If you want to eat healthier in the new year, you may not know where to start. And who could blame you? The internet and social media are flooded with colourful images of detox juices and guidelines for the latest popular diet that seems to eliminate every ingredient on Earth.
But you don't need a personal nutritionist or a complicated diet program to eat healthier in 2018. We've cut through the glitz and glamour and compiled the top tips for eating better:
Prioritize fresh foods
One key to eating healthier is choosing fresh, whole foods over processed and packaged ones. Many products are full of artificial ingredients and chemical additives, and generally, the less processed a food is, the better it is for you. Let this concept guide you when you go grocery shopping. Do all or the majority of your shopping around the perimeter of the supermarket, as that's where the fresh foods like produce, dairy and bread are located, and not the center, which features salty and sweet snacks.
Meal prep like a pro
Unhealthy eating tends to happen more when we're unprepared. We get home from work late and need a quick meal to satisfy us, so we turn to easy-to-grab snack foods like chips and cookies. Meal prep can revolutionize your eating habits by ensuring you have plenty of fresh, balanced and nutritious meals on hand, whenever you need them.
Meal prep can seem like an overwhelming task, but a good strategy is to start small and work your way up to more extensive preparation from there. Organize Yourself Skinny has a great guide to starting meal prepping here. Essentially, you'll want to plan out a menu of meals for the week and then choose a block of free time, like on Sunday afternoon, to put the meals together. If meal prepping for three meals a day is too intimidating, you can prepare just a single meal category in advance, such as lunches to bring with you for work. As Organize Yourself Skinny notes, even preparing a couple meals in advance can make a big difference toward your health.
Balance your food groups
When preparing your meals, you should strive for a balanced combination of the different food groups.
Minimize carbs as much as possible, and if you do eat bread or other grain products, choose whole-grain varieties. Check the label to ensure that the product really is made with whole grains, and not with the refined variety.
When it comes to protein, choose lean cuts of meat, such as poultry or turkey. Seafood is also a good option, as its rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Consider incorporating non-meat sources of protein into your diet, too, such as legumes like chickpeas and kidney beans, recommends Dieticians of Canada. In addition to their protein content, these legumes also have a high level of fiber.
You should snack on plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, and fill the majority of your plate with them at each meal. Green leafy vegetables are especially important to consume often, as they can decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer.
"Snack on fruits and vegetables often throughout the day."
Incorporate a modest amount of healthy fats into your diet, which includes olive and coconut oils.
Finally, consider the role dairy should have in your diet. Dieticians of Canada recommends people have 500mL of milk or a fortified soy drink every day for its vitamin D content. However, some people may have to minimize their dairy consumption or find other sources of vitamin D due to dairy sensitivities.
Change your habits when eating out
You can have a handle on eating at home, but healthy eating involves being prepared to make smart choices when you're out to eat or at a social event. Peruse the menu ahead of time to find lighter options, choose water as your beverage and don't be afraid to ask the waiter to make adjustments to your meal to improve its nutritional content, for example swapping lettuce leaves for a burger bun.
Eating healthy makes a huge difference to your well-being, weight and stress levels. With the tips above, you can make positive changes to your diet this year.