A new year always offers a fresh start, and for many of us, that means re-evaluating our food choices. While we can make positive change any time of year, the turning over of the calendar offers a special boost of motivation. But, truth be told, you may not get very far trying to overhaul your diet with a vague mission statement (like “This year I’ll eat better” or “This year I’ll cut back on sugar”). Trust me, as a nutritionist, I’ve seen enough to know that these nebulous intentions rarely pan out. Instead, it’s usually best to set measurable, attainable goals you can actually reach.

Here are six smaller changes to set you on the path toward healthier eating in 2021.


 

1. Add fruits and veggies at breakfast

If you’re going to get to the recommended target of five fruits and veggies per day, you’ve gotta start early! Breakfast isn’t where most of us think to load up on produce, but it’s not all that difficult to add fruits and vegetables to many traditional (and nontraditional) breakfasts.

Try a smoothie or oatmeal chock full of berries, sliced banana on peanut butter toast, or a handful of spinach tossed into your morning eggs.

 
 

2. Choose whole grains over refined

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage making at least half our grains whole. Whole grains contain more fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients than their refined counterparts. Plus, they’re simply more filling!


One idea: Make it a practice to purchase whole grain products for home cooking, and save refined (or “white”) grains for dining out.


3. Eat more fermented foods

Fermented foods may not sound all that appealing, but they can be surprisingly tasty. Sauerkraut adds a salty tang to sandwiches, kimchi spices up plain Asian noodles, and yogurt, of course, provides a creamy touch to sauces, tacos, or parfaits. These foods are all rich in probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut. Including them regularly in your diet will help create a thriving microbiome—which research shows can boost weight loss, reduce risk of diabetes, and even lower rates of depression.



4. Go meatless one day a week

Eating meat isn’t necessarily bad for your health. It’s eating too much meat that can be a problem. Red meats are high in saturated fat, and both red and processed meats (like hot dogs and deli meats) have been linked to colon cancer. Meanwhile, large-scale cattle farming has a reputation for poor environmental practices. Cut down on your carbon footprint and do your health a favor by opting out of meat one day a week.


Try substituting tofu, beans, or veggies for the meat in casseroles, Mexican dishes, or soups. With the right flavor blend, you may not even miss the meat.

 

5. Cook with healthier oils

Better eating begins in your home kitchen. When basting, grilling, or firing up a skillet, it’s up to you to choose oils that will help, not harm, your health. You’ve probably heard olive oil touted as a heart-healthy component of a Mediterranean diet—and for good reason. This veggie oil contains high amounts of the monounsaturated oils associated with cardiovascular health.

Whenever possible, choose olive (or canola, peanut, safflower, or corn) oils in your cooking.

 

6. Base desserts around fruit

Don’t get me wrong. As a sweets lover, I believe there’s definitely a time and place for rich desserts. But for an everyday ending to a meal, it’s smart to train our taste buds to be content with nature’s candy: fruit! To get more out of fruit as dessert, minimize distractions and give a dish of juicy strawberries or cool melon bites your full attention. Doing so will create a mindful experience of savoring, which leads to increased satisfaction.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2021!


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Sarah Garone is a Catholic nutritionist, writer, and food blogger. She lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband and three children. Find her sharing down-to-earth nutrition info and (mostly!) healthy recipes at www.ALoveLettertoFood.com.







   

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