We're about halfway through January. How's your healthy eating resolution holding up? We spoke with sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, who's worked with the New York Knicks, Olympians and dancers at the School of American Ballet, among others, to snag 13 easy upgrades to make our diets more well-rounded all year long.
- Be flexible. "It's easy to add nutrition to a meal with frozen vegetables, which are a great stand-in for fresh when certain items aren't in season," Skolnik says.
- Go with the trends. Ginger is the flavor of the moment, she says, and grating some of the root into your dish can add a lot of flavor for minimal calories. Try it (and some frozen veggies!) in our Sesame-Tofu Stir-Fry.
- But stick with what's tried and true. “Greens have been, and always will be, a healthy choice. Kale, of course, is one of my favorites right now!" Skolnik says.
- Warm up to comfort food. Cold-weather meals don't have to weigh you down. Instead of filling up on gooey casseroles (think macaroni and cheese), "try soups and stews," she explains. "They can be satisfying and nutritious if you fill them with the right ingredients."
- Time it right. What you eat and when you eat are both important. "It's really bad for body composition, cholesterol and blood sugar to skip breakfast," Skolnik says.
- Snack before you sweat. If you're working out right after you roll out of bed and don't want a full meal yet, grab as little as a 60- to 100-calorie snack to give you energy (15-25 grams of carbohydrate). A serving of whole-wheat pretzels will do the trick.
- Better your breakfast. Since skipping is not allowed, you might as well get the most out of the first meal of the day! Skolnik's top picks: eggs, whole grain toast and 100% Florida Orange juice; or use the OJ to make a delicious breakfast smoothie and pair with a Greek yogurt sprinkled with some nuts. A peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk also works! Click for one of Skolnik's favorite smoothies.
- Find balance."If you use starch as your entree, serve protein elsewhere in your meal," Skolnik suggests. For example, if pasta is your main, start with chicken satay or shrimp cocktail. If you begin your meal starch heavy (garlic bread, anyone?) stick with protein and vegetables for your entrée (sea bass with a mango salsa and sautéed spinach). Try pairing a baked sweet potato with grilled lean beef or whole-wheat pasta with grilled chicken.
- Plot out those proteins. Recent research indicates that your body can only absorb 30 grams of this macronutrient at once, aim to include some source of protein at each meal. Beans, lean meats, eggs, dairy, fish and poultry are all good options.
- Don't always follow the leader. Evening snacks aren't necessarily a no-no. "Categorically, after-dinner snacks tend to be desserts, like ice cream, or refined grains, like chips or crackers. These bites can add up fast and don't offer much nutrition. But planned snacks from real food sources, such as fruits and vegetables paired with a healthy dip like a yogurt-based or bean-based dip (like hummus) are perfectly acceptable, especially if you typically have an early dinner," Skolnik says.
- Think outside the glass. Orange juice is good for more than sipping with your cereal. "I use it often to add flavor to simmering beans or to give quinoa a citrus boost," Skolnik says. She also recommends roasting sweet potatoes, turnips and beets with a 100 percent orange juice glaze. Bonus: The vitamin C in the juice helps your body absorb the iron in vegetable sources.
- No foods are off-limits. Even nutrition experts think chocolate (pick your pleasure) can have a healthy place in your diet! Skolnik's partial to the occasional M&M treat.
- Get fat! Healthy fat, that is, in your diet daily. Choose a handful of nuts for a snack, add sliced avocado to your sandwich or on your salad, choose an olive oil based dressing.
Now tell us: Did you make a nutrition resolution for 2013? If so, tell us about how it's going!