your freezer is your best friend. Stock up on healthy finds like frozen veggies, fruits, grilled chicken, fish, and more. These can save you when you are in a time pinch! Also there are a ton of low sodium meal options out there. Don’t fear frozen!
Veggies: not just for dinner. Sneak veggies in everywhere! Add veggies to your eggs, top your sandwich with spinach and a slice of tomato, puree veggies into your marinara sauce, incorporate a small salad with lunch and dinner, or try adding more veggies into soups and chilis. Not keen on salad? Try the crudite approach. Finger friendly veggies with a low fat dip like mini peppers, celery, carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers are another fun way to increase your vegetable intake. Serving them in a fun or funky way (think muffin tray) may entice your kids to eat more! Take any opportunity you can to veggie up!
Make exercise habit: Every step counts! Even if you only have 10 minutes, get moving. Your exercise goal is 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week (yes, brisk walking counts and yes, you can break this up into 10 minute segments). Schedule exercise into your day, take a walk after dinner, invest in a wearable device like a Fitbit for motivation, find a group of friends who can hold you accountable. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
The best tip I can give, don’t take nutrition advice from Dr. Google or an influencer on social media. Work with a registered, licensed dietitian. Dietitians have their bachelors and or masters degrees in nutrition, have completed a 1200 hour supervised internship, passed national boards and complete ongoing continuing education. Look for RD or RDN in title or when in doubt, ask!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!