For many people, the new year signifies a fresh slate to eat better, lose excess weight and get healthier. Commendable goals, yes, but ones that could set you up for disappointment by February.
Instead of setting lofty intentions to transform your diet and your body – or committing to do too many things at once – start small. Research suggests that making gradual changes, and letting your brain adapt to one of them at a time, is the best way to change your eating habits over the long term.
The following goals can help improve your diet in 2021. Instead of resolving to accomplish all of them in January, work on these goals throughout the year.
Eat plant-based meals four times a week
A plant-based diet has been linked to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, and heart disease. It also has a smaller environmental impact than a diet based on animal foods.
Adopting a plant-based diet doesn’t require you to become a vegan. It means eating proportionately more plant foods, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, beans, lentils, peas and soy, than animal foods.
Include four (or more) plant-based meals in your weekly menu to increase your intake of fibre, healthy fats, antioxidants and protective phytochemicals.
Batch cook a vegetarian chili or hearty bean soup for quick lunches or dinners. Make tacos and burritos with black beans or pinto beans instead of ground meat.
Add soy ground round to marinara sauces. Try firm tofu or tempeh in stir-fries.
Toss chickpeas or black beans with a cooked whole grain (e.g., quinoa, farro, freekeh) and sautéed vegetables for a plant-based meal. Snack on nuts, seeds or edamame instead of crackers and cheese.
Add prebiotics to your daily menu
To promote digestive health this year, include prebiotic foods in your daily diet. These non-digestible fibrous carbohydrates fuel the growth of beneficial bacteria that reside in your colon.
That’s important since these microbes, known collectively as your microbiota, synthesize certain vitamins, activate disease-fighting phytochemicals, regulate immune function, and protect the lining of the gut. Your gut microbiota is also thought to play a role in inflammatory bowel disease, mental health, weight control, even food cravings.
Prebiotic foods include asparagus, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes (add to a stir-fry or roast with vegetables), jicama (toss into salads), oats, whole grain rye, barley, kefir, leeks, onions, and garlic.
Use the plate model
To help manage portion sizes at meals – and to fill your plate with more plants- visualize your plate in quarters.
Fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with protein (e.g., fish, chicken, chickpeas, tofu) and one-quarter with nutritious starchy foods (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, sweet potato).
Instead of using a large dinner plate, consider serving your meal on a luncheon-sized plate (7 to 9 inches in diameter).
Drink 16 ounces of water before meals
Mild dehydration, caused by drinking too little water during the day, can trigger headaches, cause fatigue, worsen mood, and impair concentration.
Healthy adults are advised to drink 12 cups/3 litres (men) and 9 cups/2.2 litres (women) of water each day, and more if exercising. While all beverages (except alcoholic beverages) count towards your water requirements, choose plain water over sugary drinks, fruit juice and diet soft drinks.
To put a dent in your daily water requirement, make a habit of drinking 16 ounces (two cups) of water before each meal. Doing so can also help you feel full and may help prevent overeating.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.