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How to eat healthy in 2020

Year 2020 is both a new year and a brand-new decade, with many people striving to make it their time to get healthy. Trending terms “weight loss” and “diet” are the highest key words searched in January, with millions of hits on the internet and social media offering advice for healthy new year resolutions. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the information out there!

As a licensed registered dietitian who has been watching food trends since 2005, I’ve seen many diet crazes come and go. I look at the nutrition science literature from the past, while keeping up to date with the current and constantly evolving world of diet and health. With new diets appearing every January to grant people their weight loss wishes, people may be surprised that I often recommend going back to food basics – rather than jumping onto the latest fad.

What is Back to Food Basics?

Back to Food Basics means ignoring the quick fixes and fads and focusing on what has been scientifically proven to improve our health.

I have been examining evidence for years, and there are facts that have stood the test of time and will remain sound advice going forward. These facts of science have been proven to help prevent chronic disease and help you live well moving into the new decade. So, what are my top health tips?


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Diversify Your Diet

Goji berries. Adaptogens. Fermented Foods. These are some of the popular superfoods that are marketed as foods to burn off your body fat, give you hundreds of vitamins and minerals or make your skin glow. Although some of these foods may have health benefits, there is never one “superfood” that will do it all. Superfoods are really, just foods with great PR. It’s also not uncommon to see new ones pop up in January with claims to help you with your health goals.  

Eating a variety of whole foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein) will help your health in the long term, as it’s the overall eating pattern that counts – not eating individual foods.

Eat Your Veggies

Back in the 1940s the first Canadian food guide was released, emphasizing eating more vegetables for health. Advice on the health benefits of eating vegetables hasn’t changed much since then. In fact, the evidence for eating more vegetables has only increased with health benefits for prevention of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

If you want to be healthy, eating vegetables is non-negotiable. Find a way to prepare them so you like them. January brings colder weather in Ontario, so try them in soup, stir frys or steamed.

Fibre is Your Friend

The 1980s was when major studies where first published citing dietary fibre as prevention of colon cancer. But the evidence for consuming fibre has shown to have other health benefits including helping your gut health and ensuring regularity.

Most people don’t eat enough fibre. Men should consume 38 g of fibre per day, while women should aim for 25 g per day. How can you increase fibre in your diet?

Go for grains, especially whole grains. A grain is a “whole grain” if it contains the three key parts of a seed: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains products such as oats, whole wheat bread and pasta, wheat berries and barley provide both soluble and insoluble fibre in addition to b-vitamins and iron.

Consuming more whole grains by preparing a jar of Overnight Oats for breakfast in the morning would give you about 10 grams of fibre. Choose a sandwich on whole grain bread during lunch to up your fibre intake by about 8 grams.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Processed foods give us a lot of pleasure. And despite what many diets will tell you, processed foods or junk foods do have a place in a healthy diet. The most restrictive diets, that divide foods into “good foods” and “bad foods” often have the highest failure rates because this mentality makes you crave those “bad foods” more, which can lead to binge eating on that food you love.

This is why I say practice the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time you consume healthy whole food, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein; while 20% of the time you enjoy your fun foods. Having a healthy relationship with food is important to health so give yourself permission to enjoy those fun foods without guilt, shame or judgment.

Re-think Your Drink

The current drinking guidelines for alcohol are no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. How much is one drink? One serving of alcohol is 12 ounces (341 mL) of beer, 5 ounces (142 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (43 ml) of spirits. Scientific evidence has shown regular consumption of alcohol can not only lead to dependency but also increase risk of liver failure.

 Therefore, reassess habits from the holidays and work on forming healthier ones. Try going for a mocktail when you’re out with friends and going sober for the month of January.

Back to Basics: It’s the Long Term that Counts!

These are my back to basics tips on how to get healthy this 2020! Consider that most diets are quick fixes that can help you lose weight in the short term but won’t provide any sustainable dietary changes in the long term. When you set a goal to work towards being healthier, start small. Think: What is one small change I can make today?

Are you also looking for healthy recipe inspiration? Don’t forget to check out the Good in Every Grain blog. It has lots of healthy recipes to help you get on track this year!

Remember: When it comes to health and nutrition, it is what you do over the long term that counts. Keep your end goal in mind and stay positive. You will get there!

Michelle Jaelin is TV and digital media Nutrition Expert, licensed registered dietitian, creative food content developer and blogger at NutritionArtist.com. She resides on Hamilton mountain with her spouse and rescue dog. Follow her @nutritionartist on Instagram and Twitter.