We’ve all been guilty of this one: Making a New Year’s resolution to “lose 15 pounds” or “get in shape” and then giving up in frustration three months later. So this year, why not try something different? Here are 5 small manageable changes you can make to your diet that will have lasting results. (They may even help you lose those pounds, too – but that’s just a side benefit.)
1. Eat Less Meat
In the past few years, there has been much health research into the risks associated with eating a diet heavy in red meat. In fact, the World Health Organization has said that red meat – and processed meat, in particular – causes cancer. In fact, many experts now recommend a plant-based diet as the best way to prevent diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and to keep your weight down. If that sounds too extreme, though, there are other easy fixes, such as choosing dishes that use small amounts of meat accompanied by other ingredients (stew or pasta instead of steak) and substituting soy products like tofu when possible. Indulge your carnivore cravings with chicken, turkey and fish instead, and your heart will thank you.
2. Add Veggies to Everything
Are you eating at least three servings of vegetables a day? If not, welcome to the club; the majority of Americans are lucky to eat any veggies at all in a given day. But if substituting a salad for your daily sandwich is just too hard to do, take heart. You can accomplish the same thing by adding veggies to all the things you already eat, like pasta, eggs, stews, and these delicious soups. Chop onions, bell peppers, and other veggies and keep them in Tupperware containers in your fridge for easy access, and make sure your freezer is always stocked with frozen spinach, kale, and chopped vegetables to thaw when needed.
3. Cut Back on Sugar
Note, this doesn’t say “stop eating sugar” – that’s the one we all fail miserably at. Focus instead on being satisfied with smaller portions, and cutting out sugar in ways that don’t feel like huge sacrifices. For example, many cereals and prepared sauces are high in sugar, so read labels and find other flavors you like less reliant on added sweetness. If brownies or ice cream is your weakness, try serving yourself a smaller portion, then eating it slowly and mindfully to truly enjoy it. For the biggest bang for your buck, cut out sugary drinks – whether that’s soda pop, fruit juice, or that caramel chai latte. And most effective of all: develop a taste for water! (Adding lemon helps.)
4. Eat More Omega-3s
These brain- and heart-healthy fatty acids are so important, we devoted a whole post to them. You can boost your omega-3 intake by eating more fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, by adding flax seeds to salads and cereal, and by taking supplements.
5. More Fiber, Please
Yes, it keeps your digestion moving, but fiber has many other just as important benefits, aiding weight loss and promoting heart health. Because fiber makes you feel full, adding fiber-rich foods like beans can help prevent overeating, and using high-fiber whole wheat bread for your toast or sandwich will make you more snack-resistant. And fiber acts as a sponge to soak up fats, which is why doctors recommend starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal if your cholesterol numbers aren’t ideal.
For more ways to eat healthier in 2016, check out more meal tips from Kaiser Permanente San Francisco GetFit.