NUTRITION TIPS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Here are some tips that I have learned throughout my years studying nutrition and practicing good health. I hope that at least one of these can help you have a happy and healthier 2021!
I. Eat more whole foods
This should not come as a shock if you have followed any of my posts for a while. I support a whole foods, plant-based diet. What does this mean? This means that I focus on eating minimally processed plant based foods. Try to move away from the white pasta, white bread, chips, and dips. Move towards foods that you make yourself or ones that you know all of the ingredients. Eating whole foods will ensure you get in more nutrients per calorie from the foods in your diet making it more "nutrient dense." This will help keep you full longer, keep your organs functioning better (since they are getting their necessary nutrients), and can even help you lose a bit of weight.
II. Keep a food log for a few days
While I am not a fan of tracking macronutrients till the end of time, I think for a short while it can be beneficial. Take a week or at least a few days and eat some of your favorite meals that you commonly make and put them into a meal tracker like MyFitnessPal. Take a look at where you are getting your nutrients and see if everything is up to par. Are you wildly over doing your calories? Are you getting too much fat? Are you getting enough fiber? Don't let these number's weigh on you but use them to learn about your meals and portion sizes. Maybe you didn't realize that you are constantly grazing throughout the day but when forced to log it you realized you ate enough pretzels to count as a dinner! If you want to learn more about what your macros should look like check out my article here.
This suggestion goes hand in hand with my last point. If you notice there are certain essential nutrients (meaning nutrients that our body does not make) that you simply are not getting enough of in your diet then you need to supplement. Common examples of this all types of diets include B12, vitamin D (depending on location), and iron for women. Talk to your Primary Care Physician or Registered Dietitian about what amount would be right for your specific case. Before you purchase some supplements do a bit of research about where the nutrients are derived from and what the capsule is made of (especially if you are vegan).
IV. Drink Water!
I didn't want to include this but I needed to if I was going to include tip VI. I know you are all bombarded with "drink water!" "Water is good for you," and ya that's because it is good for you, but you also need it to be able to pass all of that fiber from the plants you are eating. So if you don't want to be backed up and want to help your body run properly start drinking more water! Now if you are one of those people who "thinks" you drink water but really take a few sips from different glasses throughout the day (@ my sister if she is reading this) then get a water bottle, or jar, with a measurement on it. Aim for 50-60 oz to start, then try to get to 80-100 oz for a healthy amount!
V. Eat more cruciferous veggies
What the heck does cruciferous mean? This is a category/ family of vegetables noted for their beneficial and preventative properties. Broccoli, kale, collards, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and more are all examples that have some amazing health benefits. These can include lowering blood pressure, protection against free radicals, and aiding in cancer prevention! Pretty cool right? Check out this podcast episode from Dr. Michael Greger, author of NYT best-seller How Not To Die, called Splendiferous Cruciferous. He goes into depth on the science behind why these veggies do what they do and the best ways to prepare them to maintain their enzymatic benefits. Not to mention he put them on his Daily Dozen, meaning that he thinks we should be consuming them every day! Check out my article on that list here.
VI. Eat more fiber!
Fiber is one of the most underrated and beneficial nutrients you can include in your diet. Most people are too concerned with protein to even think about fiber. With the majority of American's under-consuming fiber (and by that I mean eating diets nearly void in fiber all together) it is so important to make this a public health initiative. Fiber is fuel for your gut microbiome which in turn helps regulate your immune function. It can help with weight loss and the prevention, management, and reversal of various autoimmune mediated diseases. Fiber can be found in guess what... ALL PLANTS! It is in high concentrations in legumes and whole grains but is present in anything that grows from the ground. I recommend getting it from whole food sources instead of supplements as those have not been seen to have the same health benefits. I have absolutely loved learning more and more about the extreme benefits of fiber from Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI,'s amazing science-based book, Fiber Fueled. He is a renowned, board certified gastroenterologist and gut health expert with so much experience healing people with lifetimes of gut issues! 10/10 recommend giving that a read!
VII. Better your relationship with food.
*If you have no mental health problems or issues with food, skip this section
Throughout our timely global pandemic I have noticed so much uncertainty circling the media about what to eat and peoples degrading relationships with food. I realize that it no longer is enough to be able to tell someone what is healthy or not as those lines have been so blurred by poor media on the subject. Not to mention society's standards for body types being a highly controversial subject. Food was never meant to be difficult, confusing, or something to fear. It is fuel for our bodies that we are supposed to enjoy and prepare with intention and not mal-intent. I encourage you to take the emotional aspect out of food for a while. Simplify it. Try to get back to a place where you can focus on your hunger cues. Eat when hungry, not when emotional, or simply because you can. The most important part here is finding what works for you. Whether it be not bringing junk food into the house, setting meal times, prepping your food ahead of time, or seeking professional assistance, do whatever will help you get to a comfortable, guilt-free, place with food. I understand this is much harder said than done, and could not possibly encompass enough assistance in this short paragraph, but all I ask is that you take the first step in admitting you have a troubled relationship with food, and seek some form of counsel. Food is good!
VIII. Take a booze break
This may not hit home for everyone as social drinking has become an increasing popular part of the American lifestyle. While alcohol may help release some timely stress, in the end it is only adding more to your body and degrading your health. It adds calories, overworks your liver, prevents you from having a higher quality of health, and provides you with less and poorer quality of sleep. I am not saying to never drink again, but I am saying to chose your times with intention. Don't just drink to drink on the weekend, try a seltzer or infused water instead. Save the booze for the celebrations and nice occasions that way it can feel that much more special and can be a smaller impact on your overall health.
IX. Eat your biggest meals during the day
As you may know when you eat a decent amount of food (at a meal time) your blood sugar spikes. Now what our body does with this fuel is important. If our body need energy when it's being digested then our food will be utilized as glucose. If our body does not need energy then our food will be stored as fat. When you eat a large meal at night, then proceed to lay on couch, then go to bed your food will be stored as fat. When you eat a large breakfast or lunch you have many more chances to get moving throughout the day and utilized the glucose from your meal. This can also be remedied by taking walked after meals. This can ease digestion and can assist with weight loss. Just try to time it for sooner than 30min after a meal. I tend to eat a moderate breakfast, large lunch, and smaller dinner like soups & salads. This is what feels best for me but give it a try for a week or two and see how you feel!
X. Make your own Blue Zone
The Blue Zones have risen to popularity over the past 10 years as they are seemingly healthier than the rest of us! These "zones" were studied by Dan Buettner as the areas in our world with the highest rates of centenarians or longevity. These people are not living so long because of their diet plans and workout schedules. They are healthy because their lifestyles promote it! They walk constantly to see friends, to get to town, and to accomplish many of their tasks. Their daily work requires physical activity so it is not something that they have to think about and schedule. They eat a predominately unprocessed plant heavy diet and are socially connected. My main point in explaining this is that these people lead a lifestyle conducive to health. So now I want you to think about how you can make your lifestyle similar. Maybe walking or biking to your local grocery store, having weekly meetings with friends, only bringing minimally processed foods into the home, etc. Make your blue zone by taking a deeper look at your specific environment.
XI. Invest in your health
I recently had a conversation with a friend who recently was diagnosed with IBS. She struggles with the pain this digestive disease has caused her and I can see her relationship with food dwindling as she is now sticking to a diet deficient in nutrients to avoid flareups. I suggested she check out Fiber Fueled by Dr. Will Bulsewicz to learn about gut health so that she could better understand her condition and potentially learn about some ways to reduce symptoms. In response, she said "yeah, I should probably learn more about it." If you have a chronic health condition or digestive issue or something that is holding back your health and quality of life, it is only up to you to invest in learning all you can about it. I'm not saying everyone will find a cure, but what if there is some way that you can end you misery and lead a happier and healthier life? Wouldn't you want that? A healthy person is not just absent of disease, but leads a quality of life where they utilize their social skills, intelligence, physical capabilities and more. Invest in your health so you can achieve the highest level of performance!
I hope some of these tips help you have a healthy new year!