Simple Tips for a Healthier New Year

By Brenda Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


Try one or all of these easy tips in the coming year – every small change is a step in the right direction.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy foods. They have the same essential nutrients as whole milk with less fat and calories. Drink a cup of low-fat milk with meals and be aware that cream cheese and butter are not part of the dairy food group.

Enjoy your food but eat less. Use 9-inch diameter plates at home to control portion sizes or share an entree when dining out. Take your time at meals, paying attention to textures, flavors and your feelings of fullness.

Idaho food pic
Photo: Idaho Extension

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. They are low in fat and calories and full of healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season for best quality or keep dried, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables on hand so that you always have plenty no matter the season. Have fruit for dessert and raw vegetables for snacks.

Cut back on foods high in solid fats and added sugars, like cake, cookies, ice cream and candy. These foods should be occasional treats savored in smaller portion sizes.

Take in more whole grains. As part of a healthy diet, whole grains can help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. Exchange refined grain products for whole grain products like brown rice or whole grain pasta. When baking, substitute whole grain flour for up to half of the flour called for in your recipes. Check ingredient lists for the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain ingredient name.

Select lower sodium foods. Sodium raises blood pressure and 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed foods (canned, packaged, frozen foods, etc.). Compare nutrition facts labels and choose products that are lower in sodium or cook fresh foods at home and opt for a no-salt seasoning mix for more flavor.

Swap your soda for a healthier beverage. Soda and other sweet drinks contain a lot of sugar that add to calorie intake. Drink water or low-fat milk instead or cut down by selecting smaller cans or cup sizes rather than super-sized options.

When it comes to protein foods, purchase leaner cuts of meat, remove skin from poultry, adjust to smaller portions and remember that beans, peas, nuts and seeds are also protein foods. Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week and grill or bake meats for less fat.

Keep in mind that your children learn from you, so become a good role model. Set the example for your children by serving a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods every day. Encourage children to try new foods and to create fun snacks for the whole family. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, get physically active by joining in when your children are playing.

Source: 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series at