It’s the New Year, and everyone I know seems to be doing a cleanse or detox of some sort to reset and start the year off on a healthier note. The question remains, once your cleanse is over or you run out of steam, here are some tips that will actually help you to eat more nutritious foods and a healthier diet for the long run.
Eat at the table, in the company of others, and without distraction.
Eating is more than how you fuel your body. It’s also a social act, an act of communion and an opportunity to connect with loved ones, friends and even strangers.
When you dedicate time and space to eating, and do so without the distraction of work, smartphones, or TV, you can take the time to pay attention, to focus, and to enjoy every bite. It helps you to eat with attention and intention, allowing you to savor and enjoy your food rather than mindlessly overeat.
Eating with your family also helps your children to develop a positive relationship with food, too. Children who eat meals with their parents and siblings frequently eat more nutritious diets, and do better in school than those who don’t (read it here).
Eating meals together as a family also helps to protect kids from disordered eating and unhealthy and extreme weight control measures (read it here).
For the best effect, make eating dinner together a priority, and try eating other meals like breakfast and lunch together a few times a week, too.
Plan your meals and snacks.
Planning your meals and snacks in advance saves you time, money, and helps you to eat more nutritious foods. Researchers have found that women who plan their meals in advance and use shopping lists typically eat more fruits and vegetables and make healthier food choices than those who don’t (read it here).
It’s easy to understand why: when you plan in advance, you have a system in place that helps you to reach your goals and that keeps you accountable. Meal planning acts like a safety net for healthy eating.
We use this meal planning system in our home, which not only helps to keep plenty of Nourished Kitchen recipes on the table, but also helps me keep track of making things like kombucha, bone broth and yogurt each week.
Consider shopping and cooking a pleasure rather than a chore.
I’m no fan of grocery stores, and prefer to do most of my shopping at farmers markets and farmstands because they’re pleasant, the food is fresher, and I’m more likely to find unusual varieties that pique my interest and curiosity.
It’s probably not a surprise, but people who dislike shopping for food are also less likely to cook, and are less likely to eat well-rounded diets rich in fruits and vegetables. By contrast, women who take pleasure in shopping for food and cooking are more likely to eat better (read it here).
Instead of Eating Out, Consider a Meal Delivery Service
Meal delivery services, like this one which is largely organic, can help if you really don’t have time to shop, but want to prepare meals at home. They’re comparable in price to eating out, but the ingredients are of better quality.
When my baby was born this past fall, we joined this service, to help ease into the transition of life with a baby. It cut down on grocery shopping, but kept us eating healthy foods during those early weeks.
This study found that families who are provided with menus, recipes and ingredients to cook at home (which is what you get when you subscribe to meal delivery services) report eating healthier, eating together more often, and improving relationships with one another.
Eat a variety of whole foods prepared in a variety of ways.
Strive for balance, and eat a variety of whole foods prepared in a variety of ways. Meat and milk, grain and bean, fruit and vegetable, and all sorts of foods each offer merit and the most nutrient-dense foods are generally divided fairly evenly between foods of animal origin and foods of plant origin as you’ll see in this chart.
Aiming for a variety of whole foods, rather than restriction, helps to ensure that you eat a variety of micronutrients including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help to fuel your health.
Try to eat foods prepared in a variety of ways, including eating foods fresh, eating foods cooked and eating foods that have been cultured or fermented. The way in which food is prepared influences the bioavailability and density of its nutrients, and, raw foods are not necessarily the most nutrient-dense.
Some nutrients, like lycopene, are more bioavailable when cooked. Other micronutrients, like vitamin C, are heat-sensitive and so it’s best to eat foods rich in vitamin C raw. And don’t forget that fermented and cultured foods, are also rich in B vitamins and the beneficial bacteria that can build a healthy gut.
Variety and balance matter.
Avoid restricting your diet without sound reason.
Food allergies and sensitivities are serious business, and they can make both cooking at home and eating out challenging. Yet, despite these challenges, a great many Americans restrict their diet in absence of allergies, sensitivities or other specific health-related conditions. Don’t create greater burdens for yourself.
Eat foods that you enjoy and try new things.
Lastly, eat foods that you enjoy and that give you pleasure. Eat them without guilt or shame, and enjoy them. Try new things so that you learn to enjoy new flavors, foods and cuisines. Women who make an effort to try new recipes, make healthier eating choices overall than women who don’t try new recipes (read it here).
If your favorite foods are less nutritious than you feel you need, then try making them at home with better-quality ingredients. This kefir ranch dressing is a great alternative to the bottled stuff, and homemade kombucha, water kefir and fermented lemonade can replace sodas and soft drinks.
Tools to Help You Succeed
Real Plans is an online tool that helps you plan your meals in a way that actually works for your schedule. It will create shopping lists, and you can even add on over 250 of my easiest, most nutrient-dense recipes.
Find a farmers market near you so that you can try new foods, make new connections and make shopping and cooking pleasurable.
Sun Basket is a great alternative to eating out if you’re short on time. They use mostly organic ingredients, with high-quality proteins like wild-caught fish, natural meats, and pastured eggs. Packaging is an issue, but it is compostable and recyclable. Click here to get three meals for free.