After the food coma induced by the holidays, you might have considered changing your diet to improve your health in the new year. However, sometimes it is hard to stick to a diet, especially one that is restrictive or even costly. Consider making small changes to your diet to pack on the positives, and reduce the likelihood of falling back into old habits.
Shop With a Plan
Rather than wandering aimlessly in the grocery store, placing whatever item looks healthy in your cart, have a plan in place. Look at all food labels to distinguish a “clean” and healthy food from a processed one. Although it is nearly impossible to eliminate all processed foods from your diet, choose ones with simpler ingredients and avoid hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, preservatives, and large amounts of fat, sodium, and refined sugar. Focus on nutrients per serving as well, such as protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. As you shop, focus on the perimeter of the store, which is where most whole, natural foods such as meat, dairy, and produce will be located. The center of the store will be where you will find packaged and processed foods, so work from the outside in. If it helps, have a list prepared so you aren’t tempted to buy items you don’t need such as cookies or sweets.
Cook Meals at Home
For each restaurant meal you replace with a home-cooked meal, you can save 200 calories and 400 milligrams of sodium, so make an effort to cook from home as much as possible to create a healthy change. To make the process easier, start out my mastering a few one-pot or one-pan dishes with simple ingredients that can be prepared quickly and feed you and your family for days. Cooking can help you to appreciate your food more since you are involved from start to finish, and sharing the process with others can make it an enjoyable activity for the whole family or a group of friends. Give everyone a job such as washing, stirring, chopping, or setting the table.
Put Down that Extra Cup of Joe
The recommended caffeine intake for adults is 200 milligrams or less a day, which is equivalent to two cups of coffee. Sometimes you need a soda or a cup of coffee to get you through the day, but is important to limit your intake, as too much can cause stress, anxiety, shakiness, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. To cut back on your caffeine, start by cutting back gradually, as caffeine withdrawal can cause symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate. Start out slow by mixing caffeinated with decaf or drinking one soda instead of two to allow your body to adjust to your new intake. Look for alternatives such as caffeine-free tea, green tea, seltzer water, or diet soda. Make a healthy swap by drinking more water, which is thought to counteract your desire for other less healthy beverages.
Watch Your Alcohol Intake
When you are out to dinner with friends, at a dinner party, or simply in the comfort of your own home, you may find yourself reaching for a beer, glass of wine, or fruity cocktail to socialize and unwind. However, cutting down on your alcohol consumption could benefit your physical and mental health. Alcohol has a high calorie content, with an average pint of beer containing 210 calories, so drinking five pints is equivalent to over 1,000 calories. Many alcohol-related health risks don’t appear until later in life, so cutting down now could reduce your risk of developing cancer, liver, or heart disease, as well as lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of dependence. Alcohol can also negatively impact your mood, causing stress, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
A healthy diet doesn’t have to involve a drastic change to create positive change. Small changes go a long way, and may make your resolution a little more attainable. Start small to add up to a big change in your health.