January marks the time of new beginnings, fresh starts, and resolutions for good health—many of which involve dieting. Whether you gained a few extra pounds over the holidays, or want to eat a better diet for optimal health and well being, it’s tempting to give way to the allure of fad diets. And there are so many “diets” waiting for you to try! A simple Google search of “diet” yields 551,000,000 results!
As a registered dietitian and journalist, I monitor the research on diet for a healthy weight daily. And over the years one thing is crystal clear: there is no magic bullet for weight loss. It is simply math. You must take in less energy (calories) than your body requires for energy to create a deficit. That can be accomplished by taking in less energy in the food you eat, and bumping up the energy you burn with exercise. This creates a deficit, which means your body has to go into its reserves (fat stores) to provide energy. This is a formula that has worked well for humans since the beginning of time.
Research also points out another fact about weight loss: the diet that works the best is one that you can actually stay on! Whether it’s low-fat, low-carb, high-carb, high-protein, what matters most is creating that energy deficit over the long term. Which brings me to this important fact: an effective weight management diet is sustainable. It shouldn’t be so awful and miserable that you can’t wait to go “off” it. You shouldn’t feel deprived, starved, or miserable. Because that means this style of eating won’t last, and the weight lost will come back on once you return to your old eating pattern.
And, there is much more to diet than weight loss—a diet should sustain good health. Your fork is so powerful; it can reduce your risk of chronic diseases significantly. In fact, diet is more powerful than any drug on the market. You should never forfeit the health of your body for the number on the scale. And the most healthful diet (one that is also great for a healthy weight) on the planet is one that focuses on plenty of whole, minimally processed plant foods: pulses, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. So, with that in mind, check out my top tips for healthy New Year’s diet resolutions:
- Eat more vegetables. I know this sounds like what your grandmother (and your mom!) told you, but it’s true. It’s the single most powerful thing you can do in your diet. I suggest aiming for 6 servings (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw) per day scattered throughout your meals. Only 9% of Americans reach their vegetable goal, so you can see most of us have a ways to go. Check out my tips for eating more veggies.
- Eat fruit for dessert. Skimming sugar is on everyone’s radar these days, and rightly so! Americans have been consuming way too much of the sugary stuff, resulting in increased risks of cardiac and metabolic diseases. Instead of a cookie or brownie, have a piece of antioxidant-rich fruit for a goal of 3 servings per day. Check out my tips on swapping fruit for sugar here.
- Swap refined grains for whole grains. More and more research is validating that it’s the type of grains we consume that is the problem. Instead of choosing refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, choose those that are whole. And if you can’t tolerate wheat or gluten found in wheat and related grains, skip the highly processed products and select those that have whole grains, such as BFree products.
- Make plant proteins the star of the plate. Skip the fatty meats on your plate, and let pulses (beans, lentils, peas), soy foods (tofu, tempeh), and nuts or seeds (chia, hemp, almonds, pistachios) be the star more often. Studies show you can make a huge impact on your health by making that swap. These tips will get you started.
- Eat nutrient-rich. Kick out as many low-nutrient foods—foods that have very few nutrients per calorie—in your diet as possible. These include sodas, sweetened teas or sports drinks, desserts, white bagels, pretzels, and candy. Instead, power up on foods that are very dense in nutrients for their calorie load, such as whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Let this be your overall guide to good health.
Here’s a great vegan, gluten-free recipe from my book Plant-Powered for Life that exemplifies this concept beautifully. Happy New Year!
Yields 6 servings
Now this is what I call healthy, delicious eating on the run! Filled with a colorful, flavorful tofu, papaya, and coconut filling, this wrap is a delicious treat as an appetizer or for lunch. Stock up on powerful nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, fiber, and protein in this meal-in-one.
18 minPrep Time
48 minTotal Time
- ½ cup (119 g) canned light coconut milk (well mixed before measured)
- 1½ teaspoons Thai red curry paste
- ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon reduced sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (see Notes)
- One 12-ounce (340 g) package extra firm tofu, drained and cubed (pressed, for best results—see page 000)
- 1 medium papaya, peeled and diced
- ½ cup (48 g) chopped green onions, white and green parts
- ¼ cup (15 g) chopped fresh cilantro
- Pinch of sea salt, optional
- Six 9-inch (23 cm) whole grain tortillas or wraps (try using BFree wraps for a gluten-free, vegan option)
- 3 cups (102 g) fresh watercress, or baby salad greens, if unavailable
- Mix together the coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, garlic, turmeric, soy sauce, and cayenne in a mixing bowl until smooth.
- Fold in the tofu, papaya, green onions, and cilantro. Taste and season with sea salt, if desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or overnight, if desired).
- Place one tortilla on a cutting board. Spread ½ cup of the tofu mixture down the center of the tortilla in a row. Top with ½ cup of the watercress.
- Fold the right side of the tortilla over the center and start to wrap tightly, pressing in as you wrap. Place the wrap on a serving dish seam side down.
- Serve as a whole wrap for an individual meal (cut in half for easier eating), or slice into thin pinwheels for an appetizer.
*Adjust the spiciness of the wraps by increasing the cayenne pepper. *Store the curried tofu wraps in plastic wrap or in an airtight container as a perfect lunch to go. *If you won’t be consuming all of the wraps at one time, reserve the filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator and prepare the wraps no more than four hours before serving time to prevent the greens from wilting and the wrap from getting soggy.
*Variation: If papaya is not available, substitute 1 large mango or 2 large peaches.
*Per Serving: 213 calories, 10 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 5 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 256 mg sodium *Star Nutrients: folate (10% DV), vitamin C (80% DV), vitamin A (30% DV), calcium (19% DV), iron (14% DV), magnesium (10% DV), niacin (11% DV), phosphorus (21% DV), thiamin (17% DV), zinc (10% DV)
Note: Image, Pike’s Place Market, Seattle, Sharon Palmer, RDN. Thank you to BFree Foods for sponsoring this blog post!
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