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Tips for eating a healthy diet in the new year

Tips for eating a healthy diet in the new year

Even if you were committed to eating a healthy diet throughout last year, the holiday season—complete with comfort foods and sweet treats—can be a temptation for nearly anyone. If you let your eating habits slip, now’s a good time to pick them back up!

Eating a healthy diet plays a key part in keeping you in optimal health by helping you reach or maintain a healthy weight. A balanced diet can also lower your risk of many health issues, including heart disease.

With Mardi Gras (and king cake and jambalaya and crawfish étouffée) quickly sneaking up on us, we all need a little extra help keeping our eating habits from derailing. The LCMC Health team offers some suggestions below.

5 easy ways to build (or rebuild) a healthy diet

A healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated. These five basics are a good place to begin:

1. Prioritize vegetables and fruit. Aim to fill half your plate at each meal with these nutritional powerhouses that are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Include a variety of types since different-hued foods provide a range of nutrients.

2. Choose whole grains. Many of the breads and other baked goods available today are what’s known as “refined grains,” which means they are refined and stripped of many nutrients. Whole grains, on the other hand, still contain a full spectrum of nutrients, including those found in the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain.

3. Think lean when it comes to protein. Protein plays an important role in providing the body energy and keeping you full for longer, but it’s important to choose the type of protein wisely. Beef, lamb and pork contain a good deal of unhealthy fat, so look for lean protein sources, such as chicken, turkey and fish.

4. Pay attention to the nutrition label. When you’re filling your cart at the grocery store, take a close look at the label. Do your best to limit your intake of added sugars, excess sodium, and saturated and trans fats. All three are clearly identified on nutrition labels, which now include a separate line for added sugars.

5. Limit your intake of processed foods. Following this tip can help you achieve several of the other tips! Most foods are processed to some extent. We’re talking about highly processed foods, which are packaged, contain refined ingredients and are often loaded with unhealthy additives designed to add flavor and keep them shelf stable. Whenever possible, choose whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and lean cuts of meat. Note that some processed foods, such as dairy products, are better than others since they’re simply processed in a way that fortifies them with additional nutrients.

Sticking to a healthy diet when it’s time to celebrate

You’ve got the basics of a healthy diet down pat, but here comes Mardi Gras! Take a deep breath. You can enjoy the festivities without falling off the healthy eating train.

A little preparation will go a long way. Fuel your body throughout the day of the party. Don’t skip meals to save space for later. Eat regular meals to keep your blood sugar level stable and keep you from getting hangry later.

Before leaving the house, eat a small snack or meal that includes lean protein and a small amount of healthy fat. Think a slice of turkey with a piece of avocado, or peanut butter on whole-grain bread.

When it’s food time at the party, fill your plate with fruits and veggies, along with lean protein, such as cocktail shrimp, first. These foods will help you feel full and avoid overeating comfort food.

Once you’ve done that, indulge your taste buds. Allow yourself a small slice of king cake or single serving of a favorite festive treat, whether it’s sweet or savory, and let the good times roll!

Looking for some healthy recipes to add to your dinner rotation? Check out the LCMC Health wellness library collection.