New year, new you? The first part of January in any year typically signifies a renewal of a commitment to goals in the coming 365 days. Many “New Year’s resolutions” come to mind in late-December and – let’s be honest – trail off pretty soon after the clock strikes midnight on January 1. One of the primary resolutions that many pursue is cleaning up the diet, which makes sense after an indulgent season. Focusing on nutrition is not only helpful in getting back to baseline, but it is significant in the rebalancing of the immune system: an important piece of staying healthy, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Read on to discover our top 6 ways to revamp your nutrition habits this year – and get them to stick.
Experts agree the most important part of a healthy diet is one that is mostly comprised of fresh, whole foods from natural sources. The body, while adaptive and intelligent, functions optimally when provided foods it can recognize at a cellular level. When foreign chemicals from preservatives or other agents are incorporated during processing and added to a food source, the body may react to defend itself through inflammation, or alter its function to accommodate the unnatural substance. The best way to bring the body back to its baseline of healthy functioning is to consume foods it knows how to break down and use properly for energy. Make a point to eliminate processed foods, stick to all-natural ingredients (make sure you can read each ingredient listed!), and focus on packing the majority of your meals with whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein from sustainable, organic sources when possible.
Make it a habit: Dividing a grocery list into categories of fruits, vegetables, and other “real” foods can help set a visual reminder to add more under each area, and shopping the perimeter of the grocery store can reduce the temptation of buying processed foods typically located in aisles.
While eating clean is crucial, take it one step further and choose bright, colorful fruits and vegetables, adding in as much of a variety as possible. Plants with higher color pigmentation usually have higher nutrient densities (the amount of vitamins, minerals or health-promoting compounds per unit of volume). For instance, blueberries and pomegranates have an extraordinarily high concentration of antioxidants and other vitamins indicated by their rich blue and red pigments. Filling up your plate often with a rainbow of pigments found in nature not only improves overall health and metabolism, but can also help support the immune system in fighting off any foreign invaders that may lead to illness.
Make it a habit: Choose a goal of 3-4 colors from fresh, whole food sources to include at every meal. Again, shop the perimeter of the grocery store and see how colorful you can make your cart. Establish a rule to incorporate a new fruit or vegetable each week to increase variety in your diet.
Watch the Time
Not only does the body evolutionarily prefer metabolizing whole, nutrient-rich sources of foods, it is meant to take a break from eating as well. Continuously feeding the body does not allow for the digestive system to fully process what has been consumed, nor does it provide it the rest it needs to cleanse the body. By now, the concept of intermittent fasting should be familiar: it has been shown beneficial to leave time between meals, and if possible, at least between 10-12 hours of time from dinner to breakfast (luckily, most of this time is spent sleeping for a majority of us). This “rest and digest” function helps reset the body on a cellular level, and helps regulate hunger hormones that drive the appetite.
Make it habit: Set alarms for meal times, especially dinner and the following breakfast. Turn the kitchen lights off at a certain time to limit late-night eating temptation. Have a large cup of water prepared in the morning to hydrate well during a morning fast.
Speaking of hydration, water is the key to life – and to our health. We could not exist without adequate water intake, and our health (and metabolism!) is certainly at risk by remaining in a perpetually dehydrated state. Keeping water intake high throughout the day, while increasing it during and after exercise, is an essential part of keeping the body running smoothly. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also a great source of water – even more reason to focus on eating clean this year!
Make it a habit: Put a water glass in your line of sight at all times as a reminder to sip frequently. Track water intake on an app or notepad throughout the day, focusing on a goal that works best for your body.
Balance Each Meal
By now, we know how important macronutrients are to a healthy metabolism and body composition. Creating meals that are balanced in protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats help stabilize blood sugar and signal the appropriate hunger hormones before and after mealtime. A well-balanced meal also satiates the appetite and helps to support lasting energy throughout the day. Reach for whole grain sources of carbs to fuel a workout, and a carb-protein combination to refuel after.
Make it habit: Tracking macros, while tedious at first, can help put a habit in motion around ensuring each meal and/or snack is well-balanced. You can also tweak ratios of macros depending on your training and body composition goals.
Know Your Numbers
Establishing a healthy habit around nutrition is primarily about quality of foods consumed, but let’s not ignore the factor of quantity. After all, a high net-calorie diet can lead to weight gain over time, even if it’s is jam-packed with highly nutritious foods. Understanding your unique, baseline caloric needs is the first step to devising a more precise nutrition plan that keeps you on track with your goals, whether it be maintaining weight or losing fat mass. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is a simple test that provides accurate data on the number of calories you burn in a day (exercise aside) to help guide daily food intake. Essentially, it is a measure of metabolism that can inform how many calories are needed to reach a goal weight over time. It’s important to understand your unique physiology before investing time into a nutrition plan to eliminate guess-work and steer clear of any “one-size-fits-all” diet.
Make it habit: Have your RMR tested before committing to any nutrition plan and continue to track your body composition over time through DEXA Scan technology. Remaining close to your own unique data can help you understand what works and doesn’t work in a nutrition plan to keep on track all year.
Interested in learning more about how nutrition can promote your optimal health and wellness, while supporting your body composition and metabolic goals? Chat with our coaches for free today to get started!