With the holidays out of the way, chances are we are left with a little more weight than we wanted. January 1 has significance to most Americans because it’s a day to wipe your slate clean and begin a new year—most of the time, on a healthy note. New Year’s resolutions are promises you make to yourself so that throughout the year you make positive changes. Chances are, eating healthier is one of your resolutions.
According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, “Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars, refined grains, sodium and saturated fat. Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products and oils.”
According to U.S. government data from 2009-2010, more than 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million (16.9%) children and adolescents are obese. Recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults (115 million adults) in the United States will be obese.
No worries—like the cliché goes, “Every day is a new beginning.” Here are five tips for incorporating veggies, whole grains, fruits and dairy into your healthy lifestyle.
Tip 1: Add More Veggies
Vegetables play an important part in your diet and healthy meal plans. They provide vitamins and minerals, are low in fat and calories and have no cholesterol. They are important sources for vitamin A (benefits eyes and skin), vitamin C (helps strengthen immune system), folate (boosts cell repair and plays a role in various bodily functions), potassium (muscle movement, nerves and kidneys) and dietary fiber (helps reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease).
10 veggies to add to your healthy meals: raw onions, corn, peas, kale, broccoli, red bell peppers, spinach, Brussels sprouts, beets and alfalfa sprouts.
Tip 2: Add More Fruits
Fruits offer many of the same benefits as vegetables. They help reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes, plus cancers, obesity, diabetes and more. Most fruits are filled with antioxidants and are delicious. They can be enjoyed frozen, dried, fresh, canned or puréed. Some fruits do have a high sugar content, so just don’t overdo it.
10 fruits to add to your healthy meals: grapefruit, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, raspberries, lemons, guava, boysenberries, blackberries and cranberries.
Tip 3: Kid-Friendly Fruits and Veggies
It is difficult to persuade children to eat fruits and veggies. Children enjoy colorful and fun foods, so perhaps changing it up will help reel them in. At a young age, growth and development depend on healthy foods for the nutrients and other essentials for a healthy, happy child.
How to make fruits and veggies fun: smoothies, veggie and fruit dippers (yogurt, peanut butter, ranch dressing), kabobs, personalized veggie pizzas, make fun things or shapes out of fruits and veggies, veggie trays with child’s favorites, create fun baked potatoes, allow children to make their own trail mix with dried fruit, or make your own frozen fruit popsicles.
Tip 4: Dairy
Dairy plays a huge role in our diets as well, as it benefits bone health. Dairy nutrients include calcium (bones and teeth), potassium (blood pressure), vitamin D (maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorous) and protein (vital for health and maintenance).
6 dairy foods to add to your healthy meals: fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt (Greek or frozen yogurt), cheese, milk-based desserts, soymilk and cottage cheese.
Tip 5: Add Whole Grains
Whole grains are unrefined grains that have not had their bran or germ removed through milling (i.e., white rice has had its bran and germ removed). Whole-grain foods are also very important for our health. They provide numerous health benefits such as lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and more. Whole grains are good sources of fiber, selenium, potassium and magnesium.
6 whole-grain substitutions: brown rice, whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain flour and whole-grain oatmeal.
Choose wisely, and Happy Healthy Eating!