The new year is a great opportunity to create new habits and start eating right. Maria Biondi, RDN, CDN, a wellbeing coach at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, suggests the following tips for a nutritious diet and a healthful year ahead.
“As folks look towards the new year, many want a fresh start and to live a healthier lifestyle,” says Biondi. “It’s great that people become excited about their health during this time of the year, and we want to make sure they have good nutrition all year round.”
- Eat as naturally as possible. Try to choose foods that come from the earth. This seems like a simple rule, but it actually eliminates many foods we eat every day. Cookies, ice cream, even some granola bars have hidden food additives and added sugars. If possible, try whole foods with little added ingredients. Remember, if the first ingredient is sugar, that means it is the most prevalent in the item. You can try swapping processed food for nuts and a whole fruit as a healthful snack.
- Eat breakfast. Breakfast can give you energy and be a great way to kick-start your day. You can start your morning with lots of water to hydrate and choose a balanced breakfast such as whole-wheat toast with nut butter or avocado, hardboiled egg whites, or oatmeal with blueberries.
- Find an eating style that works for you. A study conducted by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that those who ate six smaller meals throughout the day had better weight-loss results than those who ate three larger meals. Try having two small snacks during the day that are under 200 calories. Late-night eating can also lead to weight gain, so consider setting a time to cut off eating or snacking.
- Switch to whole grains. Brown rice, oats, faro, and quinoa in moderation are great for keeping you full and curbing your sugar cravings. Try swapping out white bread for a whole grain option, as white breads contain less fiber and may have processed sugars and preservatives to keep it on the shelves longer.
- Spice it up. For generations, herbs and spices were used to treat various illnesses and ailments in cultures around the world. Spices such as turmeric, basil, cinnamon, garlic, and ginger can add lots of flavor to your meals while keeping the sodium content lower, which can help reduce high blood pressure. Try swapping the salt in your next dish with a new spice!
- Mind your gut health. Our digestive system is filled with good bacteria that help us fight off disease. Fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics are great ways to improve our gut health. Foods that provide these helpful bacteria include Greek yogurt with a banana, oatmeal, kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles.
- Drink more water (not your calories). Drinking high-sugar fruit juices and sports drinks can be detrimental to your diet. This can also be true for coffees with creamers and added sugar. Water is zero calories, zero sugar, and keeps you hydrated throughout the day. On average, it is recommended to consume at least eight cups of water daily. Try a refreshing seltzer or fruit-infused water to add some natural flavor to your drink.
- Be mindful of your alcohol intake. If you are watching your weight, avoiding alcohol, or reducing your intake can help. For example, mixed drinks are filled with sugary juices – one margarita can be up to 600 calories. Try swapping juices for a seltzer with a splash of juice, or try a light beer over a stout or lager.
- Find your balance. Many diets claim eating less of something is the key to achieving results. However, the key is finding the right balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein for you. A Stanford University study concluded that an effective weight-loss strategy is to eat less sugar and refined flour, and instead choose more vegetables and whole foods such as whole grains, low-fat dairy, and fruits.
- Remember to get a good night’s rest. Getting a good night’s sleep may help you feel more rested and ready to make healthier choices the following day. Try to set a time for you to prepare for bed and aim for a goal of eight hours of sleep. Even increasing just one hour from your normal amount of sleep can be useful in boosting your mood, energy, and ability to make healthier choices.