January 1, you set your New Year’s resolution. And you did great … for a while. But now it’s halfway through February and you’re finding yourself slipping into old habits. Fortunately, there are a lot of foods that are easy to find in your local grocery store to help you get back on track. I sat down with Allison Krupp, Vice President of Marketing for Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market, a grocery store chain with locations across the Midwest including one at 2500 N. Elston in Chicago. She shared some of her favorite foods for some common goals.
Goal one: Eat healthier
Eating healthier is always one of the most popular of New Year’s resolutions. A great way to hit your goal is by shopping the edges of the grocery store for fresh, seasonal produce. Since ingredients that are fresh have to be changed out often and sometimes need refrigeration, they can’t be stored in the middle of the store.
During the winter and early spring months, Krupp recommends picking up cauliflower and kale, and to trying to fill half your plate with each of these nutrient-rich veggies. “A cup of cauliflower has fewer calories than broccoli while also packing in more potassium and vitamins,” says Krupp. “Kale, the reigning mega-superfood, packs a whopping serving of B6, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and six more major vitamins and minerals. It is a perfect addition to salads, soups, smoothies and more.”
If you’re tiring of kale, swiss chard can be a great alternative. “One cup of swiss chard serves more than 700 percent of your daily vitamin K requirements and is rich in antioxidants, which protect cells from damage and toxins,” says Krupp. She also recommends picking up avocados, and not just for your guacamole with chips.
She said, “Avocado, actually a fruit, contains the good fat our bodies need for optimal health. This workhorse offers 20 vitamins and minerals, and is a must-have item for beautiful skin. It can be used in smoothies, salads, sandwiches and even as a meat substitute.”
When you’re shopping for avocados, give each avocado a squeeze and look for those with a little bit of give (not rock hard), but not too much. One tip I love is to pull the stem off the top of the avocado. If it comes off easily and is green underneath, it’s ready to eat tonight or tomorrow. If it’s brown underneath, leave it at the store (even better, tell your produce person and make sure no one buys it).
Goal two: Cut back on caffeine
Of course, the key to having more energy without caffeine is getting the right amount of rest, but for some of us, that’s just not enough. Eating good carbohydrates and protein-rich foods will give your body the fuel it needs to get you through the day without loading up on caffeine. At the same time, foods high in fat and empty calories slow you down and leave you feeling sluggish.
Instead of pouring a cup of coffee in the morning, Krupp recommends grabbing a banana. “Nature’s original on-the-go-food, bananas are loaded with natural sugars and fiber, which our bodies need to start the day off right,” says Krupp. “Topped with peanut or almond butter, it can be a healthy morning treat that will give you the energy to get through to lunch. Peanut butter is loaded with good nutrients and proteins, providing a long-acting flow of energy. It’s also great over rice cakes or celery, just make sure to look for versions without hydrogenated oils. Fresh Thyme allows you to grind your own peanuts so you know exactly what is going into your spread.”
Krupp also recommends honey as a natural source of sugar to boost your energy throughout the day, “A spoonful of honey is nature’s energy drink. It provides your muscles the fuel they need to sustain the body during intense exercise and long work days. Fresh Thyme offers a local honey pour-it-yourself bar, perfect for quick jump-start.” If you’re dragging towards the end of the day, Krupp recommends taking a note from your favorite soccer mom and grabbing an orange before the gym, “High in vitamins, oranges are better for steady fuel than a quick fix.”
Goal three: Improve my skin
We all have seen how our skin reacts to the holidays when our diet is suffering. “The easy answer to looking good is a diet low in processed foods,” says Krupp. “Eat foods as close as possible to their raw or natural state, decrease your intake of sugars, processed carbs like white bread and sodium. Look for foods that are don’t contain the additives that age our cells and make us look less than our best. Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are the key to giving skin a more radiant, healthy, and youthful glow.”
Krupp also suggests shopping your local market for foods that double as beauty products, “Coconut oil is your biggest ally. It can be used as a moisturizer, makeup remover and hair treatment. It can be ingested for healthy glowing skin. Fresh Thyme’s private label coconut oil makes it affordable enough to keep one in the kitchen and one with your beauty products.” In the produce aisle, there are many fruits and vegetables that can be used for homemade skin masks. “Papaya is natural exfoliant. Apply a mask of ground papaya on your face to get a special glow. Pumpkin can also work as an exfoliator and avocado can be a natural moisturizer.”
Goal four: Be more productive
The beginning of the year can be a fresh start in our personal and professional lives. If you need a boost to help you focus and get your work done, it’s important to fill your body with foods that will help you wake up alert and ready to seize the day. “Some foods have been shown to help optimize sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced and full of energy all day long,” says Krupp. “Almonds are high in magnesium, which is necessary for a good night’s sleep. Walnuts and turkey are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid, which helps make our sleep hormones. Cherry juice is high in melatonin, a hormone which helps us sleep. Try adding these to your dinners for a more restful sleep, which will lead to a more productive day.”