7 Nutrition Tips for 2017

It's the start of 2017, so 'tis the season for New Year's Resolutions. New Year, New You, right? I don't usually set resolutions myself, but as I'm turning 30 later this month (eek!) and approaching a new decade, I have been reflecting on my dietary habits in my 20s. As I get older, I better understand the importance of treating my body well - playing fast and loose with my dietary habits like I did at times in my 20s won't fly at 30. So as we enter 2017 and I enter a new decade, I'm sharing 7 nutrition tips that I'm personally adopting - try them yourself to feel better & perform better in the coming year.

1) Don't Fear Fat! (the good kind)
In my twenties, I subscribed to the low-fat fad, opting for nonfat lattes and buying 0% fat Greek yogurt. I'd limit fat in my cooking, making for pretty bland and boring dishes (just ask my husband - sorry Avi!). In recent years though, I've discovered that avoiding good fats didn't make a difference in my weight; I also discovered that 2% lattes taste AMAZING, and that Greek yogurt with a little fat keeps me full longer. Fat isn't to be feared, so long as it's not saturated fat. Embrace the good fats that fill you up and you'll enjoy your food more.

Lattes with 2%Β milk, where have you been all my life?!

Lattes with 2% milk, where have you been all my life?!

2) Skip the Sugar & Sugar Substitute
While I don't fear fat anymore, I am much more wary of my sugar intake. As a public health grad student at Brown, I've been learning more about how sugary beverages (hello, soda!) contribute to the global obesity epidemic and the dangers that sugar can pose even to someone like me who is very active. I'm now more conscious of the amount of added sugar in things I eat frequently like yogurt, cereal, or granola bars, and try to avoid it. Similarly, I skip the sugar substitutes - I hate the bad aftertaste that comes with aspartame, not to mention the potential risks associated with consuming this processed sweetener.  This doesn't mean I don't enjoy my dessert - all things in moderation (see the birthday cake pic above!) - I just consciously limit unnecessary added sugar when possible.

Planting my balcony garden - lots of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.

Planting my balcony garden - lots of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.

3) Grow it/Make it yourself!
I used to be all about convenience foods - and don't get me wrong, I still buy plenty of salad mix and loaves of bread at the grocery store when I'm pressed for time. But lately I'm trying to prioritize growing my own vegetables and making my own bread. With produce, I can minimize my pesticide exposure when I'm growing them myself (all organic in my balcony garden!) -- plus it's a fun project! I also recently bought a breadmaker and have been enjoying experimenting with recipes (and ensuring that my carbs are fresh & preservative-free!). My favorite bread recipe is a whole wheat loaf packed with raisins and walnuts - I'll share on the blog soon :)

Champagne with friends in Finland after the conclusion of our Euro track season.

Champagne with friends in Finland after the conclusion of our Euro track season.

4) Limit the Alcohol
As a college student, I was known to have a few drinks, blowing off steam with teammates and friends after a midterm or celebrating a big race. While as a young 20-something I was able to bounce back after a night of drinking with few repercussions, at my age now that just don't fly. Today, I find that a few glasses of wine leaves me with a headache and upset stomach the next day - unfortunate consequences for over-indulging that I rarely experienced in the past. So as I age (as does my liver), I'm limiting my alcohol intake. An adult beverage here and there is fine, even for elite athletes - and I'll still celebrate a good race with some champagne - but gone are my days of hard alcohol or multiple drinks in a night.

5) If you're hungry, eat!
Last spring I met with sports nutritionist Nancy Clark RD to assess my diet and make sure I was fueling well to optimize my running. My big takeaway from my session with Nancy was that if I was hungry, I should eat. I shouldn't limit myself to x number of calories at a meal - rather, I should listen to my body and respect the signals it sends me. If my stomach is growling, my body is telling me to eat more so that I can recover better from my track workout - so I should listen! Similarly, when you're full, stop - even if the food tastes amazing, be sure that you're not over-eating (and over-indulging). But mostly, respect the signals and eat when you're hungry - your body will thank you with better performances! Since taking Nancy's advice I've found myself worrying less about my diet and enjoying food more -- like this meal below, from the cutest little cafe in Notting Hill in London :)

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6) Spice it up
As I mentioned above, my cooking in my 20s was usually pretty bland - I'd cook with low-fat ingredients, substitute oil for applesauce (good in theory but bad in taste!), and when I'd search for recipes online, I'd Google something like "butternut squash lasagna healthy recipe," eschewing any recipes I deemed to be unhealthy. But now, I've spiced up my cooking by experimenting with my spice drawer and being a bit more liberal with my olive oil and cream. By using fresh herbs or playing with spices, you can really jazz up a bland grilled chicken breast; with a bit more fat in a dish (all things in moderation!), the flavors shine and your food is actually enjoyable while still being healthy. I love using fresh sage or rosemary from my garden in meat dishes or adding lemon pepper and olive oil to roasted broccoli or root vegetables.

Post-race at the Olympic Trials, refueling with my favorite flavor of Picky Bars!

Post-race at the Olympic Trials, refueling with my favorite flavor of Picky Bars!

7) Natural is best
When I make Trader Joe's runs, I used to stock up on lots of bottles of salad dressing - I like to keep a very well-stocked pantry, and I always had a multitude of dressings ready to go. But as I've aged, I've become more scrutinizing of nutrition labels, and I don't like that I don't know what more than half of the ingredients on the label are (really, what is xantham gum?). This doesn't just apply to salad dressing - it's also true in the granola bars I eat regularly, the packaged on-the-go snacks I keep on hand for busy days, etc. So now, I'm opting for natural foods over processed ones - using just olive oil and balsamic on salads instead of dressings, eating Picky Bars instead of PowerBars, and choosing less processed products. I feel better when I eat this way (and I think run faster too!).

So there you have it - the nutrition tips I'll be following as I enter my 30s, and some helpful healthy resolutions for 2017. What are your nutrition hacks and goals for the new year? Share in the comments!