7 food resolutions to stick to for healthier eating
Transforming our diet can seem daunting. And making sweeping New Year’s resolutions to ‘only eat healthy foods’ or ‘completely cut out junk food’ isn’t the most helpful approach.
Instead, it’s better to focus on small, daily habits. Think about what you can add to your diet, rather than cutting things out, and you’re more likely to achieve your goal. Little changes that bring more nutrition to your plate can make a big difference over time.
Try adopting one, two or all of these food resolutions and you’ll reap the rewards – without compromising on your favourite dishes.
Always shop for the wholegrain option
Eating more wholegrain foods is a fantastic nutritional boost. They contain up to 75% more nutrients than refined cereals, which have had the bran (the fibre-rich outer layer of the grain) and/or the germ (the nutrient-rich inner part) removed.
So make a habit of opting for wholegrain (or wholewheat) when you buy bread, bagels, rice and pasta. If you love white bread, it might seem like a big change at first, but once your chosen grain is slathered in your favourite topping or sauce, you’ll enjoy it just as much. Many popular breakfast cereals are also great sources of wholegrains – just be sure to check the labels as you shop.
If you shop online, you can usually choose to default to favourite products and have them placed in your basket automatically. This makes it easy to acquire the wholegrain habit without even thinking about it.
It’s an easy switch to make, with no compromise when it comes to taste or enjoyment. And if you save the crusty white rolls and sticky white rice for when you’re eating out, you’ll probably appreciate them more.
Find time for meal prep (and never accidentally skip a meal!)
While we’re glad we can give ourselves extra nutritional support with vitamin or mineral supplements, it’s still important that we fuel our bodies through what we eat. And every chance to absorb vitamins and minerals is valuable.
Maybe life on the go has got you reaching for coffee for breakfast, or working from home has put your lunchtime routine out of sync? Or perhaps you’re too busy focusing on getting a higher ratio of mashed potato in your toddler’s mouth than on the ceiling to worry about dinner. But no matter what your lifestyle, making time for mealtimes can transform your health.
For starters, a good breakfast can set you up for the day ahead. So, when you can carve out a small window of time, why not batch-make healthy breakfast muffins or simple overnight oats? Then you’ll have a healthy breakfast waiting to go, rather than having to reach for an overpriced latte and dried-out pastry.
Or if you sometimes get so distracted that you work through lunch at your desk, set an alarm. Then make sure you stop and eat something quick and easy – such as frozen leftovers you’ve defrosted that morning (just make an extra portion to freeze when you’re cooking dinner).
Whatever it is in your schedule that means you sometimes miss out on regular meals – and much-needed nutrients – try to find a small change to help you make them a priority this year.
Sprinkle seeds into the mix where you can
How often do you eat seeds? For most of us, the answer is not often enough. Yet they’re a powerful nutritional tool that’s easy to incorporate into a wide range of meals. So next time you’re shopping, pick up some sunflower, pumpkin, sesame or chia seeds, and get creative with how you add them – and their nutritional value – to the mix.
A sprinkling of seeds can give welcome texture and taste to everything from soups and salads to stir-fries, plus plentiful health-boosting benefits. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and omega-3 essential fatty acids, and also contain protein and iron. Sesame seeds are a source of protein, iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Sunflower seeds are rich in B vitamins, while chia seeds are high in fibre, protein and calcium.
Help the habit stick by choosing attractive glass jars or pots to store your seeds, and keep them within sight and easy reach when you’re preparing food – such as on your breakfast table or kitchen counter.
Top tip: Why not try seeds as part of an all-in-one nourish bowl?
Refresh your vocabulary
When it comes to our relationship with food, vocabulary matters. We often say we’re ‘treating’ ourselves to certain ‘indulgent’ foods and drinks, such as sugary snacks, desserts and alcohol. We might refer to these kinds of foods as our ‘reward’ when we want to celebrate, or when we need cheering up. For some people, using words like this can be a way to help keep the consumption of unhealthy foods in moderation.
But what would happen if we thought of it as a ‘treat’ every time we gave our body what it truly needed – such as antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, or a glass of water with a twist of lime when we’re feeling dehydrated? Eating and drinking well is a powerful tool, and should be one of the foundations of self-care.
So make a point of giving some thought to what your go-to ‘treat’ or ‘reward’ could be and start referring to it as such, whether it’s a square of high-quality dark chocolate, a richly flavoured vegetable curry shared with friends, or your favourite home-made smoothie.
Naming healthier foods as your treats is a win-win. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever have other foods you love when you crave them, but it can help to rewire your thinking about what actually nourishes your body.
Eat more plant-based foods
If you’re trying to improve your diet and make it more nutritious, but don’t know where to start, one of the easiest things you can do is to simply eat a wider variety of foods.
The evidence is clear that a varied diet is likely to be a healthier diet. One high-profile study, by the American Gut Project, showed that people who managed to eat 30 different plant-based foods in a week had significantly more diverse gut microbiomes, which is important for gut health.
This doesn’t mean you need to eat ever-more-obscure fruit and vegetables, either. Plant-based foods include things such as seeds and spices, or grains such as rice and quinoa.
Try to add new plant-based foods to your diet every week and see which ones work for you. It could be as simple as rotating accompaniments – such as swapping potatoes for couscous or quinoa – rather than always cooking the same dishes.
Top tip: Going plant-based full-time? Check out the best supplements for vegans.
Revisit ‘healthy’ foods you don’t like
Think of a food you really don’t like. Then ask yourself: when did you last try it? The answer is probably – by definition! – not recently.
You might think there’s no reason to eat foods you already know you dislike. But our tastes change as we get older. What’s more, sometimes a negative emotional association – such as having eaten a dish when we were unhappy – can cause us to shun a particular food for life.
Or perhaps an ingredient hadn’t been cooked well when you first encountered it. Take celeriac. It’s easy to overcook – at which point it’s about as tasty as chewing on a piece of wicker. However, when perfectly prepared as part of a creamy mash, it can taste divine. Or Brussels sprouts. They have a famously bad rep, but chefs are now taking to glazing and roasting them to make them (nutritious) things of joy. So, you might be missing out on the nutritional benefits – and taste sensations – of foods you could actually be relishing.
Whether it’s eggs, avocado, spinach or something entirely unexpected, why not give a food you ‘know’ you don’t like just one more shot, using a new recipe or cooking method? You’ve got nothing to lose, and a potential new ingredient to gain.
Hide vegetables in your baking
Courgette, pumpkin, carrot, marrow, beetroot… what do all these vegetables have in common? They’re healthy ingredients that are surprisingly easy to incorporate into tasty baked goods such as cakes, cookies and buns.
Grating vegetables into food or sauces where they’ll go largely undetected has long been a popular trick among parents. But that doesn’t mean it’s only children who can benefit from the potential to ‘hide’ nutritious vegetables in cakes or other foods.
A quick internet search will bring up myriad options for vegetable-enhanced baking recipes, so see which works for you. Just promise you’ll be more adventurous than making a carrot cake. A beetroot-chocolate sponge could be a good place to start…
Hungry for more? Check out these nutrition tips from our expert panel.