Winter poses challenges, so plan ahead and pick healthy alternatives

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions across the board is the resolution to lose weight and start down the path to a more healthy lifestyle overall. One of the biggest ways that people try to make that goal a reality is changing their diet to include healthier foods, which can sometimes be a challenge if they don’t know where to start.

“I tell people to focus on the structural elements of a diet as opposed to ‘I should eat this and not that,’” said Katlyn Frye, a clinical dietician with Valley Health.  “If you’re going to build a house, you need a good foundation.”

Frye’s metaphor of a “good foundation” starts with variety in the diet, making sure that your diet consists of fruits, vegetables, dairy (or dairy alternatives), heart-healthy fats and lean meats.

“If you’ve ever heard of ‘eat the rainbow,’ I know it sounds silly, but it’s true,” Frye said. “Each of the colors in your diet can provide different health benefits.”

While it’s important to have a large amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet, it’s not always the most budget-friendly option when looking for produce at the grocery store. Frye suggests that there are ways to attempt to stay more on budget while trying to shop healthy.

“One of the ways to stay within your budget would be to shop in-season and find produce that is in-season,” Frye explained. “Winter is hard, but I’d recommend someone to maybe go to the frozen section to find their produce during the winter. Colder months just require a little more planning and backup options.”

Frye said that she is “a huge proponent for frozen or canned vegetables if you can’t get fresh.”  Frozen and canned vegetables are available year-round and can supplement a winter diet while fresh produce might not be readily available.

“Depending on where you live, bulk stores like BJ’s or Costco are good,” Frye said. “If you buy in bulk, you can just store and save for the future.”

Some of the biggest things to watch out for, according to Frye, are trans fats and saturated fats.  There are heart-healthy fats, such as oils that come from a plant-based source, that are good to have in your diet, but when it comes to saturated and trans fats, Frye explained that they can be responsible for increased cholesterol levels.

“Saturated fat in your diet will primarily come from full-fat butter, full-fat dairy items and meat with a higher fat percentage,” Frye said. “As far as meat goes, finding leaner cuts is always better as opposed to fattier options.”

The good news is that most of the main sources of saturated fat can be replaced with healthier alternatives (for example, instead of full-fat whole milk, opt for skim).

One of the simplest things to remember when considering a diet is that plant-based is always going to be healthier.

“Having a plant-based diet, or diets that are heart-healthy have substantial potential to reduce chronic disease,” Frye said, alluding to the fact that a healthy diet can do more than simply help someone lose weight in the new year. “The best diets are not overly restrictive, but simply attempt to cut out excess sugar, sodium and end up improving the longevity of life.”

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