12 Real Simple Tips for a Nutritious New Year

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

At the beginning of the year we have a lot of motivation and energy to step into the New Year making healthier choices. Keeping it real and simple will give you greater reward that lasts longer than this single year. Below is a real simple map of healthy choices to adopt over the next twelve months. Taking one month at a time and focusing on one choice at a time will generate forward momentum and set you up for lifelong success.  

January | Water – We often forget just how essential water is to our existence. Besides keeping our bodies greased up (in a good way), water regulates body temperature and carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells. Success during our workouts is greatly dependent on our hydration status. Not only do we need to replenish water while exercising, we also need to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you’re not a fan of water alone, try adding a few slices of fresh fruit or cucumbers. Filling your belly with high water content foods like fresh fruits and veggies will contribute to your hydration status as well as help you maintain a healthy gut and weight.  

February | Color – Color is one of the best ways to know if you are getting enough nutrients throughout the day. Abundant in a wide variety of fruits and veggies as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and even lean meat, a healthier plate displays at least five distinct colors. That bright pink salmon fillet and ruby red tuna steak are brilliantly appropriate to highlight a healthy Valentine’s Day. Make your own berry kabobs for dessert, and you’ve got a sweet treat with a green light to eat!  

March | Movement – A happy belly is connected to a healthy spirit, mind, and body. Weakness in any one of these three indicates health imbalance. Embracing health means accepting and adopting healthy behaviors. Taking time to nourish your belly along with massaging your mind and moving your body will build strength and balance that is tough to topple. Move your spirit, mind, and body in March. Work with your family to schedule your movement. Keep in mind that a healthy family moves together, too.  

April | Flavor – When was the last time you truly tasted something? Hearing so many complaints about healthy food tasting like cardboard, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people no longer have taste buds. How could a strawberry, red onion, toasted pecan, gorgonzola, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper, and spinach salad be bland? Add flavor in April. Experiment with at least one new weekly recipe that blends unique flavors together. There are a wide variety of fresh herbs and spices available to you, including many blends that are already salt free. If you can’t figure out what to try, create the spinach salad. I promise that your taste buds will happily wake up.

May | Meatless – Make one meatless meal each week this month. Meatless Monday is a hugely popular and healthy food initiative where people dabble into a greater variety of plant cuisine, reduce their grocery bills due to the missing meat costs, plus lessen their environmental footprint.  My favorite meatless meals include spinach and mushroom enchiladas, sesame-crusted tofu over veggies, and tostada pizza. Just say the magic word, and I’ll send you my recipes.  

June | Market – Celebrate the opening of our growing season by visiting your local farmer’s market. With so many locations and times to choose from, you will easily find one that fits into your family’s schedule. Plan to grab at least one new offering each week that you go. Some healthy choices to check out this summer include asparagus, bison, eggs, fresh herbs, whole spices, greens, colorful choices of peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and much more! Not only will you fill your bellies with healthy goodness but also support our local farmers. Ready to go to the next level? Partner up with a local farmer through the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs where you receive weekly boxes of locally-grown goodness and are exposed to many food items you may have never before seen.

July | Sweetness – Summer always opens the door to the most amazing sweet treats. Slice up the watermelon, cantaloupe, and honey dew. Rinse off the berries and grapes. The key is making it readily available so that the first grab is from nature’s candy instead of the manmade pantry.  Getting hotter than you’d like it to be? Feel free to make your own refreshing popsicles or smoothies.  Freeze some fruits for a chilly bite. And for extra special occasions, ride your bikes down to the ice cream shop for that sometimes treat.  

August | Nuts – Packed with heart-healthy fats, fiber, protein, and a whole host of nutritional goodness, nuts make a great topping for your fresh or cooked veggies. They also add a satisfying touch to your early morning meal and work well as a hearty snack. With nutritional power to be the center of your meatless plate, nuts help make wonderful veggie patties and stuffing. When nuts replace unhealthier forms of fat in a well-balanced meal plan, they can really help to manage weight. A serving of nuts is one ounce of weight. It’s okay to go a little nutty every now and then.

September | Whole – Grains that is! Fill your belly with fiber and wholesome goodness this month. With the most commonly consumed grains list limited to rice, wheat, corn, and oats, we definitely do not invite a healthy variety into our bellies. Variety does not count as the different shapes of any one grain. Broaden your horizons this month and check out some quinoa, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, farro, amaranth, or one of the many not-so-commonly-consumed whole grains. Cooked just like your brown rice, these grains can make amazing salad add-ins, cereals, or pilafs.  

October | Seafood – Aim for at least two servings of seafood each week this month. Adding nutty toppings with herbs and spices, whole grain bread crumbs, or sautéed chunks of veggies to your sea cuisine will boost the flavor for those who are hesitant to try it. Again, when healthfully-prepared seafood replaces unhealthier forms of meat, weight management occurs naturally. Unfortunately, the Friday fish fry just doesn’t cut it. Not only do you invite the unhealthiest of all fats (trans-) into your belly but also typically miss out on the colors that can accompany the “see food”.

November | Sauce – So many things we make are covered in a sauce or accompany a dip. It’s not hard to get a little creative with making some healthier homemade sauces and dips. With all of the no salt added canned tomatoes available these days, you are a food processing away from creating homemade spaghetti sauce! Add your touch of herbs, spices, and other veggies, and you just may have made the sauce your family will crave. Use plain traditional or Greek-style yogurt to create a sweet or savory tip. Adding vanilla bean and cinnamon will pair well with fruits, and mixing fresh herbs, spices, and juices will make your veggies, wraps, and sandwiches happy to partner.  

December | Art – With all of these wonderful healthy choices you’ve made this year, you’ll want to showcase your efforts loud and clear. Variety brings beauty to the plate. During the holiday season, we often face the challenge of too much variety. So, keeping your artist mindset, treat your plate like a painter’s palette. You want lots of color on your plate in itty bitty tastes so that you can decide which is worthy of a second bite. You may be surprised that you fill up quicker with your mindful selections and may not need another go around. Paint your plate with health and you’ll give your body the greatest wealth. 

By Jessica Schroeder  RDN, CD