Every year millions of people set health-related New Year’s resolutions, so what better time to study up on healthier eating than now? Recognising the gulf between the aspiration to eat well and the reality of daily life, we’re sharing a few of the course corrections we’re hoping to effect for ourselves in 2020. Eating better means feeling better, we all know that, so here are our prescriptions to ourselves for 2020:
Aim for a “healthy” breakfast at least thrice a week
Knowing you should eat better and actually doing it are two separate things. Try to outsmart yourselves and eat a healthy-for-me breakfast at least three days a week – a small bowl of cashew yogurt with granola and a big dollop of jam; wilted spinach scrambled with an egg; good whole-grain toast with a banana and almond butter. Ideally, starting your morning this way will influence the rest of your day’s meals, but you know at least you got your nutrition in first thing and if you eat not-so-well the rest of the day, you won’t beat yourself up over it.
People who eat home-cooked meals five or more times per week were 28 percent less likely to be overweight and 24 percent less likely to have excess body fat than those who ate at home fewer than three times per week. That's according to a 2017 study involving more than 11,000 people published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. The researchers found that those who dined at home ate more fruits and vegetables, too. Another study showed that cooking at home also reduces a person's exposure to toxic chemicals called PFAS that are in some fast-food and takeout packaging.
Eat your veggies first
If you’re not eating enough vegetables (and most of us aren’t), it could be because you put them in a contest they can’t win. Research has shown that when vegetables are competing with other – possibly more appealing – items on your plate, you eat less of them. But when you get the vegetables alone, you eat more of them. Make a salad and sit down to eat it before you put any other food on the table. You’ll not only eat more vegetables, you’ll also fill up a bit so that you eat less later in the meal.
Go meatless one day per week
A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that replacing animal protein with an equivalent amount of plant protein was associated with a lower risk of mortality, especially from heart disease. So, swap your burger for a veggie version or make a bean chili so hearty that no one will miss the meat.
Make a small snack more satisfying
You don’t need to give up your favourite sweets, but you can eat less and enjoy a snack just as much. The secret is being mindful. Give your treat your full concentration and focus on the flavour and texture. That will help you feel satisfied with a smaller portion.
Munch on nuts
Many people think of nuts as having a lot of calories and fat, but they typically don’t cause people to pack on the pounds. Plus, they help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to several studies. Any unsalted nut is a good pick, but it’s best to switch up the types you eat because each variety has its own blend of nutrients. For instance, almonds have more fiber than many other nuts and supply calcium, while walnuts are packed with a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Make a move to whole grains
More than 40 percent of the carbohydrates we consume are low in nutritional quality, according to a 2019 study published in JAMA. Simply switching from refined grains to whole grains, such as farro, bulgur, oatmeal, and even popcorn, can increase your fiber intake and help keep you full. In one study published in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine, adding just one serving of whole grains per day led to an average weight loss of about a third of a pound over four years.
Replace a sugary drink with water
We all know that soda isn’t the healthiest beverage choice. But a recent study suggests that exchanging one serving per day for a glass of water could help reduce overall calorie intake and the subsequent risk of obesity, lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 to 25 percent. Take a look at your fruit juice intake, too. Even 100 percent fruit juices can contribute a lot of calories and sugars to your diet. For a healthier diet, limit yourself to one 4-ounce glass per day.