The new year is a great time to start anew. It’s an opportunity to drop habits that don’t promote optimal health, and replace them with with those that do. In my nutrition practice, I don’t usually encourage my clients to make drastic changes. Instead, I support the notion of adopting small dietary and lifestyle changes over time. I’ve found that this method tends to be the most successful and increases the likelihood that these changes will be long-lasting, and will ultimately lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Even tiny adjustments can have huge impacts on our health. Big change doesn’t happen over night. It’s the result of many little changes practiced daily, again and again, until they become habits. Below, I’ll share a few surprisingly simple nutrition tips that will have a profound impact on your health and well-being in the year ahead. Whether or not you subscribe to new year's resolutions, there's no time like the present to do something good for yourself. Here are 3 simple, sustainable tips that will keep you on track for a healthy, happy 2016.
Stay Hydrated. Water is vital to our health. We literally cannot live without it. It supports good digestion, absorption, and elimination. However, despite being a necessity, the simple act of drinking water throughout the day is often overlooked. It is recommends that men consume roughly 13 cups (3 litres) of water per day, and that women consume approximately 9 cups (2.2 litres) per day. A good way to reach this goal is to start your day with a big glass of water. Have the water ready and waiting on your bed-side table so that it’s the first thing you see when you wake up. I suggest you also take a water bottle with you everywhere you go (stash it in your purse, briefcase, or backpack) and, if you have trouble remembering to drink water, you may also want to set a timer on your phone to remind you.
Eat More Vegetables. Vegetables provide dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also add colour, variety, texture, and taste to meals. Like drinking water, eating vegetables should be a priority, but without proper planning it can be easily overlooked. Allotting a few hours, one or two days per week, to meal prep can play a big role in upping your vegetable intake. An easy first step would be to chop and store vegetables in your fridge for easy access. Get in the habit of cutting up carrots, celery, cucumber, radishes, and broccoli (or whichever veggies you prefer!) to have with hummus or use later on in cooked dishes. You should also have pre-washed (DIY or store bought) greens, like spinach, kale, or arugula, in your fridge to add into smoothies, salads, stews, soups, wraps, sandwiches, or stir fry. If you aren’t already in the habit of making vegetable rich meals, challenge yourself to try one new vegetarian dish each week with the goal of expanding your culinary skills as well as your palate.
Chew-Chew-Chew Your Food. It may sound silly, but your mother was right when she cautioned you to “chew your food”. Chewing is a fundamental part of eating, and it is also crucially important in terms of nutrition. Our saliva contains digestive enzymes that help breakdown and absorb the foods we eat. Thoroughly chewing your food will allow these enzymes to do their job and will also lessen the burden on your stomach and small intestine, leading to greater nutrient absorption. As an added bonus, research shows that eating slowly can help you to eat less and, ultimately, prevents weight gain and may even contribute to weight loss. When you sit down for your next meal, start by taking small bites, chew slowly, be patient, focus on your food, and enjoy what you are eating. Keep chewing until your food has lost its texture and is mostly liquefied. Make sure to completely finish chewing and swallowing before taking another bite of food. This may sound tedious or trivial, but give it a try! Your body will thank you.