Resolve to Eat Healthier in 2018
| Posted On Jan 08, 2018 | By: Linda Germaine-Miller, RD
It’s the time of year when many of us look back at the past month’s holiday parties and family get-togethers and think, “Oh, what have I done?!” Well, you’re not alone. A lot of us over-indulge around the holidays – in fact, I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that one of the top 3 New Year’s resolutions is to “eat healthier.”
So, how do you make that healthy eating resolution a reality? In the Nutrition Department at Atrius Health, we are often asked that question. In answering, we frequently stress the significant health benefits that come from a plant-based diet.
Here are some practical tips on how to get started and make positive changes for healthier eating in 2018.
Getting Started: Some Do’s and Don’t’s
- Plan your meals around healthy carbohydrate foods. These are whole grains, legumes, whole fruits and vegetables.
- Supplement these carbohydrates with lean proteins like fish, poultry, lean meats, and low fat dairy products such as reduced fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
- Use “heart healthy” fats such as olive or canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
- For a daily beverage with your meals, drink water and avoid sugary drinks like soda, juice, fruit punch, or sweetened tea. If you drink coffee, avoid sweetened coffees that contain extra sugar.
- Limit added sugar whenever possible. (Please note that this does not refer to a limit on the naturally-occurring sugar that we find in milk, plain yogurt or whole fruit.) The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 6 teaspoons daily for women and 9 teaspoons daily for men. When you read the food label, know that one teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams of carbohydrate/sugar.
Below is more information on each category of healthy, plant-based foods as well as some mealtime ideas and a healthy recipe to get you started.
Plant-based Food Groups
- Whole Grains. Examples of whole grain foods include 100% whole wheat bread, sprouted grain bread, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, old-fashioned rolled oats, steel cut oats, wheat germ, whole-wheat pasta, and barley. These foods are more nutritionally dense than refined grains (white bread, white rice) with higher fiber content and more vitamins and minerals. Foods that contain more naturally occurring fiber help to “fill you up” so we recommend them for weight management. In addition, the higher fiber foods may be beneficial for your blood sugar and cholesterol.
- Legumes are a class of vegetable that includes lentils and beans such as black, kidney, pinto, black eyed peas, chickpeas/garbanzos, edamame, and cannellini. Use these foods as a substitute for meat or chicken at lunch or dinner. Add in ½- to 1-cup of beans to a salad at lunch or make a meatless chili for dinner. Legumes are great sources of protein and fiber and contain little or no fat. If you use canned beans, select the low salt or unsalted varieties.
- Vegetables and Fruits. Your goal should be at least 5 servings per day. To accomplish this, try to actively think about filling half your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner. All vegetables with a lot of intense color are great choices: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, salad greens, carrots, red or orange peppers, kale, collards, or spinach, to name a few. Have fruit as a dessert or as a snack during the day. Eat 2-3 pieces each day. Whole fruit is a healthy choice but try to avoid fruit juice as a beverage or limit it to one small serving (4-6 ounces). Some folks take medication that requires them to have orange juice daily. Always check with your clinician before making changes that involve your medication.
- Lean Protein. Examples of lean protein are fish, poultry (chicken or turkey without skin), lean pork (such as loin cut), lean beef (such as sirloin, tenderloin or round steak). Eggs are a good protein source and can be a part of your healthy meal plan. We also recommend nut butters such as peanut or almond as good sources of plant protein.
- Dairy. Good choices for dairy foods include nonfat or 1% milk and low fat yogurt and cheese. Greek yogurt is a terrific protein source, and the plain variety contains no added sugar and can be a good addition to a healthy meal plan.
- Heart Healthy Fats. Recommended heart healthy fats include nuts, nut butters, avocados, and liquid oils such as olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, corn, or safflower. Eating ¼-½ cup of nuts with a piece of fruit is a great snack, but as nuts are a dense calorie source, try to limit them to a small portion daily if you are watching your waistline.
Tips for Breakfast
- Make sure you eat breakfast every day
- Here are some examples of healthy choices:
- Oatmeal with nonfat or low-fat milk, 1-2 tablespoons of nuts and a cup of berries
- A scrambled egg with whole wheat toast and an orange
- A toasted whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a banana
- A homemade smoothie—1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt or skim milk, ¾ cup frozen unsweetened cherries, ½ cup frozen chopped spinach and 1 tablespoon of unflavored protein powder. Mix all of this together in a blender or a nutrabullet with ice.
Tips for Lunch and Dinner
- Your lunch or dinner plate should contain a small portion of lean protein with a healthy carb and lots of vegetables. Eat a salad and some cooked veggies – select whichever you prefer that are in season.
- Here are some possible combinations:
- Roasted chicken breast, a cup of quinoa sautéed with onions and mushrooms, and broccoli on the side.
- Baked salmon with 1 cup of brown rice and spinach sautéed in olive oil.
- Turkey burger on a whole-wheat bun with a large green salad. Use olive oil and vinegar as a dressing for your salad.
- Meatloaf (use lean ground beef) with a small sweet potato and roasted Brussels sprouts – you can roast the vegetables with a teaspoon of olive oil drizzled on top during the last 25-30 minutes as the meatloaf cooks.
Garbanzo Bean (Chickpea) Stew Recipe
This is a flavorful stew that can be served as a main course with a salad or used as a side dish with chicken or fish. Serves 4-6.
3 TBS olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped finely
1 package POMI chopped tomatoes (this is on the supermarket shelf in the canned tomato section)
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound fresh spinach (to save time, use the prepackaged bag that has already been washed)
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained in a colander or strainer
½ cup chopped basil or parsley
Measure out 2 TBS of the olive oil and heat in a large heavy pot. Sauté the carrots and onions for about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Simmer this until most of the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates.
Add the greens and stir. Simmer over a low heat until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the garbanzo beans and stir well. Remove from heat and add the fresh basil or parsley and stir into the stew. Add the remaining 1 TBS of olive oil and mix well.
(This recipe is adapted from the Nutrition Action Health Letter)
For more recipes and food and nutrition information, we recommend the following sources:
And if you are interested, consider making an appointment to see one of our registered dietitians for a consultation. Check your health insurance coverage and ask your PCP to refer you to the nutrition department.