Happy January 1, 2015

In case you missed it, it is now 2015. On this first day of the year we all say we’re going to “eat healthy” in the next 365 days. What does that even mean-“eat healthy”? There are plenty of definitions, only some of which are based in reality. If you have done even a little research on nutritious eating you’ve probably seen a lot of diet plans- no fat, no grain, no meat, no gluten, high protein, low carbohydrate, eat a big breakfast and a tiny dinner, eat small meals all day, avoid soy like the plague, eat lots of soy, eat kale at every meal…I could go on and on.

What all these eating plans have in common is that they are all extreme and extreme rules are almost impossible for most of us to live with. Some have no scientific basis or are based on limited research. Some are more about selling books and prepackaged foods than creating a healthy you.Spark People offers these 12 tips for spotting, and avoiding, a fad diet. Many fad diets are concocted by nutrition or medical quacks. Check out this handy guide from Quackwatch.  Any of these characteristics look familiar?

So how does a person “eat healthy”? Does anyone even know? Actually, yes. Mayo Clinic has a great primer on healthy eating. You can always get science based nutritional advice from http://www.choosemyplate.gov Other reliable sources for nutrition information include the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Click around on these sites and you’ll find plenty of tips to gradually make over your meals. Some of the advice that pops up over and over:

  • Make small changes over time: swap five sugary drinks per week with water, increase your vegetable intake by one serving per day, or have one meatless dinner per week. It all adds up over time.
  • Count things. Did you notice all the numbers in that previous bullet point? A number is a goal. You might or might not hit it each and every day, but you’ll know what you’re aiming for.
  • Work in the foods you love. Cook them with less fat, salt, sugar, or whatever else you choose to reduce. Or eat them less often. Or eat smaller portions.

Eating well is important for many reasons. We all know that. If increasing the nutritional value of your diet is part of your plan for 2015 I hope these resources are helpful to you. I wish each and every DIYeter a year of health, discovery, and joy!