5 eating tips for a healthier 2022 from a registered dietitian
By Registered Dietitian Mia Syn, MS, RD
Millions of Americans make resolutions each January hoping to improve their health, wellness and fitness only to feel discouraged come February 1st. As a registered dietitian, I know that the key to making healthy eating resolutions stick is to make them specific and realistic. Here are my five tips for making 2022 your healthiest year yet.
Use spices and herbs to flavor meals instead of salt
2020 and 2021 were all about cooking more meals at home and this seems to be the trend as we head into the new year. The good news is that studies show that meals prepared at home are almost always lower in saturated fat and sodium and higher in essential nutrients calcium, iron and fiber, than meals prepared outside the home.
Make this the year to get more creative in the kitchen! Take advantage of spices and herbs to jazz up your meals which add a lot of flavor for nearly zero calories, instead of salt or heavy condiments. Keeping sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day is important for heart health and healthy blood pressure management. Simply cooking more at home and controlling the ingredients in your food, is one easy way to help manage that.
Eat dessert daily (if you want!)
Indulging mindfully is an essential part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. The “all or nothing” mindset can do more harm than good when it comes making healthy eating a lifestyle. In fact, depriving yourself of foods you love can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and overeating later on. Instead, work a little bit of your favorite foods into each day to make it feel like you are never depriving or restricting yourself. For me, that’s a couple squares of high-quality chocolate daily.
I like Endangered Species Chocolate because it is made with only real ingredients and never sweetener substitutes, bulking agents or sugar alcohols. They range from 48% cocoa to 88%, with delicious add-ins like nuts, fruit, caramel and rice crisps. Plus, they donate 10% of Annual Net Profits back to Wildlife Conservation so it’s a treat you can feel good about enjoying. Look for the NEW 48% Milk Chocolate + Rich Caramel and 48% Milk Chocolate + Fudgy Peanut Butter in grocery stores nationwide this month!
Go with your gut
Gut health is quickly becoming one of the hottest and fastest growing areas of nutrition research – and with good reason. Gut health describes the function and balance of bacteria throughout the gastrointestinal tract and is heavily influenced by what we eat. A healthy gut has been linked to immune health, longevity, weight management, chronic disease prevention, skin health and more.
This year, focus on incorporating foods that support overall gut health – namely probiotic- and prebiotic- containing foods. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, yogurt and sauerkraut. Prebiotics are a type of fiber found in certain plant-based foods including green bananas, onions and leeks that help selectively nourish the good bacteria in the gut.
Eat more plants
Plant-based diets are more than just trendy, they are good for your health and the environment. This year focus on incorporating more plant-based whole foods into your diet like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – and less meat. When you incorporate mostly plant-based in your diet, you are naturally getting more of the “good stuff” that supports overall health – namely fiber, essential vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients, and less of the “bad stuff” linked to elevated chronic disease risk- namely saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugar. Research shows that following a mostly plant-based diet can help ward off chronic disease, support weight management and even promote longevity.
And the good news is that you don’t have to overhaul your diet completely to reap the benefits. Start with a meatless dinner once a week incorporating a plant protein like lentils or edamame, or simply up your serving of veggies at each meal to help crowd out and cut back on overall animal product consumption.
Water is often called the forgotten nutrient. It makes up nearly 60% of the body and is essential for removing waste, lubricating joints, regulating body temperature and converting food into energy. One of the simplest swaps you can make for your health this year is to hydrate smarter. Beverage choices are just as important as food choices. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can be a source of empty calories meaning they provide energy (carbohydrates) but no nutrition.
Replace sugar-sweetened soft drinks, teas, fruit beverages and sports drinks with nutrient-dense options like herbal tea, fruit and vegetable smoothies, dairy milk which provides 13 essential nutrients, homemade “spa water” infused with fresh produce and herbs, or plain ol’ water.
You don’t have to overhaul your diet completely to feel better and be healthier in the new year. Setting specific, measurable and realistic goals is one sure way to set yourself up for healthy eating success.
About Registered Dietitian Mia Syn, MS, RDN:
Mia Syn is a national on-air nutrition expert, host of Good Food Friday on ABC Charleston, Health Advisory Board Member at Forbes and VeryWell, and one of the most recognized and trusted young dietitians in the media. She has been featured by dozens of major media outlets including SHAPE and Cosmopolitan, and was named one of the top dietitians to follow on Instagram by Women’s Health Magazine. With degrees in human nutrition from Columbia and U.C. Berkeley, and over 500 TV appearances she has helped millions of viewers, readers and clients learn and implement healthier, sustainable eating habits.