As another year ends and another one rapidly approaches, the reoccurring pressures to make New Year resolutions start to bombard and second-guess our every move. With new fad diets, new routines and busy schedules, it becomes difficult to stay focused and committed to new lifestyle changes.
The phrase “you are what you eat” should be a reminder of how we should live in the coming year and future years to come. Eating healthy and staying active is a lifestyle, so why not strive to be your best self yet? In order to help narrow down what you should be eating as 2019 approaches, here is a list of eating habits to adopt.
Adjust your water intake
The first rule in any cleansing or post holiday season is to drink more water because your purpose is to flush out the toxins and food debris accumulated inside the digestive tract, which will restore the proper blood glucose levels.
Carla Vartanian, CNSC, MS, LD in Lebanon, says instead of focusing on quick fixes; look at your diet as an evolution.
“It is much better to make lifestyle changes rather than one month changes,” Vartanian says.
She explains how increasing water intake will be ideal to improve your blood’s composition, restore the normal lymph circulation, achieve control over your cravings and boost your energy levels. Often your body mistakes being hungry for being thirsty and dehydrated.
Replace coffee with tea
Most people like their coffee as much as the next, particularly in the Arab world where coffee is part of daily conversations, warm greetings and an adequate pick me up during life’s hectic moments. There is no need to cut out the coffee completely, just replace a second or third cup of coffee with green tea or ginger tea. A high level of caffeine dehydrates the body. After a meal, ginger tea is particularly beneficial for digesting, not to mention having detox and anti-cancer properties.
Dieticians and nutritionists reiterate breakfast is the most important meal of the day. According to the Harvard Medical School, those who eat breakfast are leaner than those who skip breakfast because you make wiser eating choices throughout the day.
Licensed Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant, Nathalie Yaghi, MS, LD, says skipping breakfast is one of the worst habits because it can contribute to obesity and overweight issues down the road. She says people who tend skip breakfast, particularly working people, end up having bigger meals throughout the day and gorging themselves at lunch.
Eating a variety of foods that are low in trans and saturated fat
Changing suddenly from one eating habit to another can be a shock to your body and your mind, particularly with foods that are high in sugars and salt. A study by the University of Montreal, published in the “International Journal of Obesity”, fed mice a diet high in fat for six weeks and then switched them to a healthier, cleaner diet. The results showed the mice expressing anxiety and depression once they were given the healthy diet. Researchers suggest it was due to key changes in the feel good chemical called dopamine.
Yaghi suggests eating a variety of food on a daily and weekly basis because the body needs different nutrients from particular foods.
“It is difficult to constantly switch up your meals. It isn’t easy to stay balanced. People tend to eat within their comfort zone. You may be getting a high caloric intake, but you’re lacking the bulk of nutrients your body needs,” Yaghi says.
Eat darker vegetables
In the Mediterranean diet, vegetables are abundant, but are often replaced with other less nutritional options such as bread and more meat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2010 dietary guidelines, moderate evidence indicates 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruit a day are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vartanian says since it is winter; take advantage of the vitamin-rich cold weather foods such as cabbage, winter squash, onions, beets, celery, carrots, turnips and beans. Add collard greens to breakfast smoothies, a sandwich and dinner dishes. For example, carrots are loaded with tons of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, which is a compound that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for a strong immune system, healthy eyes and skin and mucus membranes. Carrots are good in a juice form, dipped with hummus and salads.
Replace unhealthy deserts with sweet fruits
In the Middle East, sweet shops are as common as vegetable stands, and most likely more frequented. If your body is used to consuming sugars and sweets, it will be difficult to completely remove a source of sugar from your diet. When you crave something sweet, grab juicy, ripe sweet fruits such as berries, pomegranates and clementines. These fruits will gradually transition your body into craving fewer desserts.
Incorporate more seeds and minerals into your eating patterns
Striving to incorporate more vitamins and seeds will help contribute to an overall greater nutritional intake. According to Yaghi, iron, calcium and vitamin D are some of the most commonly lacked nutrients in people’s diets. Adequate calcium is important for optimal bone health and muscle contraction. If you are lactose intolerant to dairy, there are plenty of soy and nut milks on the market.
Especially for women, iron deficiency remains a common problem. People can improve their iron intake by choosing foods that are heme iron, which is more readily absorbed in the body. Heme Iron can be found in poultry, lean meat and seafood. Additional iron sources are white beans, lentils and spinach.
Adding little super seeds to smoothies, juices, salads and seasonings ensure more nutrients are added to a particular diet. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are loaded with Omega-3 fats, calcium and manganese.
Benefits of Healthy Eating Patterns
A healthy eating pattern shouldn’t be painful process, but rather an array of exciting options that can accommodate any cultural, ethnic and personal preferences and food costs and availability. It is all about finding the balance between what you enjoy eating and striving to get all the needed nutrients your body needs.
Yaghi says we should aim for things we can change in our eating patterns and overall lifestyle choices.
“We shouldn’t aim for unrealistic goals because you won’t stick with it them in the long term. If I’m used to adding three sugars to my coffee, then cut it by one. It’s already an improvement. Focus on one bad habit at a time. In the coming New Year, strive to target your bad habits and don’t just follow the trends blindly. Health is not and never should be considered a trend,” Yaghi explains.