In my New Year's blog for 2018, I advocated that people pick one healthy resolution and focus on it. Whether it was a singular exercise, a diet hack or a lifestyle change (like consuming less alcoholic beverages or smoking fewer cigarettes), finding one small, achievable objective and focusing on it could lead to improving health and the courage and confidence to take on more good habits.
By making just one resolution to adopt one simple change to your diet, you can vote with your wallet to force our food industry to produce healthier options, while also making a far-reaching improvement to your health.
With the new year, make a healthy fresh start! Here are some suggestions from which to choose your one resolution:
- No more salty snacks.
You can beat your hunger cravings by eating 5-6 smaller meals per day (instead of "3 squares"). When you replace chips and other processed salty snacks with healthier choices like nuts, salads, fruits or raw veggies with avocado dip, you are cutting out bad carbs and LDL cholesterol while adding good carbs and HDL cholesterol to your diet.
In addition to the carb reversal, you are cutting out all that salt which leads to high blood pressure and heart disease while adding more potassium (from the fruits and vegetables) that lowers blood pressure as well as the risks for heart disease and cancer.[i]
- Speaking of salt... eat less bread, cheese, and processed meat!
All of these processed foods are high in sodium and low in potassium. The average American is consuming too much sodium and not enough potassium, and people with the highest ratios of sodium to potassium in their diets have double the risk of dying from a heart attack, as well as a 50% higher risk of death from any cause.[ii]
- Say no to added sugars.
Cutting out sodas, sweets, and other processed foods that have added sugars will have a profound impact on your overall health. For those of you who have not read my blog series on waging war against added sugars, I will tell you that the prevalence of added sugars in our American diet is the main culprit behind our national obesity and diabetes pandemics.
Added sugars also appear in fruit juices and other "health halo" products that are marketed as "good for you," so be sure to read the labels. Look to satisfy your sweet cravings with fresh fruits. Can you remember the last time you ate an orange?
- Eat more whole foods.
Whole foods are defined as plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined or processed and refined as little as possible. Key examples include whole grains, root and tuber crops, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. The health benefits are numerous, but perhaps most importantly, you do not have to worry about added sugars, sodium, and other unhealthy additives, and you are guaranteed to have a higher potassium intake.
- Eat more good fats.
Yes, fats can be a great thing for your diet if they are the right fats. These are the monounsaturated fats, and they raise HDL or "good" cholesterol levels. They lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers, improve bone and joint health, and boost eye and brain fitness. There are several other benefits, and the options are flavorful and satisfy appetite cravings. These include tasty nuts (like pine nuts and pistachios), seeds, avocados, olive oil, peanut oil, and other cooking oils, and fish.
Any one of these diet resolutions is attainable and can lead to improved outcomes quicker than you can imagine. Making one of these resolutions a habit will give you the courage to take on more healthy diet choices.