Healthy Eating Habits for the New Year

Just in time for your New Year's resolution, here's a round up of Nutrition Diva's best healthy eating tips.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #315

After a month of office parties, family get-togethers, comfort food, and holiday celebrations, it's no wonder that most New Year's resolutions have to do with a healthy lifestyle.

And although one could get cynical about how long these resolutions typically last, I'd rather make the most of this inclination to renew our commitment to healthy habits. To help fuel your efforts, here are my 5 best healthy eating tips (plus a bonus tip):

Tip #1: Don't wear out your willpower

Whether you've resolved to eat less junk food or to get to the gym more, sticking to that resolution will probably require some willpower. But when we call on our willpower to help us resist a temptation, we actually deplete our reserves, leaving us less able to resist the next temptation.

Here are 3 tricks to maximize your willpower. The first and most important is to remove as many temptations from your environment as you can. 

When we call on our willpower to help us resist a temptation, we actually deplete our reserves, leaving us less able to resist the next temptation.

If you don't want to eat it, don't bring it into the house. If you must have it in the house, put it in a cupboard or closet that is out of sight and difficult to reach. If, after all that, you decide to indulge, serve yourself a single portion into a small bowl and put the rest away.

I can't over-emphasize just how powerful this can be.

READ MORE: Why Willpower Isn't Enough

Tip #2: To overhaul, start small

One of the biggest reasons that resolutions fail is that people set overly ambitious goals that aren't sustainable long term. A few small changes that you can stick to for the entire year are going to have a much more profound impact than a radical lifestyle makeover that lasts only a week or two.

Here are 5 things that can make the biggest difference in your overall nutrition:

  1. Reduce your consumption of sweetened beverages
  2. Eating more fruits and vegetables
  3. Cook more of your own food
  4. Limit fried foods
  5. Cut back on grains

You'll notice that I'm not asking you to eliminate anything from your diet entirely. You can even tackle these steps one at a time if that's more doable.

READ MORE: How to Overhaul Your Diet

Tip #3: Enjoy the glow

Part of the fun of adopting healthy habits like eating better, being more active, and getting more sleep, is the cosmetic benefits!

Not only might you drop some pounds and inches, but healthy foods can also improve your skin. In particular, healthy fats like those found in olive oil and avocado, coupled with antioxidant-rich vegetables, can improve the color and texture of your skin. Shellfish are another delicious source of skin-improving nutrients. So eat up.

READ MORE: What to Eat for Gorgeous Skin

Tip #4: Indulge wisely

Part of my strategy for long-term success is to allow for occasional indulgences. As much as I love vegetables, I also enjoy pizza, French fries, ice cream, and Swedish fish. And although I don't eat them every day, or in unlimited quantities, I don't feel guilty when I do eat them. The trick is to learn how to indulge wisely and well.

Save your splurges for foods that you truly enjoy.

When National Junk Food Day rolled around, I put together 5 Rules for Splurging, the most important of which was to save your splurges for foods that you truly enjoy and not to succumb to junk foods that aren't even particularly appealing, just because they're sitting there. Of course, learning to indulge in moderation is also important. 

READ MORE: Nutrition Diva's Guide to National Junk Food Day

Tip #5: Cut Back on Grains

Cutting back on grains is a recurring theme on the Nutrition Diva show. Unlike some, I don't believe that grains are the source of all dietary evil. But I do think that we tend to over-consume them and that even whole grains are best eaten in limited quantities. In What to Eat Instead of Grains, I make that advice a little more actionable with some grain alternatives.

After all, it is always much more fun (and effective) to focus on the foods you want to eat more of rather than on those you're trying to cut back on. Vegetables are on that list, of course. But when you cut back on grains, it also leaves more room for nuts, avocado, cheese, and other tasty and satisfying foods.

READ MORE: What to Eat Instead of Grains

Bonus: 10+ easy upgrades

Finally, I recently offered a roundup of ways to painlessly upgrade your nutrition, everything from the most nutritious types of lettuce to the healthiest cocktail you can order.

Read more at 10 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Nutrition

After that episode aired. Nutrition Diva listeners responded with a bumper crop of dozens more terrific suggestions, including recipes for green pancakes, low carb "rice" made from cauliflower, and veggie ice cream! If you're looking for some fun ways to upgrade your nutrition or just mix it up a little in the New Year, be sure to check out all the great ideas I got from listeners and feel free to add your own.

Happy New Year from all of us at Quick and Dirty Tips! Let's make next year our healthiest year yet!

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.