With weeks’ worth of parties, feasts, and other revelries, the holiday season is sure to derail even the staunchest dieters, so when January 1 finally drops, most people are more than ready for a healthful change. However, healthy eating is often harder than it seems, especially when a New Year’s diet comes so hot on the heels of the most indulgent holidays.
To help those with firm resolutions to feel good and get fit, here are some simple guidelines (and a handful of recipes) to make eating and drinking healthy and pleasant in the New Year.
Perhaps the worst diet-related decision anyone could ever make — besides avoiding food altogether — is following a trend. Fad diets, like South Beach and Atkins as well as more recently Paleo and Raw Food, promise to cut weight with dramatic speed, and to be honest, many of them succeed. However, fad diets almost never result in lasting health; any fat a dieter loses quickly returns after normal eating resumes.
A better strategy is to make healthy eating a long-term lifestyle choice and develop habits that are satisfying and will stick. Contrary to most fad diet suggestions, those who want to eat well and get healthy should never skip meals, should integrate plenty of food variety, and add physical exercise for increased results.
There are many reasons people skip breakfast, but there is one big reason not to: health. After its long fast during the night, the body needs a morning meal to reenergize and jumpstart the metabolism. By forgetting to eat breakfast, a person is only making it harder to wake up and do work. Fortunately, there are a number of easy, healthy, delicious breakfasts anyone can make during busy mornings, like:
- Toast with mashed avocado and egg (sunny-side-up or soft-boiled)
- Oats with fruit and seeds (blackberries and hemp seeds, or raspberries and chia seeds)
- Muesli (store-bought or homemade)
- Banana smoothie with mix-ins (peanut butter, almond milk, fruits, etc.)
A number of government agencies are utterly disappointed by the low quantity and variety of vegetables consumed by the American public. Vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients bodies need to stay energized and healthy, and a salad is one of the fastest and easiest ways to eat a number of veggies at once. Not all salads are comprised of iceberg lettuce and carrot shavings; these salads are filling and tasty enough to eat every day:
- Watercress with beets and feta (recipe)
- Mixed Asian with macadamia nuts (recipe)
- Avocado and roasted carrot (recipe)
- Moroccan carrot and chickpea (recipe)
The biggest downfall of most dieters is monotony. After weeks of tasting the same healthy meals over and over again, most dieters start to slip, indulging in unwholesome eating habits that derail their progress toward health and fitness.
The only way to stop this outcome is to prevent monotony from occurring. Food is wonderfully diverse; every culture has its own cuisine with unique preparation and seasoning. Every day can bring a new taste experience; even drinks can have variation, as long as properly healthy beverages are chosen, like tea for high and low metabolism. When meals are adventures rather than tedious affairs, it is easy to stick to a healthy eating plan.
Most Americans can eat basically anything at any time of year — such is our modern way of producing food. However, there are major downsides to eating produce that is out of season: Usually, off-season fruits, veggies, and meats are more expensive, less tasty, less sustainable, and less healthy than those that are local and fresh. Instead of the grocery store, healthy eaters should shop at regional farmers’ markets to find the best food no matter the growing season.
Dessert is the poster-child for unhealthy eating. Most after-dinner treats are suffused with added sugars, complex carbohydrates, and fats, which are a dieter’s worst nightmares. However, for most eaters, dessert is the most enjoyable meal of the day, and preventing oneself from indulging in a small sweet after a long day of wholesome fruits and vegetables could be dangerous to the longevity of the diet. Eating should be fun and stress-free, so it is absolutely acceptable to relax and indulge in a lavish dessert a few times a week — even bodybuilders do it.