Here are some of the best tips to enjoy a healthy diet well into the new year!
1Drink More Water.
If water were a food, it would be a superfood. It helps digestion, promotes clear skin, acts as an appetite suppressant, and even prevents heart disease, among many other benefits. Some research has even shown that drinking water can speed up metabolism and help you lose weight. Although the whole drink-eight-glasses-a-day advice is now thought to be a myth, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s better than drinking energy drinks or flavored waters that may contain lots of sweeteners. Stick to filtered tap, and cut it with naturally sweetened fruit juice if you get bored, or try low-calorie, unsweetened elixirs like this Green Herb Infusion. At work, keep a large pitcher of water at your desk, so you don’t have to keep getting up to refill your glass.
2Create a Salad Bar in Your Fridge.
Buy some produce on a Sunday and spend a half hour washing, chopping, and storing it in containers in your fridge (Mason jars look cool). Make enough salad dressing for the whole week. Then, before work, all you have to do is add greens and assemble for lunch. It’s OK to dress the salad in the morning if you refrigerate it when you get to work.
3Remember, Color Equals Nutrition.
It’s a good rule of thumb that the more colorful the food, the more healthy it is. For instance, squash, carrots, spinach, and kiwi are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. White and beige foods like cheese, french fries, white rice, white flour, and white sugar should be eaten in moderation, because they’re either high in saturated or trans fats, or overly processed and lacking in nutritional value. Similarly, when you eat vegetables, leave the skins on if they’re more colorful than the interior (for example, zucchini and cucumber), because that’s where a lot of the vitamins are.
4Keep a Food Journal.
This serves as a powerful reality check for what you’re truly eating, not what you’d like to think you’re eating. In addition to detailing your diet, you can also write down what is going on in your life in case you fall off the healthy wagon. External stresses often cause us to seek comfort in food: “Divorce paperwork filed: Caramel latte and devil’s food cupcake, 4 p.m.” It’s easier to change behaviors if you first know what causes them.
5Investigate Funky Grains.
Put aside highly refined white pasta and white rice for a while in favor of nutritious brown rice, barley, kamut, spelt, millet, quinoa, farro, and buckwheat (which isn’t technically a grain, but don’t worry about that). You can cook and eat them just the way you would rice or pasta, or top them with fresh fruit as an oatmeal substitute. Cook a big pot over the weekend, keep it in the fridge, and throw a handful into your salad each day. Or try one of these CHOW recipes for Quinoa Salad or Farro Risotto with Asparagus and Fava Beans.
6Ask, “Would I Eat an Apple?”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’ve crossed the line from nourishing yourself to overeating. That’s because it takes up to 15 minutes for your brain to receive signals from your digestive system that you’re full. Eating slowly can help (some people recommend using chopsticks), because that gives your brain time to catch up. Also, if you’re unsure, try asking yourself, “Would I eat an apple right now if one was offered to me?” If the answer is no, you’re eating just to eat, not because you’re still hungry.
7When in Doubt, Sauté with Garlic.
You always hear about how you’re supposed to eat lots of vegetables, seasonal if possible. But often they sit around in your fridge and go bad because you don’t know what to do with them. In a pinch, just chop them up and sauté them with olive oil, garlic, and salt. This works for everything from bok choy to kale to Jerusalem artichokes. If it’s something hard, like broccoli stalks or butternut squash, simply cut the vegetable up really small.
8Eat Breakfast in Bed.
Many of us put meals at the bottom of our priority list, leaving us scarfing down a meal of frozen lasagne while multitasking on the computer, at best. Instead, try treating one of your daily meals, or a few meals a week, as a ritual whose purpose is to nourish both your body and your spirit. Think ahead a little, and schedule your day so you have the time to prepare and enjoy the ingredients you bought ahead of time. Appreciate the aromas as you prepare the food, as well as the beauty of fresh ingredients versus a frost-covered block that comes out of plastic.
9Bag Half to Go.
When eating out, bag half your meal to go before you even start. Most restaurant portions are too big, so either ask the server to split your order and put half in a to-go box at the beginning, or request a box and do it yourself. Then you won’t be tempted to dig into the second half while it’s sitting in front of you. And you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day.
10If It Has a Label, Don’t Eat It.
Spend less time reading the fine print for calories and grams of fat by eating stuff that has no label. Whole fruits, vegetables, and bulk grains don’t have labels. Foods that haven’t been chopped up, chemically altered, and screwed around with in factories have no labels. Even that healthy energy bar you’re buying that costs $3 and the label says is made of dates and nuts—how about just buying some dates and nuts and saving yourself $2?
For more tips, tricks, and healthy recipes, check out our healthy living page.