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How to Nourish Your Body and Mind in the New Year

Our Health & Wellness expert shares some advice on nourishing not punishing your body and mind in the New Year.

Certified Health & Wellness expert Marianna Cuomo Maier.

Certified Health & Wellness expert Marianna Cuomo Maier.

Do you remember the tale of the Very Hungry Caterpillar? In summary, the caterpillar eats everything in sight for six days, leading to a stomachache. On the seventh day, the caterpillar eats a “nice leaf” and feels better. I feel a little like that caterpillar.

You might feel like me, eager to embrace healthier eating and lifestyle habits, especially after the festive (and indulgent) holiday season. However, instead of letting guilt drive you towards a restrictive diet, I propose a holistic approach, viewing food as a tool to support the best version of yourself. To accomplish this, here are some ideas to keep in mind:

The Gut-Brain Connection is Real

Research (Mayer et al., 2015) shows that the connection between our gut and brain significantly impacts both physical and mental well-being. This intricate system of neurotransmitters influences behaviors, emotions, and cognitive processes. Processed and sugary foods are associated with mental challenges like depression and anxiety, while meals rich in protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains correlate with improved mood, sustained energy, and overall well-being. 

Timing Matters

In simple terms, let's talk about glucose metabolism and its impact on energy levels. After you eat, glucose enters your bloodstream, insulin is released, and signals are exchanged between the brain and gut, determining whether a meal energizes or leaves you feeling drained. Fluctuating glucose levels contribute to cravings, fatigue, irritability, inflammation, and an increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

In this way, what you eat, and how you eat it, profoundly impacts your health and well-being. For more information on maintaining optimal blood sugar levels, check out the blog post.

Balance is Key

A balanced diet incorporating all macronutrients (fiber, complex carbs, and protein) positively influences various aspects of well-being. The quality of our meals improves with the way we integrate each element.

Especially while eating carbs, add nutrients like fiber, fat, or protein. For example, pair toast with almond butter, avocado, or turkey. When treating yourself to ice cream, accompany it with nuts and enjoy it as dessert after a well-rounded meal to mitigate glucose spikes.

Don’t Forget Your Snacks

Sustain your energy and fortify the mind-body connection with snacks featuring fiber, protein, fat, and whole grains. For instance, consider a handful of almonds with an apple, a turkey and cheese roll-up, or Greek yogurt with berries. Optimally, pay attention to hunger cues and engage in mindful snacking.

Make Mealtime Intentional

Research (Fiese et al., 2016) stresses the importance of intention and socialization during meals, especially in the profound impact of family meals on children's psychological and physiological outcomes. The study shows lower levels of depression, positive family interactions, and improved food choices are all linked to sharing a meal as a family. 

While we might not all live with our family, this celebrates the idea of slowing down during meals to cultivate mindfulness and socialize. Create an environment conducive to healthful digestion and satisfaction whether you are alone or with loved ones.

Let it be Simple

Rather than jump from diet to diet and get overwhelmed with conflicting advice, get back to basics. Scientific evidence supports the Mediterranean way of eating (Esposito et al., 2010), emphasizing plant-based whole foods and healthy fats, proven to lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Embrace a balanced approach, focusing on nutrient-dense foods, steering clear of restrictive diets, and minimizing ultra-processed or sugary foods.

Celebrate Rather than Demonize

Let go of the notion of deprivation, leading to a scarcity mentality. Research has shown that action-oriented behaviors are more successful than deprivation-oriented ones. Removing labels of "good" and "bad" from foods empowers you to listen to your body's true needs. This mindset shift promotes mindful enjoyment of a balanced variety of foods, fostering both physical and mental well-being.

In this new season, incorporate these evidence-backed tips into your daily routine, turning your goals into a reality. Even the small changes you make today have the power to make a big impact on your health and happiness. Cheers to a bright and balanced year ahead!

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