Happy New Year! I bet you’ve had your fill of holiday treats. If you’re ready to start anew and eat better this year, you’ve come to the right place for encouragement. At Exercises for Injuries, we’re committed to eating healthier in 2020. Here are 12 tips for eating better in the new year.
1. Cut It in Half
One of the best ways to eat better is to limit your portion size. A couple of weeks ago, some vegan chocolate ice cream bars jumped into my cart at the supermarket. In a moment of poor decision making, I bought them. When I got these little gems home, I realized that each bar contained 21 grams of sugar. Realizing that I still wanted to indulge in these decadent dark chocolate-covered vegan ice cream bars from heaven, I decided to cut them all in half and put them into individual snack size bags. Now, once every couple of weeks, I can have a seriously indulgent, albeit non-nutritive, treat with around 10 grams of sugar.
If you have a certain junk food weakness, you don’t have to give it up entirely. Instead, eat better in 2020 by portioning your delicacies into very small servings and treat yourself once in a while. Consider what you’d normally consume and cut it in half or more.
2. Join a CSA
CSA is short for community supported agriculture. Many farmers have a CSA program to allow nearby residents to buy a share in their farm for the year. The share allows folks to receive a box of in-season produce on a weekly or bimonthly basis all year long. Generally, a CSA subscription provides participants with substantially discounted produce from the farmer’s surplus.
Even if you live in an urban area, you can normally find a CSA program in a neighboring town. The farmers will often transport CSA boxes to a common location in each area on designated delivery days. Search CSA and your city online to find a program near your home and sign up.
Buying a CSA share will help you eat better this year. When you know you’re getting a box of produce every Thursday, you’ll be thinking of ways to incorporate it into your meals. You’ll have farm-fresh produce on hand all of the time and a healthier diet.
3. Don’t Bring It Home
If you’re like me and you have a weakness for frozen novelties, skip the aisle entirely when you’re shopping. Just don’t even look. If you don’t buy the ice cream and bring it home, you won’t be at all tempted to have a bowl of it at 10 p.m.
If you want to indulge in a treat, do it on a per-serving basis. Buy something sweet and take it to a friend’s house to share. Then, leave the rest. You’ll look ever so generous, and you won’t be tempted to eat more later.
4. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning is one of the best ways to eat better this year. Take a few minutes to plan out your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week before you shop. Not only will this help you stay on a healthy diet, but you’ll also save money by using everything you buy and cooking at home.
5. Eat More Plants
This year, aim for more plant-based foods on your plate. Take a break from meat at every meal or every day. Consider leaning toward a vegan or vegetarian diet for at least three days out of each week.
According to Amy Symington at CleanEating.com, “Those who consume more whole plant-based foods tend to see an increase in energy, clearer skin, easier weight loss, and weight maintenance. Plus, they may also experience a decrease in their overall risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.”
Consider plant-based weekends or meatless Mondays. If you decide that meat and animal products are off the table certain days, you’ll find yourself creating excellent vegetarian meals and snacking on produce.
6. Stop Eating When You’re Satisfied
Sometimes, we get into the habit of eating for taste and pleasure. Hunger and satiation may have very little to do with what, when and how much we eat. However, one way to eat better this year is to recognize your body’s hunger signals and the satisfaction of your hunger more effectively.
Caryn Honig, MEd, RD, LD, Nutritional Counselor at The Healthy Weigh-in Houston, Texas, recommends tracking your hunger and fullness. Honig says, “A good tool to use is the hunger scale, which starts at zero and ends at 10. The number zero is feeling beyond hungry, lightheaded, famished, cranky and weak. One is really, really hungry. Two is really hungry. Three and four are normal hunger. Five is no feeling. Six and seven are satisfied. Eight is full. Nine is really full. Ten is miserably full, such as Thanksgiving dinner full.”
Honig encourages her clients to use the hunger scale for a while to become more in tune with their body’s signals. Then, she says, “For the most part, start eating when you are at level three to four and stop eating when you are at level six to seven.”
7. Eat at Home
With the rare exception of certain very healthy restaurants and salad bars, you’ll eat better in 2020 if you cook and eat in your own home. Restaurants may post calorie counts on the menu, but if the steak looks like it needs more butter, it gets extra butter. Most restaurants are also using more salt than you’d use at home and subpar ingredients.
Eating at restaurants also puts you at a greater risk for foodborne illness and allergic reactions than cooking and eating food in your own home. You control the cleanliness, ingredients and portion size when you dine at home.
8. Limit Sugar to 25 Grams per Day
We found that globally, on average, adults consume around 88 grams of sugar each day. In wealthier and more developed countries, people take in more than 100 grams daily.
This incredibly high sugar intake is a recipe for disaster. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has predicted that if the rates of United States sugar consumption do not change, cancer will surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death within 14 years due to sugar and processed foods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume no more than 25 grams of refined sugar in one day. For many people, a drastic change would be required to lower their sugar consumption to less than 25 grams. However, to reduce your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, nervous disorders, and overall poor health, you must follow the WHO’s recommendation.
Eat better this year by keeping your sugar intake to well below 25 grams a day. Watch for sneaky sugar like the 4 grams you’ll find in a serving of ketchup or the 12 grams in a serving of bottled marinara sauce. Eliminate all sugary beverages and stay away from sweetened yogurt and candies.
9. Keep a Food Journal
Recently, I realized that I had unintentionally put on 20 extra pounds during a 3-year period. I wanted to lose the weight healthily. I decided on a strategy and began keeping a food journal. At the beginning of each day, I started a new page and recorded everything I ate all day. Within a few months, I was back to my ideal weight. The food journal was so helpful as I kept track of my daily intake of calories, protein, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and fiber.
A food journal can help you eat better in 2020. Not only will you be more aware of what you’re eating and when, but you can also deduce any food sensitivities and possible allergies when you’re documenting everything you eat. Give it a try this year.
10. Keep Healthy Snacks Packed
Do you know why most of us grab a handful of barbecue potato chips when we’re hungry and busy? Because it’s simple and tasty. Eating chips require no prep or forethought. It’s satisfying ― for a while anyway ― and easy.
It may take a small amount of preparation, but it’s worth it to wash and proportion sliced bell peppers, cucumber spears, berries and carrot sticks every few days. Then, keep them handy in the refrigerator or at your desk for when you need a quick bite to eat.
11. Shop for Better Bars
When you don’t have access to refrigeration, and you need an on-the-go packaged snack that can handle being knocked around in your bag all morning, a nutrition bar might seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, many of these cleverly marketed energy bars contain more sugar than a glazed doughnut.
Look for nutrition bars that have no added sugar. Currently, several bars on the market are made with only dates and nuts. Bars like this will provide you with protein, fiber, healthy fats, and unrefined carbohydrates to fuel your body when you need a snack. Eat healthier this year by throwing out the sugar-filled bars and stocking up on more nutritious options.
12. Have a Salad Most Days
Perhaps one of the best ways to eat better in 2020 is to have a salad nearly every day, if not every day. I’m not suggesting a pasta salad here. I’m talking a leafy green salad with diced apples, sprouts and all sorts of vegetables tossed in. Then, make a simple homemade salad dressing with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to go on top. The wonderful nutrients from a daily salad will benefit your body in countless ways and help you reach your health goals for the year.
Eat Better in 2020
You have what it takes to make this year the healthiest one yet. Commit to implementing some of these tactics to help you eat better in 2020. For a guide to the best foods to incorporate into your diet, make sure to check out The Best Foods that Rapidly Slim & Heal in 7 Days, here. Salud!