Happy New Year!
Just about everyone has healthy eating on their minds as we leave the holidays behind and start a new year. The good news is, you don’t have to follow a specific “diet” to enjoy the wonderful benefits of healthy eating. Small changes in habits can make a BIG difference.
Here are my top 20 Healthy Eating Best Practices to keep you moving in the right direction 2016. Enjoy!
1. Clean out your cupboard and refrigerator of anything that is boxed, packaged, or bottled and contains more than just a few ingredients. (For example, my ketchup ingredients list says “tomato puree, vinegar, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper.”) If there is anything on the label that you don’t recognize or sounds like a chemical, ditch it.
2. Get rid of all soda, both diet and sugar-full. If you love the fizzy feeling of soda pop, stock up on sparkling waters, lime/lemon juice concentrates, and natural sweeteners like Stevia/honey. A commercial soda drink called “Zevia” is available in a variety of flavors and is sweetened with Stevia.
3. Limit grains. No bread, pasta, white/brown rice, rolls, pancakes, waffles, crackers, cereals, etc. Basically, limit your grains to quinoa, black rice, and if you must, gluten-free bread. Although not grains, white potatoes are also on the “do not eat” list. Sweet potatoes are loaded with nutrients, though, and have a slower effect on blood sugar levels, so feel free to eat them in moderation.
4. Get rid of any artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet-n-Low, etc. Avoid agave too.
5. Read the labels when you grocery shop and avoid buying packaged foods with added sugar. I realize that sweetness sometimes enriches a product (i.e. BBQ sauce). Just be aware that sugar is often added when it’s not really needed, like in peanut butter, salad dressings, canned corn, almond milk, etc.
6. Buy organic as much as possible. Some is better than none. This includes produce and meat.
7. Purchase whole milk products if you tolerate dairy: Your body benefits from the full fat content of these products: Greek yogurt, milk, cheese. Make sure your yogurt is plain and sweeten it yourself with Stevia, honey, or fresh fruit.
8. Eat mostly plants. Take advantage of vegetables and fruits in season. Buy organic, if possible. (See Tip #6). Buy a “Spiralizer” (available at Amazon.com). Look for opportunities to add veggies to all of your recipes. Although technically a plant, avoid eating white potatoes, as they digest, break down, and affect the body like sugar. Sweet potatoes are loaded with nutrients, though, and have a slower effect on blood sugar levels, so feel free to eat them in moderation.
9. Stock up on snacks that are as close to nature as possible—fruit, nuts, seeds, yogurt, hummus, cheese sticks, nut butters, etc.
10. Always eat protein with your carbs. Fruit and many vegetables are considered carbs, so eat them with nut butter, cheese, or hummus to counteract the blood sugar spike that you get if you eat the fruit/veggies alone.
11. Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t eat if you’re not. Enough said.
12. Drink only water and make an occasional sparkling treat (see Tip #2) or drink a Zevia once in a while. The current guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day.
13. Plan your food in advance to avoid getting “hangry” and making poor choices. Plan menus for the week and shop accordingly. Pack up your food and water the night before, so the next day you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.
14. Follow pages, posters, pinners, etc. on social media for free, easy, healthy recipes. Examples are Kate’s Healthy Cupboard, Against All Grain, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, Karma Chow, etc. Don’t forget to follow my many recipes boards on Pinterest!
15. Subscribe to a meal-planning service to take the guesswork out of your meals. I recommend two services: Real Plans offers customizable plans to fit your family's size, tastes, and busy schedule. Plans include Keto, Paleo, Vegetarian, GAPS, Whole30, and more. eMeals offers low-carb, clean eating, vegetarian, paleo, and other plans, and coordinates local grocery coupons and sales with menus. Both services provide menus that are wonderfully creative, easy to prepare, and delicious. With a meal-planning service, you get recipes plus a shopping list, which makes healthy meal-planning super easy and less time-consuming.
16. Limit your alcohol consumption to the weekends, and only one or two drinks at that. Alcohol is metabolized as sugar and is stored as fat, and also messes with your body’s blood sugar regulation.
17. Stop eating after 7pm. This is tough to do, so allow yourself a later night chow (gotta have that popcorn at the movie theater) once in a while.
18. It’s okay to skip breakfast. Studies show that many people thrive when they condense their eating period to 6-10 hours a day. Extending the time your body fasts can do wonders with your energy levels, your body fat percentage, and your blood sugar regulation. Note: I’m NOT talking about disordered eating or calorie restriction here. The same amount of calories are consumed in a smaller window of time, that’s all.
19. If the junk foods you crave aren’t in your house (or your work fridge), you won’t eat them. If you don’t buy crap food, it won’t tempt you from your cupboards. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
20. Find ways to indulge that sweet tooth in a healthy way. Eat a square of dark chocolate, some raw nuts and sugar-free carob chips, some berries in plain yogurt with coconut syrup. Don’t beat yourself up for having a sweet craving—experiment with better ways to satisfy it.
I’d LOVE to hear how you’re doing as the year goes by. Feel free to post or comment on my Facebook page “Fittbodies.”
More good stuff:
For my free, 5-Day Clean Eating Guide, CLICK HERE.
For my free, 10 Tips for Optimal Health, CLICK HERE.
Happy New Year!