Are you guilty of skipping breakfast, taking too many trips through the drive-thru and counting French fries as a serving of vegetables? As we get to the end of the year, it seems that we look back on the year and think about making resolutions about what we’re NOT going to do. For example, do you think to yourself, “I am not going to eat as many sweets next year”? Or how about, “I’m going to cut back on how much pop (or coffee) I drink every day.” So often we approach our eating habits in this negative fashion, making us feel like we’re depriving ourselves.
What if, this year, you take a new approach and look for positive things you can add to your diet? There are a lot of healthy and positive things we can include in our diet. By looking at it this way, we include healthy foods that are good for us. And if we do it enough, in the long run they may end up replacing the not-so-healthy foods by default.
All the foods we eat have some function. We need carbohydrate-containing foods for energy, protein-containing foods for muscle repair and vitamins for keeping our cells functioning. However, some foods are more nutrient-dense than others, and it would be these foods that we should try to emphasize in our diet.
Here are some things to consider ADDING to your diet this coming year:
- Whole grains: There are many options here, and slowly adding and modifying the type of grains you eat can provide more soluble fiber, help lower cholesterol and assist with blood sugar control. Can you add some oatmeal or oat bran muffins to your breakfast, experiment with brown rice in your casseroles or switch to whole-wheat bread? There are a lot of grains to try, and if you can have half the grains you consume be whole grains, you are on the right track. Of course, if you have dietary restrictions limiting grains from your health care provider, follow their advice.
- Bright-colored berries: My kids used to call this “eating the rainbow” as they learned about nutrition in school. Brightly colored berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries are great fruits to eat. Not only are they low in calories, they have anthocyanin pigments which offer health promoting benefits. Other brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and minerals too — green, red and yellow peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, oranges, etc. are good choices.
- Nuts: They make a great snack, are high in fiber and magnesium and a little goes a long way. They can help you feel full and can help control blood sugar as well.
- Cold-water fish: Salmon, tuna, lake trout and other fatty fish are protein-packed and good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower our overall risk of heart disease. If fish isn’t your favorite food, other good plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are ground flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts and soy protein.
So as you think about your goals for the upcoming year, consider adding healthy foods rather than focusing on what not to do. And if you end up replacing those French fries with sweet potatoes, it’s a bonus! Have a happy, healthy and safe New Year.