Simple changes for a healthy new year

9 ideas to help you eat healthier and be kind to yourself

For many people, a new year is inspirational. It’s a time to set goals and think about what you want to accomplish in the year ahead.

Where to focus? We’re going to look at ideas for making positive changes to your eating habits. Eating well is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, along with staying active, getting enough sleep and reducing screen time.

Before the tips, a word about goal setting: It takes planning. You need to figure out what you want to do, how you will make it happen and why this goal is important to you. Will it make you happier, healthier or improve things in some way? It’s vital to have a clear sense of purpose to help you focus on what you want.

Keeping your goals small and manageable will give you a better chance of success. And remember to treat yourself with kindness. We’ve all been through a year of unprecedented change, so usher in 2021 by making small, meaningful adjustments, rather than drastic changes. No deprivation. No hardship. Just self-love.  

Here are some small changes that could help you eat healthier in 2021. 

Think about your plate: The key to healthy eating includes eating more whole, nutrient-dense foods, while cutting back on ultra-processed options. That means choosing vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein sources such as fish, poultry, beans and nuts more often than premade burgers, pizza, pop and chips. When you plan meals, imagine your plate is divided into three sections: fill half with vegetables and some fruit; a quarter with protein-rich options; and a quarter with whole grains.
Set it in action: Look at your plate to see if changes are needed. Maybe you need more vegetables or protein, or could opt for whole grains more often than refined grains. Pick one small change to work on.  
 
Cook more often: 2020 was a year when many people headed back into the kitchen, and survey data shows this is a habit that will stay long after the pandemic is over. That’s great news since it gives you more control over what you eat. Compared to restaurant fare, homemade meals tend to be lower in salt, sugar and fat, and higher in vegetables. While ordering takeout for special occasions can help support local restaurants, it’s important to find a balance.
Set it in action: Add one additional home-cooked meal to your weekly rotation. Try something new (and nutritious!) from our recipe collection.
 
Cut back on added sugar: A high intake of added sugars is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Added sugars include any sweetener (such as sugar, honey and syrup) added to food and drinks. Keep your intake below 12 teaspoons (48 grams) per day by minimizing your intake of candy, chocolate, baked goods and pop. One 355 mL can of soda contains 10 teaspoons (40 g) of added sugar. 
Set it in action: Replace one weekly sweet beverage with water. Once that becomes the norm, swap an additional drink for water.

Honour where you are and what is available to you: COVID-19 has changed the way many people access, store, cook and think about food. Your overall health will benefit if you can stick with healthy basics during this trying time. If money is tight, find helpful ideas here to make the most of the foods you have access to and can afford. 
Set it in action: Plan ahead by looking at flyers and making a grocery list that includes canned, frozen and dried foods, especially when they are on sale.

Of course, these are broad suggestions for goals that may fit into your lifestyle. If none of these resonate, simply use them as inspiration to think about your own path, then pick one goal and make a plan. Maybe one of these ideas will work for you:

  • Eat more plant-based meals instead of meat-based meals.

  • Quit the fad diets and find a sustainable eating plan.
  • Tune into your appetite to recognize hunger and fullness.
  • Start a food journal to recognize any unhealthy eating habits.
  • Eat meals without screens (cell phone, computer of TV).
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