By Marie Johnson MS, RDN, LD, CPT
#1 – Plan Your Meals
In today’s society, meal planning is not required. With over 100,000 chain restaurants and countless on-the-go options at grocery stores and gas food stations, the decision of what to eat can be made in minutes (1). Though the options are plentiful, they are often lacking in nutritional value. Taking time to plan meals will ensure more control over what you eat and will improve the nutritional quality of your meals.
This new year, set aside about an hour a week to write up meals for the week. As you plan each meal, start with a protein source (chicken, beef, legumes, pork, etc) choose a vegetable (greens, peppers, carrots, onions, etc) and a flavor you want for the meal (savory, sweet, spicy, sour). The key to keeping meal planning fun is to add one new meat, vegetable, or flavor combination each week.
#2 – Give Yourself Grace
Meal planning will work most of the time, but life is unpredictable. No matter how much you plan there will be times when your only option comes from a menu of items that do not promote your health. As the year progresses, you must give yourself grace in these situations as they come up. However, just as you are not abuse the grace of God, do not abuse the grace you provide yourself.
#3 – Prioritize Spiritual Time
What does it have to do with food? The best food we have is the food we can’t eat. As Christians, we have the privilege to drink from the everlasting streams of living water and eat the bread of life. (John 7:38, John 6:35) Prioritizing time spent with the Lord, will provide the strength and discipline to choose healthier food options.
#4 – Eat What Is In Season
Reminder, January is a winter month! The desire to start the year off healthy is a great one. However, going to the grocery store and buying fresh produce that is ripe in the middle of the summer will leave you with a high grocery bill and tasteless produce. Eating what is in season is gentle on your wallet and wonderful for your taste buds. Depending on where you live, see what is growing. Produce that is in season in January includes citrus and sweet potatoes.
#5 – Choose A Balanced Diet and Stick to It
Consistency is the key to success. Changing diets every week or month will make it hard to develop healthy habits and will result in burnout. Take the necessary time to think through and research a way of eating that you can follow for at least six months. Some well-studied diets include the Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, and whole food or plant-based diet (2,3,4). To make a more informed choice, having a conversation with your doctor or dietitian will allow you to find a diet that will promote your health.
#6 – Make Grocery Shopping Fun
Grocery shopping has to be prioritized in your life to ensure you have control over what you eat this year. For some, grocery shopping is a chore, while others consider it self-care.
If the thought of grocery shopping stresses you out, it may be worth it to spend the extra money to use a grocery delivery service or invest in a meal kit delivery service. If the thought of grocery shopping makes you excited, make sure to set time aside every week when you can roam through the grocery store aisles.
#7 – Organize Your Kitchen
Cooking at home has been shown to lead to healthier eating habits (5). Having a space that you enjoy being in will help lead to success when it comes to developing healthy eating habits this year. This could be as simple as deep cleaning your kitchen, (doing it yourself or paying a company to do it), organizing your pantry, or redecorating your kitchen. It all depends on time, budget, and what will turn the kitchen into one of your favorite rooms in your home.
- Jay, A. (2022, November 6). Number of restaurants in the US 2022/2023: Statistics, facts, and Trends. Financesonline.com. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://financesonline.com/number-of-restaurants-in-the-us/#:~:text=How%20many%20restaurants%20are%20there,restaurant%20locations%20in%20the%20country.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, November 15). Can a low-carb diet help you lose weight? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/low-carb-diet/art-20045831
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, July 23). Mediterranean diet for heart health. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
- Esquivel M. K. (2022). Nutrition Benefits and Considerations for Whole Foods Plant-Based Eating Patterns. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 16(3), 284–290. https://doi.org/10.1177/15598276221075992
- Wolfson, J. A., Leung, C. W., & Richardson, C. R. (2020). More frequent cooking at home is associated with higher Healthy Eating Index-2015 score. Public health nutrition, 23(13), 2384–2394. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980019003549