AKA The 5 New Year's Diet Resolutions your Dietitian Wants you to Make
Instead of swearing off carbs or chocolate this year for your new years resolution… here are some dietitian recommended resolutions (or goals, intentions, changes, whatever you want to call it) for 2023.
1. Make quality meals and snacks a priority
Let me dissect this one a little bit. When I say quality I mean this in terms of nutrient density and from a behavioural sense.
A quality meal, or balanced meal, is one that contains a carbohydrate, a fat and a protein.
These are the key components to a meal that is satisfying and will supply you with enough energy. From a carbohydrate standpoint, most often it should be one that is whole grain and/or high in fibre. Examples of this include: quinoa, brown rice, oats, sweet potato, baby potato with the skin etc. Beans and lentils are also an excellent source of high fibre carbohydrates and they offer protein so you’re really getting a 2-4-1 deal with legumes.
Fats include sauces, cooking oil, dressings and toppings. Focus mostly on plant derived fats such as: avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butters and olive oil.
Protein is also important. For most people, 20-30 grams of protein at each meal is the sweet spot. This supplies you with enough protein to help maintain blood sugar levels, keeps you feeling satiated and energized and facilitates muscle repair, growth and maintenance.
In the behavioural sense what I mean is PRIORITIZE your meals and eating experience. Food is not just for fuel, it is meant to be enjoyed, savoured and a shared experience with others (if possible). Try to make it a goal to have at least one mindful meal per day. One with no distractions (this means put the phone away, TV off, laptop away) where you are truly present with yourself or those you are enjoying your meal with. Mindful eating has been shown to have numerous positive health benefits such as: managing chronic disease (such as blood sugar levels and gastroesophageal reflux disease aka GERD), pain, depression, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Mindful eating also helps you get back in touch with your hunger and fullness cues which are often forgotten about in our busy lives.
Prioritizing quality meals from a nutrition and mindfulness sense will make a world of a difference for you this year.
2. Meet your hydration needs
This is one of the easiest goals to reach, and yet so many of us don’t.
Fluid needs are as follows:
Men: 3.7 L per day
Women: 2.7 L per day
Pregnancy: 3 L per day
Lactating: 3.8 L per day
*Recommended fluid intakes provided by Health Canada
Does this all have to be from water?
No, but the majority of it should be. Everything except alcohol is fair game when it comes to meeting your fluid needs. Yes, that includes coffee!
The above fluid recommendations may seem like a lot to you, and that is okay! No need to stress over it as everyone’s fluid needs actually vary depending on a number of factors (e.g. amount of fibre consumed, activity level, height, muscle mass, temperature). The point is, if you’re someone who constantly says “I haven’t had enough water” today or are unsure if you’re meeting your needs, I’d recommend that you work to drink more fluids.
But I never feel thirsty!
That’s okay, many clients say this. Here are some tips to help:
Keep your water bottle where you can see it (beside the right hand corner of your laptop screen where your notifications pop up perhaps?)
Set timers on your phone
Have a glass of water with each meal
Include flavours that you enjoy (e.g. warm herbal tea in the winter time)
3. Work to improve your sleep
It seems that over the last year a lot more people are prioritizing sleep, which is awesome to see. Sleep is a vital component of our overall health. Poor sleep can affect your immune system, hormonal regulation (especially the ones that are responsible for hunger and fullness cues), concentration, muscle recovery, ability to learn and retain information and so many more.
Disrupted or inadequate sleep affects so many areas of your life. With food, poor sleep can lead to more food cravings, increased appetite and less energy to make quality meals a priority (see goal 1).
4. Include more fruits and veggies
Yes, this is one of the oldest recommendations in the book but it hasn’t lost it’s importance.
So many people lose sight of the importance of good ol’ colourful foods while trying to get enough protein or keep up with the latest supplement.
A big buzzword right now is “anti-inflammation”. There are loads of supplements on the market that promote “anti-inflammation” and some of them are right in doing so although this should never be our first line of defense against inflammation. Some of the best things you can eat to reduce inflammation (or prevent it’s build up) is to eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. This is because fruits and veggies provide us with these magical things called phytochemicals. These are the bio-active compounds produced by plants that have an overwhelming amount of health benefits, from chronic disease management to cancer prevention.
Many vegetables such as: provide us with pre-biotics which is a type of fibre that acts as the food for probiotics (the bacteria that already exists in our gut).
If you’re not used to eating many fruits and vegetables throughout the day, start small. Aim to have one fruit and one serving of vegetables each day.
The winter months, rising costs of food and living in a rural area can make it difficult to access enough fruits and vegetables. Here are a few tips:
Choose frozen fruits and veggies (especially berries, broccoli, spinach, mango, green peas and edamame)
Canned fruits and vegetables are also great options! Look for low sodium canned veggies and fruit packed in water, not juice. One of my favourite winter breakfasts is canned peaches packed in water with chia seeds, cinnamon and granola.
Choose 2-4 veggies per week when shopping, make half of these veggies with longer shelf lives for example: carrots, potato, sweet potato, cabbage, cherry tomato, onions, celery, turnip, squash and some mushrooms.
5. Try new Foods, Dishes and Cuisines
Variety is the spice of life and also the basis of a good diet. When I’m assessing the quality of an individual’s diet, one of the key things I’m looking for is variety. This is because it’s really hard to meet every single vitamin and mineral need each day, this is where variety has you covered. One day you may have carrots and sweet potatoes and have lots of Vitamin A, other days you’ll have pepper and tomatoes which are higher in Vitamin C.
If you’ve been in a “food rut” eating the same thing week after week. Think about switching it up. Here are some ideas:
Consider adding some new whole grains to the mix (farro, amaranth,
Include “theme” nights in your weekly meal plan and try new recipes that fit those themes (e.g. Meatless Mondays)
One really great way to start a new habit and make it stick is to track them. I’ve created a couple simple habit trackers on Google Sheets that you can use to help track your progress over the next year. Check out my shop page to get yours now!