With the holiday season winding down and a new year beginning, there comes the opportunity to start fresh. You may be thinking back to all your holiday eating at parties and get-togethers. Now it’s time to look forward and focus on setting healthy goals. Aiming to eat healthier can sometimes feel like an overwhelming goal with little direction on where to start. It’s helpful to break this goal down into smaller, realistic goals that you can work on.
Consider the following tips to help improve your health and achieve your goals:
❚ Incorporate more plant protein — Yes, plants contain protein too. Find it in legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and soy foods like edamame and tofu. Plant foods are loaded with antioxidants and fiber while containing small amounts of saturated fat. Many studies have found that plant protein protects against disease. Studies also suggest that a more plant-based diet, one that centers meals around the whole, plant foods, may improve long-term health and reduce the risk of cancer.
❚ Strive for more fruits and vegetables — Aim to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Make it a fun competition at work or home to see who can eat more servings! Studies show that even a small increase can make a big difference. Start by including a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal. Get creative by adding fruits/veggies to smoothies, pasta dishes, oatmeal, and desserts.
❚ Cut back on sodium — Set the salt shaker aside this year. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Just one teaspoon of salt already contains this much sodium. Also, note the #1 source of sodium in the diet comes from processed foods. Pay attention to nutrition labels for the sodium amount found in foods like processed meats, canned goods, frozen meals, and cereals. Season foods with herbs, spices, or citrus for new, exciting flavors instead.
❚ Skip the sugary drinks—
Soda and other sugary beverages are the biggest sources of added sugars in the diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 100 calories, 6 teaspoons, for women and 150 calories, 9 teaspoons, for men per day. The updated Nutrition Facts label, soon to be on all food products, will now list “Added Sugars”. Satisfy your sweet tooth by treating yourself to foods containing the sugar found in nature, fruit.
❚ Transition to whole grains — Whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and 100 percent whole wheat bread contain more fiber compared to refined grains. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer. Eating more whole grains may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Look to swap out refined grains for healthier versions.
Make healthy eating simple . Place the focus on eating less processed foods and choosing more plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Janelle Schirmer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan.