Ah, the New Year. Everyone is talking about the tricks to making this your best year yet. But “have the best year yet” is a pretty lofty resolution that probably gets ditched before Groundhog Day. Am I right, or am I right? Instead, why not resolve to make small changes that add up to a great year – starting with eating healthier – cuz it seems everyone vows to eat better in January.
Here are 10 healthy-eating resolutions to help you feel and look your best, no joke. The great news is they’re all easy — so you can choose one or all 10! Regardless, I promise even one small change from this rock star list will lead to a healthier you.
1. DITCH THE PACKAGED PRODUCTS
The first (and best!) way to clean up your diet is to ditch the packaged products lurking in the pantry. That’s right, the ones that are full of all of those chemical preservatives and fillers you can’t pronounce. Read the ingredients list and not just the nutrition label. Ingredients is king when it comes to healthy eating. Cookies, crackers, canned soups, instant grain mixes and microwave meals: Pitch them all and start fresh with a clean pantry.
Ask yourself how many of those things you really need. Then, figure out the ones you can make yourself. We can help! For example, make your own nut butter or a one-hour jam with fresh produce (and no preservatives). Instead of keeping ancient jars of salad dressing, mix up your own vinaigrette.
2. FILL YOUR PANTRY WITH PRODUCE-FRIENDLY STAPLES
Now that your pantry has been cleaned of packaged products, you’ll need to restock with healthy grains, herbs, spices and ingredients that will help you transform all that fresh, seasonal produce into delicious meals! Great olive oil, lemons, whole grains, legumes and a nice loaf of whole-grain bread are good places to start!
3. DRINK MORE WATER
Healthy eating means healthy drinking too. A super simple way to keep yourself full and reduce the portions you eat is to start each meal with a large glass of water. Many of us don’t drink enough water anyway, and there are so many health benefits to being well hydrated. Substitute your daily soda with water and watch your body change! You will feel better, have more energy, and you will lose weight with this one thing.
4. BUY A RICE COOKER, SLOW COOKER OR AN INSTANT POT
If you’re still making everything on the stove top a la minute, you’re missing out on a great healthy eating hack (and therefore missing out on a nearly-no-brainer way to make healthy meals). Pick up a rice cooker, slow cooker or Instant Pot and completely revolutionize the way you cook and eat this year. The model you choose depends on how you eat; slow cookers (recipes) are the least precise of the bunch, but high-end rice cookers have functions for every grain you can imagine wanting to cook and they’ll cook it precisely while you’re out playing, working or getting in your workout. (Your rice cooker will even cook oatmeal perfectly while you’re sleeping so you wake up to a delicious breakfast!) Instant Pots are great, too, and cook entire meals in pressure-cooker style. Regardless of the model you choose, picking one of these counter top helpers sets your healthy eating on the right track.
5. EAT FOR COLOR
Having great ingredients on hand is key to making and eating healthy, delicious meals but pairing the foods together to make them nutritious and balanced is also vital. Aim to get 4–5 different colors in your bowl at each meal. It’s easier than you think, and certainly more fun. By adding colorful foods to each plate, you’ll add interesting flavors and appealing textures — and each of those ingredients brings a whole lot of nutrition to your meal. Crunchy purple cabbage, brilliant orange pumpkin, vibrant and fresh cilantro and crunchy black sesame seeds are all great examples of ingredients that might not be in your repertoire but guarantee you’ll never have one of those boring green salads again! And, if you find yourself in a pinch, you can always add a colorful smoothie to your lunchbox or breakfast spread.
6. BYOL (BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH)
Bringing your own lunch is another super-simple way to guarantee a great, healthy meal in the middle of the day. It’s a money saver, too. Practice the eat-for-color rule above, and prepare yourself a little mini-picnic with great leftovers from last night’s dinner. It doesn’t take much more than a bit of forethought to produce a great packed lunch. By bringing your own meal, prepared in your own kitchen, you’re doing something good for your body and your wallet.
7. BATCH COOK FOR THE WEEK
This year, make a vow to have leftovers. Really! And, promise yourself that every week you’ll spend a little time preparing them — all at once. By picking a day each week to batch cook for the week ahead, you’re setting yourself up for a week of healthy meals. Select a protein, grain and several colorful vegetables to prep and have on hand so meals come together in a snap. This makes colorful eating and lunch packing a breeze, and means you’re never feeling left in a lurch when it comes to dinner.
8. MAKE BREAKFAST AHEAD
When life gets crazy, breakfast is the easiest meal to miss. But, we all know it’s also the most important meal to eat. Eating a balanced breakfast helps keep your metabolism running and is vital to loading up your system with healthy nutrients you’ll use throughout the day to work, play or exercise. Without them, your body and brain get sluggish and you lose motivation and focus. By making breakfast ahead in Mason jars to take with you as you rush out the door in the morning, you’re making sure you never head into a nutrient deficit, and instead head into the day feeling ready to face it! I love having my daily dose of dense nutrition for breakfast every morning. It’s technically made ahead, takes only 2 minutes to mix, and keeps me full until lunch.
9. MAKE SALAD FOR DINNER
Even if you batch-cook and fill your pantry and refrigerator with beautiful, healthy ingredients, there will be nights when you realize you just really didn’t think about dinner. For nights like that, keep a bunch of kale or spinach on hand and make it your salad for dinner night. Even just once a week, you’ll find that this lighter, fresh, healthy, balanced meal is a nice way to re-balance yourself. Alternatively, you can have breakfast for dinner to mix it up.
10. SWAP YOUR SWEETENERS
No healthy eating strategy should be without healthy treats, so vow to swap out refined sugars for healthier options at every meal. Think about the source of the sugar and consider using maple syrup or honey instead of refined sugar. And, when you’re reaching for dessert, try having fresh fruits and antioxidant-rich dark chocolates instead of their super-sweetened counterparts.
Special thanks to Lentine Alexis for doing the heavy lifting on this article and for my friends at 90/10 Nutrition for helpful links that make this article a great resource.