By Blake Herzog
When you’re among the hordes who make a New Year’s resolution to eat more healthfully over the next 12 months, the easiest route may seem to be setting a calorie or weight-loss goal.
Yet too often these routes are based on a premise of deprivation that can leave you feeling depressed and disempowered when it comes to making your own nutritional choices.
If and when you hit those goals, the challenge becomes maintaining the gains you’ve realized, which can be harder than following a consistent, sustainable way of eating from the beginning.
Here are a few healthy eating habits to think about for 2024:
Don’t skip meals
Breakfast stands out as the meal most likely to be missed and is a particularly poor choice for skipping, given how it sets you up for overeating later in the day.
It can be as light as yogurt with fruit or an egg with whole-grain toast, but make sure to eat some mix of carbs and protein. Lunch and dinner should stay on as regular schedule as you can keep it. If you end up going more than five or six hours without eating, a small, healthy snack is a good idea to prevent overeating and swings in blood sugar levels.
Prioritize fruits and vegetables
A standard nutritional recommendation is to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, with some sources putting that number at nine. Calculating a serving depends on the food, but a good rule of thumb equates it to a piece of fruit around the same size as your fist, half a cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruits or veggies, half a cup of vegetable juice or a quarter-cup of dried fruit or fruit juice.
Keep them handy in frozen, precut and prewashed form (either bagged or as fresh produce you rinse off at home), and find ways to include them in meat and pasta dishes.
Add variety to your diet
Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein sources is a path toward better health by ensuring you get a well-rounded supply of nutrients.
It’s great to find healthy food that you absolutely love, but don’t let yourself get into a rut with broccoli or blueberries or whatever else you get hooked on, no matter how healthy it is. Aim for having a colorful plate at every meal — it’ll perk up your mood as well as your diet.
Cut back soda and other sweetened drinks
Sugary drinks including colas, fruit juices, sweetened coffee and tea and some energy drinks are all too efficient at delivering excess calories and harmful glucose levels that contribute to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. It’s important to make them an occasional treat.
Keep your focus on staying hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, supplemented by unsweetened coffee or tea. Lemon, cucumber and other healthy fruits can be used to add flavor in many cases.