New Year's resolutions are often associated with restrictive diets. Despite the short-term progress some may see after following these diets, the reality is they’re not sustainable. That’s why nutrition experts often recommend a more balanced approach that involves eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods to promote your overall health and well-being.
While certain foods may contain high amounts of one particular nutrient, no single nutrient is responsible for improving your health alone. Rather, a combination of nutrients works synergistically to promote health. This means that the variety of foods you eat daily is more important than any single nutrient or food group. Fortunately, it's never too late to start building eating habits that reflect this.
Read on for tips to adjust your New Year's resolution for a healthier you — for the long haul.
Exploring Healthy Foods to Eat Every Day
There isn't one "perfect" way to eat, but if you're looking to eat better, start by focusing on a range of nutrient-dense selections across the following food groups:
- All types of vegetables (including starchy vegetables)
- All types of fruits
- Legumes, like beans and peas
- High-fiber whole grains like whole wheat, oats, barley and quinoa
- Dairy products, such as yogurt, milk and cheese; or fortified dairy alternatives
- Protein from a variety of plant or animal sources (or both)
- Healthy fats and oils like avocado, nuts and seeds, fatty fish and olive oil
The ideal amount of each type of food varies by age and daily calorie needs — but the central premise is that you can mix and match foods from each group to create a balanced eating approach that ensures you don't miss out on essential nutrients.
For example, dark green vegetables like kale and spinach offer a good source of vitamin K, while legumes like beans and peas provide fiber and protein. Whole grains like oats and quinoa are rich in B vitamins, and dairy products or dairy alternatives offer calcium to support bone health.
5 Strategies to Keep You on Track All Year
Despite the best intentions, maintaining healthy eating habits all year long can feel challenging. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most U.S. children and adults eat far less than the recommended daily amount of produce. Fewer than 1 in 10 children and adults eat enough vegetables and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat enough fruit.
Turning a short-term goal into a long-term lifestyle takes time, but consuming a consistent amount of nutrient-dense foods throughout the year doesn't have to be a daunting task. Here are some strategies to help you stay on track.
1. Set Realistic Goals
Instead of trying to overhaul your entire eating plan at once, set achievable goals you can work toward throughout the year. Make one simple change, like adding a serving of vegetables to breakfast every day. Once you've got that down, move on to your next goal.
2. Meal Plan and Prep
One of the biggest challenges in maintaining a nutritious approach is finding the time to prepare meals every day. Try to set aside time each week to plan out your meals and do some meal prep. Even pre-chopping veggies can save you minutes and ensure that you have healthy options readily available.
3. Keep It Seasonal
Food picked at the peak of ripeness often contains higher levels of nutrients; it also tends to taste better. By incorporating seasonal produce into your meals, you can enjoy and benefit from a variety of flavors and nutrients over the year. (This can also prevent food boredom!) Frozen foods are a great way to choose seasonal produce as they are picked in peak season.