5 Non-trendy Resolutions for Healthful Eating in 2021
We have finally bid adieu to one of the craziest years ever! Typically, this is the time of year when we reflect on the ups and downs of the past year; memories of time spent with family and friends, travel adventures, accomplishments at work and in life in general, and probably some regrets and reflections on things that didn’t turn out as we had hoped. But alas, 2020 did not hold many travel adventures, time with family and friends was not the norm, and life as we knew it changed dramatically with Covid and politics.
While we are still in the midst of a challenging time, a chance for a fresh start and an opportunity to set new goals and envision what we’d like the New Year to be like is still available. Studies show that more than half of our New Year’s Resolutions will be health related, including upping our fitness game and eating healthier, and most will give up on their resolutions before January comes to an end, likely because our goals are too lofty.
In light of a continued challenging time, it's crucial that we give ourselves grace as we navigate next steps in whatever it is that we're striving to achieve in the area of health and nutrition. I've pulled together some starting points that I think are perhaps a little bit obvious, but likely not yet habitual for most. They are definitely realistic, as they don't require unreasonable restrictions and aren't based on rules, and they are absolutely achievable and bound to become habits if incorporated repeatedly into daily routines.
1. Eat Real Food
I've said before and I'm saying it again! With more than 20,000 new food and beverage products hitting the shelves of grocery stores and pages of online food retailers each year, it is easy to get sucked into consuming highly processed foods, including some that tout health and nutrition benefits. We can probably all agree that packaged foods like chips, cookies, and candies are not examples of real foods, but can be more easily fooled and enticed by their perceived healthier counterparts like puffs made from chickpeas, protein bars, and gluten free cookies.
Focusing on food that is as close to its natural form is a great strategy. Chances are, if you’re unwrapping your snack, it’s not a “real” food. In his book Food Rules (which I highly recommend), Michael Pollan suggests “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” This immediately takes so many foods in question out of the picture. That's not to say that you should never eat these foods, but prioritizing whole foods that are unprocessed is the name of the game.
2. Follow the Protein/Healthy Fat/ Fiber Rule
Every meal and snack should contain some form of protein, healthy fat, and fiber. When people become accustomed to this concept, it’s much easier for them to learn how to comprise their own healthy meals and snack, rather than relying on suggestions from a nutrition expert. While I sometimes provide sample meal plans, I prefer to educate and equip people to make their own decisions about what to eat, in order to reflect their personal food preference.
Combining protein with healthy fat and fiber sets us up for success by keeping blood sugars more stable which also helps prevent cravings and mood swings. For example, while an apple is naturally a healthy choice, eating it on its own results in a more rapid blood sugar surge, but adding a Tablespoon of nut butter or a small handful of nuts changes the nutrition profile significantly and will keep hunger at bay longer.
Similarly, a bowl of oatmeal with plain oats cooked in water sounds like a healthy breakfast, but adding chopped nuts or a drizzle of almond butter and fruit takes it to the next level and will be more satiating.
3. Eat More Produce
I know - sounds obvious. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, only 9% of American adults consume enough vegetables, and only 12% eat the recommended amount of fruit.
Produce is one of the best sources of fiber and micronutrients, and also provides water, which makes for a filling food with low caloric density. You get more bang for your buck when you load up on produce, especially in combination with protein and fiber. Adding veggies to your plate can help offset the calorie load from other foods, so aiming to fill half your plate with veggies is a great way to ensure you’re consuming nutrient dense foods as well as a helpful tool for calorie control.
Since all fruits and vegetables offer different health benefits, variety is key. Experimenting with different ways of preparing produce is a sure way to figure out what you (or your family) likes best. Roasting vegetables provides great flavor and texture compared to eating raw. Adding fruit to oatmeal, yogurt or even a salad may be more appealing than eating it straight up. Figure out what works for you.
4. Cook More
Thanks to Covid, most of us are already doing this! This doesn’t mean that you need to whip up elaborate recipes and spend endless hours in the kitchen but, having a hand in preparing your own meals means that you have more control and knowledge of what you’re consuming. The more frequently you eat out (or order out), the less control you have over what you’re actually taking in. What seems like a healthy choice in a restaurant is more than likely full of extra calories, fat, and processed ingredients.
I love to point my clients in the direction of easy, quick meals that can be assembled in minutes, yet also satisfy the protein/healthy fat/fiber rule. You don’t have to know how to cook to throw your own meal together. Sheet pan suppers, soups, and entrée salads are all great options that require minimal effort. And, you may even surprise yourself that you enjoy the process of making a meal come together at a much lower cost both nutritionally and financially.
It’s the planning ahead factor that’s the most critical. Without a plan, we’re more likely to order out, go out, get take out, etc. As a mother of three, I can 100% relate to this and have often been sucked into the cycle of grabbing something on the go, while no other plan was made. Choose not to wing it in 2021!
And, if you're looking for inspiration and tips, join my private Facebook page "What's for Dinner Tonight with Allyson Balzuweit" and immerse yourself in a community of shared recipes, tips and kitchen hacks that will help you navigate the busy weeknights.
5. Find a Partner in Crime
Regardless of what you’re looking to change, add, or remove in 2021, sharing your goal with a spouse, friend, or colleague that has a similar interest can help ensure success. Finding a partner for exercising, cooking or sharing recipes and tips is a built-in form of accountability.
Years ago I used to meet up with a friend for a Saturday morning run. It was a time I always looked forward to…one of the best forms of self-care. Exercising while chatting with a friend can be so therapeutic. I currently work out on zoom with a group of women that provides much more joy than working out alone. Even though we've decided not to work out in person, I find myself looking forward to those workouts, just knowing that I'm not going at it alone. We also share recipes and parenting stories from time to time, and that sense of camaraderie is helpful on many levels. This may look different for you, but try to avoid tackling things on your own in isolation. That never ends well. Engaging with others who share similar goals will not only contribute to greater success, but add joy along the way.
Cheers to a brand New Year!
For more information on my nutrition services offered or to schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone call, contact me at allysonbalzuweitRD@gmail.com or 678-575-3413.
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