Happy New Year!! If you’re like me, you overindulged a little bit last night (and okay, maybe again today at brunch…no judgement!) and are ready for a big honking salad and a nap..or at least some sane tips for how to start your year eating right. The words ‘sane’ and ‘nutrition’ are rarely used in the same sentence, so listen up, because this is good!
I know you’re probably hoping for really complicated, full-steam-ahead nutrition tips in this article, but seriously, the tips below fully reflect the way I personally eat. I don’t expect you to spend your whole life worrying about your nutrition, and I don’t think nutrition has to be complicated. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for you – so to get 2016 started off right without major overhauls to your diet (which never work), here are 5 easy nutrition habits to adopt:
Seriously, clean your kitchen:
You probably have a secret stash of some crappy food in your kitchen – Oreo cookies, chocolate, Nutella, or whatever you like. Pitch or give away all of it except for one type. Keep one option, not 5, in your house. Studies show that the more choices people are given, the more they eat. You’re probably asking why I’m not telling you to get rid of it all, but telling you to swear off of sweets or whatever vice you have altogether is a bit unrealistic and not the way I roll; reeling it in though and giving yourself a small amount every few days is usually a better, more sustainable way to handle it.
By the same token, put healthier foods front and center. Studies have also shown that making healthy foods more visible in your kitchen – fruits on the counter, cut up vegetables ready and at the front of the fridge, pre-portioned almonds ready to grab out of the pantry – increases the likelihood of you making better food choices.
Please stop or cut down on buying your lunch:
I have a ton of young professionals in my practice who buy their lunches every single day. Buying your lunch is sort of a nutrition bomb unless you’re making super health-conscious choices (that are usually hard to find, and really really expensive, like the salad bar at Whole Foods). I know, you’re busy. Yawn, bad excuse. You can still prepare yourself on the weekend to have lunches to bring during the week.
Try to bring your lunch to work at least a few days a week to start, until you get used to doing your own thing.
Grocery shop regularly:
A lot of people I see in the office only get to the grocery store once every few weeks for a big shop. This means that they’re doing the Old Mother Hubbard, living meal-to-meal with a pitifully stocked kitchen. What eventually ends up happening is that they eat either ultraprocessed food (flavored rice mixes or petrified frozen food) or takeout – because there’s nothing in the house to eat when they get hungry. Ultraprocessed and takeout food are crappy options. Grocery shop at least once a week for fresh stuff and the staples you’ve run out of. Running through the grocery store on your way home from work, when you’re desperate and starving, doesn’t count! This is a pre-planned event to get into the habit of doing.
Start cooking, people:
I don’t care if all you can do it boil eggs. It’s a great start! Being in the kitchen doesn’t have to be intimidating, and even if you don’t have a love of cooking, making your own fresh food is an important skill to have in order to eat healthfully. Skills to teach yourself (or have someone like me teach them to you): Roasting a whole chicken. Steaming/grilling vegetables. Baking/grilling fish (don’t be afraid – it’s easy!). Making a basic salad dressing. Frying up a substantial omelette or frittata. Making a pot of soup, chili, or stew.
Knowing how to create these simple dishes will mean that you can have freshly cooked food on hand for eating throughout the week (it’s all about batch cooking!), and will also help you build confidence in the kitchen.
Don’t fear the ‘critical juncture’:
How many of you start getting hungry at 330pm and either ignore your hunger (bad idea) or hit the break room or coffee shop for a treat (another bad idea)? I call this hour the ‘critical juncture’, because what you do with your hunger at this time can affect what happens with your eating later on.
Circumvent poor afternoon snack choices by making sure you have healthy stuff to eat at work. If you’re lucky enough to have a fridge there, keep 2% Greek yogurt, hummus and vegetables, or cheese in it. Some homemade trail mix with nuts and dried unsweetened fruits, Medjool dates, or a CLIF Organic Trail Mix bar are great to keep at your desk. I don’t want you getting home from work and eating 2 dinners – one when you’re preparing your meal (aka Hoovering everything in your kitchen because you’re ravenous from not eating since lunchtime) and then your real meal. The struggle is real – I see it all the time. Have a snack before you leave work.
And 3 You Should Let Go Of:
Stop counting calories:
Yes, it’s good to know approximately how many calories are in the foods you eat. No, it’s not helpful to track everything calorie that goes into your mouth. First of all, not all calories are created equal. Second of all, being more concerned with calories than you are with the quality of your food or what your body is telling you doesn’t do you any favors and certainly doesn’t make you any thinner, if that’s what you’re looking to be. Let’s leave calorie counting where it belongs – in the 1970s, along with that gross grapefruit diet.
Get rid of guilt and shame:
Food isn’t ‘bad’ or ‘good’, and neither are your eating habits or you as a person. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘fatty’ or ‘sugary’ and feeling bad about it and ourselves for basically having a normal diet and maybe eating unhealthy food sometimes.
Trust your body to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. And know that when you nourish yourself with fresh, whole foods – and yes, some unhealthy stuff too – you’re doing the best thing for yourself. Guilt and shame have no place in nutrition.
Stop listening to nutrition BS:
People are constantly reading about how this or that food is toxic, or how they should be cleansing their bodies, or how their adrenals are tired. The truth is that 99.9% of this stuff is total BS scare tactics by people who know very little about nutrition, or at very least the science of it.
Instead of subscribing to second-rate nutrition BS (which is everywhere, but never on this blog), try to remember that big nutrition breakthroughs are usually announced in the mainstream media. If you see RDs writing about something, chances are you’re looking at reliable information.
Have a fantastic 2016!
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