Had enough of the cleanses and diets du jour that don’t lead to lasting results? Throw away that quick-fix mentality and look ahead this year to creating lifestyle changes that will have you eating and feeling healthier in no time. Try these 10 easy ways to kick off new, healthy eating habits in 2017.
1. Go grass fed.
If you are a beef eater, then surely you’ve noticed the many food labels when browsing the meat department. One such label is “grass fed,” which is used by sustainable farms who raise cows that graze on grasses and other forage resulting in a healthier, higher quality meat.
According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, the nutritional benefits of sustainably-raised meats include higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, more antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene, and less total fat per pound than factory-farmed meat.
While it may be a little more expensive to buy, in addition to a better quality product you are also supporting farmers who treat animals humanely and whose practices benefit the environment.
2. Choose a better carb.
Carbohydrates are a critical macronutrient necessary to keep your body energized. Instead of eliminating this major food group, choose better carbs (aka complex carbohydrates) such as fiber-filled black beans, whole-grain pasta, and oats. Or look for new, healthier choices like this one from Explore Cuisine (ExploreCuisine.com). Bonus, you get 20-25g of protein and 11g of fiber per serving with this product!
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, the National Fiber Council asserts that fiber helps keep your blood sugar levels in check, lowers cholesterol, and promotes a healthy digestive system. Eat a wide variety of these high-fiber foods to ensure you are getting both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet.
3. Opt for healthier fats.
Don’t pass on fat altogether. While you’ve been conditioned to think of fat as a “bad word”, your body needs fat to function properly. Fat-containing foods help your body absorb essential vitamins A, D and E and are important for the brain and nervous system.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages us to swap out saturated fats and trans fats like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and reach for unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, omega-3-rich salmon, and nuts like walnuts and almonds. These healthy fats will keep you feeling satisfied after meals, and you’ll be less likely to overeat later.
4. Get 'back to basics' with coffee.
Thanks to our friendly neighborhood barista, our morning joe has gotten completely out of hand in the calorie department. A medium-sized mocha frappe boasts over 400 calories when made with whole milk and topped with whipped cream.
Instead of blended drinks with added sugar, ask for a regular drip coffee, which actually has more caffeine per ounce than a blended drink. Add your own low-fat milk, unsweetened almond milk, or all-natural sweetener such as Stevia to your liking.
You’ll be surprised when your late-morning blood sugar slump vanishes, and your waistline will thank you, too.
5. Throw in more veggies.
A 2015 report from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention found that less than 9 percent of Americans eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. Yikes!
Boost your veggie intake by finding ways to sneak veggies into more of your usual meals, and keep frozen vegetables on hand to make life easier.
Add a cup of cooked broccoli or spinach to your morning scramble or homemade pizzas. Instead of pasta, pick up a vegetable spiralizer and make veggie “noodles” from zucchini, squash, or asparagus to go with your favorite Bolognese. Stir green peas into macaroni and cheese. Be creative – the options are endless!
6. Try new meatless options.
If you haven’t jumped on the Meatless Monday bandwagon, a health initiative created in 2003 that has gained momentum in over 40 countries, give it a try!
You don’t have to settle for plain tofu or bland veggie burgers. Food manufacturers and chefs are coming up with all sorts of delicious ways to serve up alterative protein sources such as chickpeas and other legumes, as well as savory shiitakes and other fungi.
Give it a try! Your taste buds (and possibly your ticker) will thank you.
7. Pick a better packaged snack.
Packaged snacks are convenient, but many are loaded with sodium and added sugar – two things Americans are consuming in way-too-much excess according to the 2016 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Don’t pass on the convenience of a packaged snack, just look for better options such as raw or unsalted cashews and almonds. Instead of regular, salty potato chips, opt for healthier veggie or bean chips for an extra bit of filling fiber.
For sweeter options, try applesauce singles with no added sugar, low-sugar, single-serving instant oatmeal, and graham crackers made from whole grains.
8. Pass on juice.
Skip the morning glass of OJ, and you’ll save about nine teaspoons of sugar. While the sugar is natural and not added to most juices, you just aren’t getting the same amount of nutrients as if you’d eaten the fruit itself say nutrition experts at the Mayo Clinic.
Instead of sipping your fruit, opt for a glass of water and peel and eat a couple of mandarin oranges or a cup of berries at breakfast time. You’ll maximize the amount of fiber and other nutrients the fruit has to offer and may find that you stay satisfied until lunch time.
9. Try new greens.
First it was kale, then seaweed reigned supreme. The latest food trend is inspired by the industry’s interest in avoiding food waste, which according to the United States Department of Agriculture is about 31 percent of the available food supply. Don’t be surprised when you start to see interesting menu items featured in 2017 like beet and turnip greens, as well as carrot tops.
Channel your inner eco god or goddess at home by roasting sliced broccoli stems, adding celery leaves to mixed salads, and re-sprouting used onion or garlic bulbs. You’ll do good for the environment and save a few dollars at the grocery store to boot.
10. Eat at home more often.
Even if you try to order healthy at a restaurant, you’ll never have the same amount of ingredient control (aka fat and calorie control) when you eat out that you have when cooking yourself.
If cooking is new for you, pick one or two nights each week that you’ll try a new recipe. Check Pinterest for healthy versions of your favorite dishes, and don’t forget to make a list before heading to the grocery store to avoid buying things that you’ll never use and overspending.
The winter months are the perfect time to try slow-cooker recipes, too. Your efforts will likely result in a healthy meal that’s also easy on the monthly budget. MS&F