The value of eating right is more than just a number on the scale. We asked two nutritionists for some practical ways to eat better in the new year — here are their top 5 strategies.
1. Eat whole, feel whole
Fiona Halar, an Australia-based nutritionist, suggests introducing more whole foods into your diet. A whole food is minimally processed and free of preservatives and additives. “It’s like the difference between eating an orange and drinking orange juice that has been reconstituted from a concentrate and may contain preservatives,” says Halar.
Eating more plant-based whole foods can reduce a person’s risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. “Whole plant-based foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other phytochemicals,” explains Halar. “Processed foods, on the other hand, have been stripped of a lot of nutrients during the manufacturing process.”
2. Fail to plan, and plan to fail
One of the most important things you can do, says nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge, is to make meal plans for the week ahead. “Why would you not plan for the single biggest investment of your life? Your health,” she asks. “Otherwise you’re at risk of eating grab and go snacks that are full of processed foods.”
Spend ten minutes at the end of your weekend, to sit down, and make a list of meal ideas for the week ahead. Incorporate whole fruits and vegetables into your meal ideas every day. As a bonus, you’ll be more likely to save money when you skip ready-made meals and take out.
3. Variety is the spice of life – and health
“There’s no ‘new thing’ I would encourage people to start eating,” says Halar. Instead, make an effort to vary the whole foods you put on your plate. Shake things up and make sure you’re not eating the same vegetables night after night. While this can keep meals interesting and help you stay motivated to eat well, it also ensures you’re getting a broader range of nutrients. “I have a rule,” says Halar. “I try not to eat the same meal two days in a row.” If you’ve got leftovers, freeze them and eat them next week rather than the next day.
4. Eat this, not that
It can be pretty convenient to buy “grab-and-go” foods like cereal, health bars and store-made smoothies and muffins. But Halar recommends some healthier alternatives. “Instead of buying chips and chocolate, I recommend going for nuts, seeds, roasted beans, fruit and fresh veggie sticks with dips like hummus.” Be strict with yourself when it comes to drinks too. Sodas, soft drinks and even fruit juices are high in sugar. “Try going for good old fashioned water. If you don’t want to drink plain water all the time, then flavor it with a small squeeze of lemon,” she adds.
5. Tech can help
Consider downloading a mobile app to help you stay organized and accountable throughout the week. Halar’s favorite is called Paprika Recipe Manager. “It allows me to store recipes, plan my meals and even put together a shopping list based on my meal plan.” The app is available on most platforms and syncs across devices.
This year, instead of worrying about weight loss, make these small changes to create better and healthier eating habits for you and your family.