Features

January 2017 Issue




New Year, New Diet Habits

Adopt these 4 healthy dietary habits for the new year.

‘Tis the season to make resolutions for a better new year, and diet remains one of the most popular lifestyle changes. But instead of plunging into diet plans that preach unsustainable restriction, it’s better to touch up your menu with easy-to-follow tweaks that can make a big impact on your health. These research-backed diet fixes will make this year a nutritional winner.

beans and lentils

Hanhanpeggy | Dreamstime.com

Choose more plant proteins, such as beans and lentils.

Healthy Habit #1: Eat More Plant Protein

It’s a good idea to think beyond beef for your protein fix. Data of nearly 132,000 people were included in a 2016 study in JAMA Internal Medicine that found that people with higher intakes of plant proteins experienced a lower risk of death, particularly from heart disease, than those with higher intakes of animal proteins, especially in the form of processed red meats.

“This benefit can likely be explained by higher intakes of certain nutrients, fiber and antioxidants that occur when you eat more plant-based proteins,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. Young says it’s not necessary to eschew meat and dairy completely, but she believes lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, and nuts should play a starring role in your diet.

Healthy Habit #2: Swap Carbs for Fat

No longer should we consider fat as the dietary bogeyman. A 2016 PLOS Medicine study found that substituting about 100 calories of unsaturated fats, like those found in nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish, for 100 calories of carbohydrates in a daily diet can improve blood sugar control, protecting against diabetes. For every five percent of calories that were switched from carbohydrates or saturated fats to mono- or poly-unsaturated fats there was nearly a seven percent reduction in heart disease risk. “The key is to swap out some of the processed carbs in your diet, such as white pasta and baked goods, with these healthy fat sources,” Young says. “Just adding more fat to an unhealthy diet won’t do you much good.” And don’t throw caution to the wind and load up on bacon. Harvard scientists showed that replacing five percent of calories from saturated fats with equivalent energy from unsaturated fats lowered risk of death by 27 percent.

Healthy Habit #3: Embrace the New

Oats for breakfast and salmon for dinner are healthy choices, but try making 2017 about exploring new tastes. Two studies published in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who consumed a greater variety of healthy foods tended to have less body fat and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risks associated with heart disease) than those who ate a more monotonous diet. Greater dietary diversity may make it easier to stick with a healthy eating plan because it will be more exciting. And the more healthful foods you introduce into your diet the less room there is for nutritional landmines.

Healthy Habit #4: Go Slow

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle it’s all too easy to dine and dash, but data show that eating in a flash could hinder slim-down efforts. Research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that people who ate a lunch meal in nine minutes took in an average of 88 more calories, and felt less full an hour afterwards, than those who ate at a 22-minute pace. “Eating at a slower pace gives you a better chance of sensing fullness so you’re less likely to overeat,” says Young, who encourages habits that force you to eat mindfully, such as taking smaller bites, putting down your utensils after each bite, and thoroughly chewing your food.