This article was updated on January 10, 2022 to reflect recent information and research.
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Find prebiotic and probiotic foods to boost your gut health. They help fight off viruses, reduce inflammation and balance blood sugar.
Stay hydrated with water to feel fuller longer and aid your digestive health. Water can help protect your joints and spinal cord and regulate your body’s temperature.
Avoid processed foods, refined sugar and fad diets. Instead of white bread or regular pasta, switch to whole wheat or multigrain bread and pasta.
If you’re feeling a little bloated and tired after the holidays, now might be a great time to reset your diet. Here are some helpful tips to start the new year off by feeling better, having more energy and balancing your nutrition.
Drink that H2O
Getting enough water every day is one of the most important steps you can take to stay healthy. Water helps:
- Regulate body temperature
- Metabolize carbohydrates and proteins
- Remove body waste
- Cushion joints
- Protect your spinal cord and brain
Plus, it helps you feel full longer, so you’re not reaching for the snack drawer as often.
The amount of water you need to drink depends on your age, sex, your activity level, environment and overall health. The U.S. Department of Interior says an adult man needs about 3.2 quarts (102 oz.) of water and a woman needs about 2.3 quarts (74 oz.) every day. Once you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. The best sign of healthy hydration is the color of your urine. Light yellow or nearly clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark yellow or brownish, it’s time to drink up.
If you’re having trouble staying on top of your hydration, try purchasing a water bottle with measurements on the side, so you can track how much you’re drinking. You can also try downloading a water drinking tracker app on your phone.
Prebiotics: Good for your gut
Prebiotics are non-digestible plant fibers that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. Studies from the National Institutes of Health list some of the many benefits of prebiotics including:
- Balanced blood sugar
- Improved brain function
- Improved immunity
- Less inflammation
- Reduced risk of colorectal cancer
- Reduced risk of heart disease
Studies say that prebiotics can also help you sleep better and improve brain function.
Although prebiotics are available as dietary supplements, eating whole, natural foods with prebiotics are the gut-healthy way to go. Artichokes, apples, beans, asparagus, tomatoes, wheat bran, onions and pears are just some of the diet-friendly foods with prebiotics that can reduce cravings for junk food, too.
If you’re looking for inspiration on where to start with prebiotic-filled, veggie-friendly meals, try these vegetarian dishes that even carnivores will love.
Probiotics: Your microbiome’s friend
Live, healthy bacteria known as probiotics live in your microbiome (the community of microorganisms in your body) and keep your intestinal tissue healthy. They can also help boost your immune system and fight off viruses. Probiotics may contain a variety of microorganisms. The most common are bacteria that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
If you’ve overindulged on sugar, fat and sodium lately, probiotics can help get your body back on track and keep you healthy. Foods that contain live and active cultures can provide the most benefit, including yogurt, kefir and buttermilk. Be sure to add some freshly made fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kombucha to your diet as well.
Sugar: Not sweet on your health
You probably know that the refined sugar in cookies, candy and cupcakes isn’t good for you. But did you know sugar is hiding in your favorite drinks like fruit juice or energy drinks, too? Every four grams of sugar listed on your drink’s nutrition label equal a teaspoon of sugar. Research shows that too many sugary drinks can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
If your sweet tooth is causing trouble and you can’t kick the sugar habit cold turkey, try creating desserts and snacks that feature natural sugars like raw honey or maple syrup. Keep lots of fresh fruit on hand for a sweet, healthy treat. Instead of sugary drinks, add slices of cucumber, lemon, lime or berries to sparkling or ice water.
Spice it up
Did you know that if you order take-out or visit restaurants frequently you can be adding way more salt to your diet than you need? Reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure and your risk for heart disease. It can also decrease that bloated feeling.
Instead of piling on more salt, try swapping it out for herbs or spices like chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, sage, or coriander. Turmeric contains powerful antioxidants to reduce pain and swelling and balance your insulin levels. Cayenne pepper has been shown to help with digestion and may help burn fat. Cinnamon can help lower your blood sugar. Sage can help improve brain function and memory. Try spicing up your meals for a delicious, healthy reset to your diet.
Feel a whole lot better with whole grains
If you’re feeling sluggish, whole grains can help you start to feel better. First, they’re loaded with natural fiber, which can help with digestion and lower blood pressure. They also contain lots of vitamins — including vitamin B, thiamin, magnesium and riboflavin — which can help boost your metabolism and your immune system.
Here are some healthy whole grain swaps you can try:
- Instead of sugar-filled cold cereal, try oatmeal
- Instead of white bread or regular pasta, try whole wheat or multigrain bread and pasta
- Instead of processed white rice, try whole grain brown rice
Learn more here about heart-healthy swaps for processed foods.
Should I start a “detox” diet?
While many people may look to fad diets and “detox” regimens, the truth is these plans don’t work for everyone and may do more harm than good.
Rather than a “detox,” try adding more plant-based foods into your diet. They can help you lose weight, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease inflammation and improve your digestion. Here are some healthy tips to get started:
- Eat five servings of non-starchy vegetables a day
- Add some legumes to your meals—like beans, peas and lentils
- Try whole grains—quinoa, wild rice, oats, barley
- Include 1-2 servings of fruit daily
- Go nuts for nuts—and seeds, too, such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, sunflower, pumpkin and flax
Before making any diet changes, be sure to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They will be able to guide you in the right direction and help you come up with healthy habits that you can stick to long-term.
Find a doctor
If you’re looking for ways to start the New Year right and get your nutrition back on track, talk to your doctor. You can find a primary care doctor or Providence nutritionist using our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services.
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