Year end lists are fun, if not always informative. Most of the Food Trends lists are thinly disguised marketing ploys. I found one at Better Homes & Gardens that predicted a “tinned fish revolution” (sell more canned tuna), increased use of gluten-free pastas (sell more chickpea spaghetti), dates as the new sweetener (I guess the date industry needs a boost), and a trend for vintage recipes that strangely includes prebiotic soda? Just like Mom used to make back in 1950?
My list of food goals for 2023 is about supporting healthy aging, which is always the overarching goal. Simple steps you can take, or continue to follow, to maintain health and vitality.
1. Eat lots of Vegetables
It’s probably possible to eat too many vegetables, to the exclusion of other important foods, such as proteins. But most people don’t even eat the bare minimum of servings every day. Make of meal of a big tossed salad, or fill your plate with a mound of sauteed vegetables to accompany your modest piece of chicken, add more vegetables to soups or casseroles, pile chopped veggies onto sandwiches, pizza or wraps, munch on raw vegetables for snacks, add them to smoothies. There are plenty of ways to add vegetables to your day.
2. Waste Less Food
This is my top goal for 2023 because I just hate waste. I realize this goal isn’t about making yourself physically healthier, but it can make your wallet healthier. If you waste less food, you’re wasting less money. There are so many ways to tackle this problem:
- Don’t buy more food at the grocery store than you can use up in a reasonable timeframe.
- Don’t serve up excessively large portions
- Save and use leftovers
- If you buy take-out food, don’t buy more than you can eat up, no matter how tempting the coupons and sales might seem.
- Speaking of sales and coupons, avoid buying enormous packages of foods just to save a little money per pound. A giant bottle of salad dressing that sits around for 2 years and is then discarded isn’t saving you money. If you throw much of that cheap food away, you haven’t saved anything.
- Don’t buy discounted perishables just because they’re cheap. If no one eats them, then you’ve wasted all of the money you spent.
- Don’t squirrel perishable foods away, out of sight, only to find them 2 weeks later, spoiled and inedible.
3. Include high protein foods at every meal
This is a tough one. It’s a goal I struggle with. Age leads to muscle loss. The best way to combat that process is regular exercise + consistent protein intake. It’s easy to eat lots of protein at the evening meal, harder to do so in the morning. Make protein foods a priority for the first meal of the day: milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs (oh dear, the prices these days!!), meat, beans, nuts/nut butters.
4. Ditch the artificial sweeteners
I am not a fan of artificial sweeteners, not at all. There’s growing suspicion that they impact gut microbe populations, interfere with glucose metabolism and drive hunger. Certainly they’ve done nothing to reduce the obesity epidemic. Recently I read a study that linked daily use of artificial sweeteners to increased urinary incontinence, which is certainly an issue for many older adults. Just sayin’.
5. Control added sugar intake
I’m not saying never eat anything sweet. You can do that if you want, but the occasional ice cream cone or cookie or piece of birthday cake isn’t going to make or break your health. It’s the daily reliance on those foods that’s the problem. Our super-sized food culture doesn’t help. Cookies at the coffee shop are 6 inches in diameter. Single-serve pieces of cake weigh 1/2 lb. Sugar-sweetened flavored lattes are 16 oz, or more, covered in whipped topping. Restaurant desserts are big enough for at least 4 people. Which brings up a question: why are restaurants eager to push giant desserts, but are stingey about vegetable portions?
One More Thing
Weight loss diets. Everyone will be talking about weight loss diets for the next few weeks. As if the number on the scale is more important than actual health. Predictably most people who attempt to lose weight will fail and give up.
You may want to lose weight. This puts you in the Control/Deprive mindset about food. It’s all negative. My advice is to forget that and just focus on vegetables, high protein foods, less sugary-sweet flavors and daily physical activity.