Now that we're well into 2018, some of those New Year's resolutions may be, well, not so resolute. Those rapid-fire plans to lose weight and get in shape may have fallen by the wayside.
The good news is, you can get those healthy eating plans back on track. Even if that crash diet didn't stick, try a different mindsent about food: Focus on putting nourishing foods in your body that provide the nutrition and fuel you need. Start cooking at home with fresh, whole ingredients that don't require much work or fuss to turn into tasty, satisfying dishes.
If want to start (or restart) a diet or exercise plan, by all means consult with your doctor before you start to get his or her guidance and OK. If you simply aspire to upgrade your eating habits without feeling like you're sacrificing, here are some strategies to try:
1. Cook more
It's challenging, I know, for those of us who are pressed for time or don't have much experience in the kitchen. But cooking at home is the most effective, least expensive way to improve your eating habits. Preparing meals doesn't have to be time-consuming; it does require thought and planning. Still learning how to cook? Here are 5 Tips for Cooking Like a Pro.
2. Plan meals
Thinking ahead about what you'll eat for the week is a great first step to cooking and eating more healthfully. Take time once a week to plot out your meals for the next 5 to 7 days, gather recipes and make a shopping list. Do your grocery shopping all at once to streamline the chore. Plan at least 2 meals a week that use leftover ingredients that you've cooked for a previous dinner. See here for super-easy "Cook once/eat twice" dinner ideas.
3. Use whole ingredients
Your eating habits will get an automatic upgrade when you switch from processed foods to whole ingredients. Processed foods—frozen, canned or packaged items that have been cooked or transformed into a different form, like sauces or entrees—contain additional sodium, sugar, preservatives and often non-natural ingredients that aren't good for us. Note that pre-cut fresh fruit and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables without sauce are not the highly processed foods that we're referring to here, and low-sodium versions of these foods are good choices.
4. Stock a healthy pantry
Keep canned vegetables, healthy olive oil, canned or dried beans, whole-grain pasta, low-sodium broths, dried herbs and other shelf-stable items on hand at all times to make quick and easy meals. In the fridge, stock lemons for flavoring dishes, eggs for quick suppers, nonfat Greek yogurt for sauces and toppings, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Want to overhaul your pantry? Here's a list of essential pantry items and ideas for how to use them.
5. Don't skip meals
It may be tempting to save calories by skipping breakfast or lunch. But one of three things will likely result: 1) you'll be starving by the time the next meal rolls around and overeat; 2) you'll be physically sluggish and mentally foggy, not at your best for work; or 3) both of the above. Take time for a healthy breakfast: dishes like Cherry Almond Overnight Oatmeal or Apple & Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars (whole-grain toast and a glass of skim milk works, too). And plan ahead for smart between-meal snacks to keep you fueled for the task at hand.
6. Spark your imagination
Sometimes, we need a creative jolt in order to jump-start us in a new direction. Looking for inspiration to eat more healthfully? Take a cooking class that introduces you to a new cuisine or technique. Visit a specialty store like Dean's Mediterranean Market at Findlay Market to explore healthy and delicious foods from around the world like hummus, Greek yogurt, whole grains and dried beans, interesting spices and flavors to enhance your cooking.
Cooking and eating whole, wholesome foods isn't a beginning-of-the-year thing to do; it will make a significant impact on your overall well-being, all year long.
Click to find a primary care physician near you who can help you get on the right track with healthy eating and other decisions to improve your health.