4 Ways to Eat Healthier in the New Year
Want to have a healthier future, reduce your risk for a multitude of lifestyle related diseases, achieve and maintain a healthy weight as well as feel vibrant, healthy and wonderful?
Notice I didn’t say “Want to lose weight?” Or, “Here is what to eat to get skinny!” I kicked my diet habit and shed over 100 pounds several years ago when I quit focusing on what I wanted to lose and instead focused on what I wanted to gain: all of the qualities above. I did gain all of these benefits, plus more energy, stamina, confidence, as well as the added side effect of a healthy and natural weight loss which I have maintained simply because it feels so great to live this kind of healthy, balanced (and delicious) lifestyle.
If you’ve been on a diet roller coaster or just don’t feel as great as you could, I want to share the 4 habits that changed my life and could help you eat healthier in the New Year, and beyond.
1. Make vegetables your carbohydrate side dish more often.
When you look at the standard American diet, carbohydrates often prevail over vegetables. Whole grain pasta, brown rice or whole grain bread were previously my side dishes along with a small serving of a vegetable. I thought I was building a healthy plate! My waistline, cholesterol and blood sugar told a different story.
I began swapping out lower-glycemic, vegetable carbohydrate sources for pasta, rice or bread several times per week. (Notice I didn’t say I cut out these foods.) I enjoy side dishes or main entrees made with sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, organic corn, squash and legumes along with a green and/or leafy vegetable to create a very filling, fiber-filled and highly nutritious meal that satisfies.
People who eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily benefit from lower instances of obesity as well as a healthier body in general. According to the Harvard School of Public Health “eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss.” (1.)
I aimed to eat at least one fruit or vegetable every time I ate. My breakfast previously may have been oats or cereal, eggs and toast. Now I enjoy a green fruit smoothie with a hard-boiled egg for breakfast (see my favorite recipe, below), top my oats with berries and serve my eggs on a big bed of sautéed baby spinach, which takes about 2 minutes to prepare.
My snacks used to be fiber bars or crackers and cheese. Now I snack on fresh cut vegetables with hummus, fruit and a small handful of nuts or yogurt and berries.
While I usually included a vegetable with dinner, it was usually a small portion. Now I make main-entrée salads often, enjoy 2 different vegetables often and always make sure that at least half of my meal is vegetables.
3. Don’t skip breakfast.
We all know we need to eat breakfast but I still meet so many people who say they’re still skipping this important chance to fuel their body. Once you get in the habit of having breakfast you should notice more energy through the morning (you’re getting nutrition your body needs instead of starving it of the vitamins, minerals, protein and calories our bodies need to get going – just like gas in a car), plus you’re likely to consume fewer calories during the day.
It feels great to allow yourself a few extra minutes in the morning to sit down and enjoy a meal. I make sure I plan ahead and batch-cook slow-cooking steel cut oats for the entire week to reheat what I need and serve with berries. Or, I often sauté up a quick egg over a few handfuls of sautéed spinach that takes about 2 minutes. My favorite quick breakfast that I can take on the go on days that I don’t have time to sit down is my green fruit smoothie and a hard-boiled egg, recipe below.
If you’re still not eating breakfast, or reluctant to, I urge you to give it a try 3 days per week, for 2 weeks. See the difference you feel on the days you eat breakfast vs. the no-breakfast days and give yourself that opportunity to feel great every day. You may have to get up a few minutes earlier, but it is so worth it. Which brings me to the final and possibly most important habit…
Like millions of people, I used to skip breakfast, down a cup or two of coffee and a candy bar during my mid-afternoon slump, gorge on a big dinner because I was starving all day long, indulge in a creamy or chocolaty dessert, then go to sleep late with an upset stomach and a racing heart. I would wake up all through the night then wake up without proper rest to do it all over again.
I knew the research that proves how important proper sleep is to a healthy body and even weight management, (2.) but I didn’t give myself the gift of rest.
After my first few weeks of making these healthier lifestyle habits, I noticed I was sleeping better. I wasn’t going to bed with an upset stomach and my heart wasn’t racing all night long. I was full and satisfied from my more nutritious dinners and balanced eating throughout the day so I wasn’t craving dessert most nights. A piece of fruit or small piece of dark chocolate satisfied any sweet tooth I had just fine. This led to much more restful sleep and I woke up with energy to start the day.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, optimally. Eat lighter dinners and eat your last meal or snack about 3 hours before bed if possible. Notice the difference it makes!
This recipe makes 2 smoothies. I love this blend of ingredients because it is just sweet enough (from the banana), creamy, packed with nutrition from vegetables AND fruit, as well as very filling. These ingredients are always in my refrigerator, ready to whip up in seconds! Enjoy with a hard-boiled organic egg and enjoy the energy it gives you throughout the morning!
- 1 banana
- 2 cups frozen fruit blend (I like mango, strawberries, pineapple and cherries)
- 2 big handfuls (about 4 loosely packed cups) baby spinach or baby kale (spinach imparts almost no flavor at all)
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds
- 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
- Place all ingredients in the blender, blend until smooth and creamy.
Chef Kirsten Helle is a personal chef, nutrition consultant and lifestyle and weight management specialist. She is the CEO of Mesa de Vida…Table of Life and Menus by Mesa de Vida which helps members become healthy kitchen rock stars. Mesa de Vida was voted the top 2 food blog in Seattle this past year on the Evening Magazine Best of polls. Kirsten shares hundreds of recipes, and more about her 100 lb weight loss and resources to help you create a healthy family legacy as well!