Improving your eating habits in the new year sounds like a cliche goal – and sometimes they are, when people follow drastic and unsustainable diets like Whole30. But my theory on healthy eating is that there is no better time than now to make small, sustainable, and effective improvements to how you eat.
If you are looking to improve your eating habits, don’t make huge overhauls and completely change your diet in a week. Eating habits are different from a diet in that they are meant to be a permanent change to how you eat – and therefore most be sustainable. Eliminating all sugar, all bread, or all alcohol (unless for medical reasons) is not sustainable – more often than not, completing eliminating these foods will only make you crave them more.
Instead of restricting, focus on ways in which you can improve your eating habits in the new year. These three habits are ones you can foster throughout the year – without cutting out food groups, restricting calories, or spending hours in the kitchen. Each of these improvements is one that I am implementing (or continuing) in the new year – making more foods from scratch, eating more nutritious and satisfying lunches, and continuing to indulge in my favorite foods a little bit each day.
Prepare more food from scratch.
Preparing food from scratch gives you complete control over what goes into your food. I would argue that homemade food fosters a better connection to your food – and therefore a more intuitive, balanced approach to eating.
Homemade foods taste better and are healthier, thanks to a lack of preservatives. When nutritionists disparage bread, it’s the bleached white bread filled with preservatives and sugars from the shelf of the grocery store – not homemade bread made with high-quality flours, water, salt, and yeast (whether dry or from a sourdough starter).
I’m not saying you have to prepare everything from scratch, every time. I probably bake 80% of our bread at home and purchase 20% of it from the store. As with many goals and resolutions, you set yourself up for failure if you demand complete perfection and a total change of habit.
Start small: if you aren’t making anything from scratch, try something simple such as homemade soup or homemade nut butter. From there, try bread, chicken stock, hummus, and more. Feeling ambitious? Try home pickling or your own sourdough starter! (These are some of my favorite foods to make from scratch.)
This doesn’t have to be time-consuming. My approach is if I’m already in the kitchen, I should make multiple things. So I’ll whip up nut butter and soups for lunch while cooking dinner one night. Many foods – like homemade bread or stock – are relatively hands-off (especially if you use the crockpot for stock).
Eat better lunches.
Lunch is an awkward meal sometimes. Whether for lack of planning or lack of time, this meal can be lackluster – both in terms of taste and nutrition. Sure, a PB&J may be quick and tasty (and it is a good lunch from time to time), but is it really satisfying your appetite and giving your body the nutrients you need?
Lunch provides time to add plenty of nutrition to your day, especially protein and vegetables (which most people, including runners, don’t eat enough of). A good lunch will also increase your productivity at work, prevent the 3 pm hunger and poor snacking choices, and set evening runners up for a strong workout.
Complex carbohydrates (including both starches and vegetables), lean protein, and some healthy fats are the building blocks of every meal – including lunch. The options are endless – soup and salad, sandwich, quinoa or rice bowls, etc. – and most lunches are easy to prepare in batches at the start of the week.
Food is meant to be enjoyed as much as it is meant to nourish our bodies. The mentality of many New Year’s diets is elimination and restriction – no sugar, no alcohol, no bread, no meat, etc. You want to eat a nutritious diet, which means certain foods should be consumed in moderation. But moderation is exactly that – in the happy medium between restriction and overindulgence.
Here’s the not-so-secret truth: many treat type foods can be good for your overall health. Red wine contains antioxidants, beer contains bone-boosting silicon, and dark chocolate is rich in iron and magnesium. So treat yourself to some chocolate, a glass of wine, or even a cookie every day – it will do good for your mind and body.
How are you changing your eating habits in 2017?
What else would you add to this list?