Table of Contents
Starting the new year, you may be thinking about changing your eating habits to lose weight, feel more energetic, lower your blood-pressure levels or achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Plenty of people vow to keep diet-themed resolutions this time of year, but it can be tough to stick to. You may be more likely to reach your goal if you incorporate lifestyle changes that you can sustain for the long term, rather than adopting a hard-to-follow diet for a few weeks or months.
“Instead of finding a restrictive diet to latch onto for a brief period, rethink your relationship with food and make small changes that you can follow for life. Diets are temporary, but a lifestyle change is long term,” says Katlyn Cusack MS, RDN, LDN, registered dietitian at Hackensack Meridian Health.
“Eat smaller portions, and only eat when you’re hungry. Consume more fruits and vegetables, and choose whole foods over highly processed foods,” adds Katlyn. “Find nutrient-dense foods that you enjoy and add them to the menu more often, crowding out less healthy options, but don’t put any foods that you enjoy on a ‘restricted’ list. These tactics should help you maintain a healthy weight indefinitely.”
Anyone may benefit from a more nutritious diet. You may want to consider eating more healthily if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Have pre-diabetes or diabetes
- Or just want to be a healthier version of yourself – lifestyle changes are for everyone
If you’re hoping to follow a diet in 2022, consider one of these choices. They’re among the healthiest available, and they’re simple (and flexible) enough to personalize to your lifestyle and stick with forever:
This eating style is modeled after the traditional eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and it’s recommended by the American Heart Association.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans make up a substantial portion of the diet. This diet also includes fish, nuts, low-fat dairy products and some chicken, preparing food with olive oil. Olive oil is the primary source of added fat in the Mediterranean diet. It provides monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (or the “bad”) cholesterol levels. Nuts and seeds also contain monounsaturated fat.
Red meat is eaten infrequently, along with sugar, white flour, salt and highly processed foods, including processed meats. Dairy and poultry are included in moderation. It’s simple to adapt this diet to suit your lifestyle, because there are no strict rules, just a palate of healthy foods.
Ideal for people who are trying to: Lose weight, consume fewer animal products, lower blood-pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes
Flexitarian or plant-based diet
People who have toyed with the idea of becoming vegetarian but who want to enjoy an occasional steak or burger may be intrigued by the healthy flexitarian – which means “flexible vegetarian” – eating style. This is a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your diet as well as branch out with different varieties of foods.
This lifestyle focuses on eating whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein-rich foods like nuts, seeds, beans and tofu. You can go meat-free for the bulk of your meals but can eat some meat, poultry or fish without “cheating.” Sugar, white flour and other highly processed foods are eaten sparingly. As you adapt to the flexitarian eating style, you’ll gradually reduce the number of meat-containing meals that you eat in a week, until the majority of your meals are meat-free.
Ideal for people who are trying to: Lose weight, consume fewer animal products, lower blood-pressure levels, reduce the risk of diabetes
Doctors may recommend the DASH (“dietary approaches to stop hypertension”) eating style to people with high blood pressure. This AHA-recommended diet is low in sodium and saturated fat, and it’s high in potassium, calcium and magnesium, which help to reduce blood-pressure levels.
This diet includes whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. You can consume small servings of low-fat dairy products, fish and poultry. Red meat or sugar are rarely consumed, and avoid highly processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium. You may tailor this diet to honor your culinary preferences while using herbs and spices, not salt, to flavor your meals.
Ideal for people who are trying to: Lose weight, consume less salt, lower blood-pressure levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, colorectal cancer
Next Steps & Resources:
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.