As we turn the page on another year, many of us fiercely commit to prioritizing our health in a new way. To be honest, it’s easy to stay motivated for a couple of weeks before returning to old habits — especially when it comes to diet.
But this year, you’re going all-in on establishing a balanced diet plan that not only supports fitness goals but also nurtures your overall well-being. Does this mean you have to say no to every holiday treat? Nope. Here’s how you can make it happen.
Assessing Personal Health Goals
The first step toward building a balanced diet plan is to evaluate your health goals. This includes identifying your health and fitness objectives and considering how your diet can be designed to support them.
It’s important to account for factors like weight management goals, energy and activity levels, and baseline health. From here, you can tailor your diet to meet specific needs. Remember, your overall diet pattern isn’t going to be ruined by an occasional holiday treat. Allow yourself the freedom to take joy in the foods of the season without guilt.
One of the most important pillars of building a balanced diet plan is to understand the basics of nutrition. The three macronutrients in foods are:1
- Carbohydrates: This is your body’s preferred source of fuel, found in foods like grains, legumes, fruits, and starchy vegetables.2
- Protein: This is needed for muscle building and various biochemical processes. Find protein in foods like eggs, poultry, tofu, legumes, and nuts.
- Fats: Not all fats are equal. Emphasize unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado, and plant oils. Keep saturated fats to a minimum, found in animal-derived products and ultra-processed foods.
Create a balanced plate by understanding which foods provide which macronutrients and incorporating sources of all three. You might even incorporate holiday treats into your meal and allow balance to happen at the same time. For instance, a snack plate with a brownie along with apple slices, almonds, and string cheese.
Prioritizing Micronutrients and Nutrient-Density
To get the most nutritional bang for your buck, seek an array of colors in your diet. Fruits and veggies, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, provide exceptional nutrient density. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. While holiday sweets may not have much to offer in this department, they can still be incorporated without making up the entire plate.
The Role of Hydration
Your body is made up of at least three-quarters water.3 Your fluid levels change throughout the day as a result of processes like urination and sweating and need to be replenished. To stay hydrated:
- Fill a reusable water bottle and keep it with you
- Choose plain water, add lemon wedges, or try seltzer water for a change
- Include hydrating fruits and veggies
- Have water alongside treats, which can help fill your stomach, curb appetite, and prevent overindulgence
Meal Planning and Preparation
We’ve all been there — wandering around the kitchen, mindlessly snacking on an open bag of chips (or some leftover holiday pie) while pondering what’s for dinner. One of the best ways to counteract this is meal planning.
Meal planning can be a highly beneficial habit in building a balanced diet plan. Begin by looking at your week ahead and figuring out how many meals you need (taking into account things like eating out, being out of town, etc.). Then, come up with meal ideas (and recipes) to plug into your week.
Take inventory of your kitchen, make a list, and go shopping. Consider ways you can batch prep.4 For instance, if you need rice for two meals that week, prepare it all now and store half in a separate container for later use. Any meal prep you can do beforehand can help, like chopping veggies, making sauces, or washing salad greens.
Seeking Professional Guidance
If you need help creating a balanced diet pattern for the new year, consider working with a dietitian. They can assist you in designing a personalized plan that aligns with your goals and preferences, especially while you’re navigating the healthy inclusion of sweets you enjoy.
Here’s to a Healthier You
Whatever your goals for a balanced diet look like, consistency and flexibility are key for long-term success. Understanding your needs and preferences, implementing habits like meal planning and prep, and allowing for indulgences alongside healthier choices are all part of it. This new year, embark on the wellness journey that best suits you and be empowered to see where it takes you.
- Espinosa-Salas S, Gonzalez-Arias M. Nutrition: Macronutrient Intake, Imbalances, and Interventions. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK594226/
- Slavin J, Carlson J. Carbohydrates. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(6):760-761. Published 2014 Nov 14. doi:10.3945/an.114.006163
- Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
- Klein L, Parks K. Home Meal Preparation: A Powerful Medical Intervention. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2020;14(3):282-285. Published 2020 Mar 1. doi:10.1177/1559827620907344