One of the most exciting parts of the new year is the feeling of starting over with a clean slate. You can, of course, start pursuing new goals any time of the year, but there's something extra motivating about a fresh new calendar year to get started on being a "healthier you." In order to help you reach some of your goals in 2023, we asked our expert dietitians to share their tips for easy eating habit changes you can make with very little effort.
If you've ever set an enormous, unattainable goal for yourself, only to give up a week later, you know the frustration of feeling like you've failed. This can often happen in the new year when we set our sights on being healthier, without any tangible tips or tricks to back us up along the way. Saying you're going to lose 30 pounds by summer or deciding you're going to give up added sugar sounds nice in the moment, but unless you plan the small steps to get you there, these goals may fall by the wayside.
That's where these dietitian-approved eating habit changes come in. Though these tips are simple and practically effortless, they may make all the difference in your health by the end of the year if you can stick to them. So, read on to learn about the diet-related changes that can help you feel better in 2023, and for more healthy eating tips, check out 6 Foods That Will Completely Turn Your Health Around in 2023.
Stock up on frozen fruits&vegetables
Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet is a crucial step in pursuing a healthier you. For one, studies show that eating fruits and veggies is linked to reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. The CDC also says that replacing high-calorie foods with fruit and veggies can be a helpful contribution to weight loss and weight management. Weight loss certainly does not always equate to a healthier lifestyle, but if this happens to be a specific goal of yours, eating more produce can help.
Unfortunately, getting consistent vegetables and fruit into your meals can be a challenge. Not only is it sometimes on the pricier end, but it more often than not requires some cooking and preparation—unless you're one of the lucky ones who actually enjoys snacking on raw veggies. In order to make this shift into eating more produce a little easier, our dietitians recommend stocking up on frozen varieties.
"Vegetables that are frozen are typically pre-cut and ready to use, which means they can save time in the kitchen," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, at Balance One Supplements. "Frozen fruit and vegetables are also often frozen at their peak ripeness, which means they can retain their nutritional value better than fresh produce that may be transported over long distances and may have been picked before they are fully ripe."
"Frozen fruit, like berries, are also the perfect ingredient for making a smoothie," adds Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board. So, if you need a quick, nutrient-dense breakfast or snack to take on the go, you can use your frozen produce to make yourself a delicious smoothie.
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Sometimes making a huge life change or dietary shift can feel overwhelming, which may result in you wanting to give up before you've even started. If this is something you're worried about or have experienced in the past, Best says you may benefit from going "flexitarian."
"The term 'flexitarian' refers to a dietary pattern involving mostly plant-based foods, but also includes occasional meat, fish, and other animal products," explains Best. "This approach to eating can offer a range of health benefits, as plant-based foods are rich in nutrients and can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer."
Eating flexitarian still involves some easy eating habit changes, but it isn't as rigid as going fully vegan or plant-based. However, if you're going to eat more plant-based food, Best stresses the importance of focusing on those foods that are whole and unprocessed.
"A flexitarian diet that is based on whole, high-fiber, unprocessed plant-based foods can be lower in calories and fat than a diet that is high in animal products, which can make it easier to manage your weight and reduce the risk of obesity-related health problems this coming year," says Best.
Choose whole grains over refined ones
Whole grain breads, pasta, and rice can give you higher levels of fiber and nutrients than white, refined grains. This is because when refined carbohydrates are processed, they lose a lot of their important nutritional value.
"Whole grains' high levels of fiber can help to improve digestion and reduce the risk of constipation. These grains are also a good source of complex carbohydrates, which can provide sustained energy and help to regulate blood sugar levels," says Best.
Some research even shows that diets higher in whole grains can help reduce the risk of things like coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and all-cause mortality. An easy switch to make in your pantry this year is stocking up on whole grain varieties of all your favorite carbohydrates. You can still enjoy rice, bread, and pasta whenever you please, but try avoiding the white, refined versions when you can.
Keep canned beans in your pantry
As mentioned above, opting for more plant-based foods and eating less meat can help you feel better in 2023. One simple way of doing this is by switching out some of your meat-heavy meals with dishes that utilize beans as a protein source. In order to make this as easy as possible, stock up on canned beans like kidney beans, black beans, or chickpeas.
"Keeping canned beans will make it much easier to swap out a meat-based meal for more plant protein," says Young. "You can round out a meal by adding beans to a salad." Another way to prepare this delicious plant-based protein is to roast some chickpeas for a crunchy snack.
To make this move even healthier, look for the low or reduced-sodium cans when you're shopping.
Keep pre-washed lettuce&other prepped fresh veggies in the fridge
We now know of the importance of having enough vegetables in your daily diet, which is why Young suggests preparing them ahead of time in order to make the process easier. One way of doing this is by having salad greens and ingredients prepared and on hand at all times.
"Keep bags of pre-washed, ready-to-eat lettuce in the fridge, along with shredded carrots and cherry tomatoes," says Young. "It's so easy to skip the salad when you have to wash, chop, slice, and dice."