12 healthy habits for the New Year

Health and Fitness
If you’re stumped for some resolutions, here are 12 habits to bring into the New Year that will help your heart health and overall wellbeing.

1. Build your meals out of vegetables first

Vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. If you make them the primary component of your meals, you maximise your nutrient intake and decrease your energy intake. For managing your weight long term, this is one of the most important things you can do.

For more on how vegetables promote health in your body and how much you should be eating every day, check out The king of nutrition advice.

2. Become a salad aficionado

Salads are one of the best ways to help you meet your daily vegetable intake and can be easily incorporated into plenty of different meals. Follow these simple steps for building a great salad:

  • Pick a leafy base: lettuce, spinach, rocket or cabbage
  • Pick some colour: yellow capsicum, orange carrot, purple onion, red tomato, green cucumber
  • Add some flavour (optional): parsley, coriander, basil
  • Add some healthy fats (optional): avocado, nuts, seeds.
 

For more ideas on how to easily include vegetables into your day, check out 8 simple, practical ways to eat more veggies.

3. Find the right amount of carbohydrate for you

One trending diet has been the keto diet, an eating pattern so low in carbohydrate it forces your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. This diet is very difficult to stick to and has left many people confused about eating carbohydrates.

The truth is that weight loss, a healthy body and good nutrition can and should include carbohydrates. And the best way for you is the one that suits your lifestyle long term.

If you’re not sure what’s right for you, check out To carb or not to carb.

4. Include whole food sources of carbohydrate in your diet

The best carbohydrates are the ones that come from minimally processed foods. This way, not only are you getting carbohydrates, you’re getting fibre, vitamins and minerals as well.

Here are 5 healthy carbohydrate-rich foods and how to include them in your diet.

5. Strive for diet quality, not restriction

There are many ‘diets’ out there that tout restrictive food rules, many of them unnecessary. Often the best way to make sustainable, long-term changes to your diet is to focus on including more healthy foods, rather than focusing on cutting out foods. By focusing on including greater amounts of nutritious food, you increase your overall diet quality.

When it comes to including more healthy foods, a good place to start is with protein. To help increase your intake of quality sources, check out Protein: the building blocks of the body.

6. Learn how to manage your appetite

Sometimes, a really challenging part of eating well is constantly feeling hungry or getting to certain points in your day when you’re so hungry you’ll eat just about anything!

There are many factors that influence your appetite – ensuring you have a good source of protein at your main meals is one of them.

Here are 5 protein-packed meals and snacks to help get you through the day.

7. Love your fat-rich whole foods

Similar to carbohydrates, the messages around eating fats have been contradictory over the years, meaning many people are confused about what they should and shouldn’t be eating. As you’ve probably guessed, the best food choices are the minimally processed ones, and this goes for fats too. Options you can regularly enjoy include avocados, nuts and seeds.

For more on the latest evidence on fats, check out Fat: The good, the bad and the tasty.

8. Build your skill in the kitchen

Good nutrition is as much about knowing how to cook and prepare food as it is about knowing what healthy food is. Many people may know how to be a healthy eater, but are unsure about how to put this into action.

When it comes to making food taste good, using healthy fats and feeling confident with how to use them in your cooking is a good first step. Here are 5 high fat foods that you can eat more of, plus lots of tips on what to do with them!

9. Value prevention over cure

For long-term health, it pays to focus on prevention rather than treating ill health when it occurs. This is especially true when it comes to diabetes – which, if caught early enough, could be reversed in some cases. An important part of effectively avoiding diabetes is understanding the risk factors that drive its development and then changing your eating habits accordingly.

Find out more about Managing risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

10. Keep an eye on your biochemistry

Blood cholesterol levels are one particular part of your biochemistry to keep an eye on, as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease. For long-term health, it pays to keep an eye on them and take steps to keep them in the healthy range.

Blood cholesterol is affected by the kinds of fats you eat. But that’s not all – check out what else plays an important part in keeping your cholesterol levels healthy and 4 ways diet can help lower cholesterol.

11. Keep an eye on salt

A high salt intake is associated with increased blood pressure, so it’s worth making some changes to your diet if your salt intake is high. When watching your salt intake, focus your attention on your intake of processed foods rather than the salt you add when cooking or eating (unless it’s a lot!). Processed foods contain ‘hidden’ salt, meaning that a food may not taste very salty, yet it contains a decent amount, eg, bread.

Find out how you can moderate your salt intake as well as other Food tips to help lower blood pressure.

12. Develop a holistic view of health

We can’t blame poor health on just one or two dietary factors. Nor can we blame food alone. Health is the accumulation of many lifestyle factors, including movement, our diet, our stress levels and our sleep.

It pays to take the same approach to heart health. All the dietary strategies above will promote long-term heart health, but don’t forget to take care of yourself in other ways too.

  • Take time to relax and reduce your stress levels.
  • Ensure you’re getting plenty of sleep.
  • Keep your body moving, as often as possible.
  • Don’t forget to have fun – laughter can do good!
Kate Freeman
Kate Freeman is HRI's resident nutritionist. She is a registered nutritionist from Canberra, Australia and the creator and managing director of the largest private nutrition practice in Canberra, The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate consults, writes, presents and mentors in the field of nutrition and has over 10 years of experience in the industry.
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