It’s 2021 and the perfect time for a new year, new diet mindset. It’s hard to believe that one short year ago, we were beginning to hear rumblings about COVID-19, unaware of how much our lives were about to change. While many of the changes in 2020 were difficult, some were positive and essential.
Our daily lives shifted drastically when schools and commerce shut down and families were faced with stay-at-home orders. Though challenging and inconvenient, the shift had some benefits. Families became closer and realized how fast-paced their lives had been. Things started to slow down, and families were able to reconnect, especially around the dining table.
As a nation, we consumed more meals at home, and families focused on staying healthy. As a nurse and a mom, I believe the public awareness and move towards healthier eating is one of the best things about 2020. As we move into 2021, many families will make important food resolutions for their new year, new diets.
During quarantine, we began paying closer attention to what our families were eating. Out of necessity, we significantly increased our in-home food preparation. As the nation became laser-focused on being healthy and avoiding illness, we “consumed” a ton of nutrition information, including how to use food to stay well.
2020 started with a surge in preparing comfort foods due to the stress people were under, but that focus began to turn, and 2021 is showing a trend towards using food in new ways. Instead of eating comfort foods, people are looking to food to boost their energy and immune system.
As we begin 2021, it’s time to make some food resolutions and enjoy a bucket list of foods that will jump-start our new year!
2021 Real Food Bucket List: 20 Foods Perfect for Purposeful Eating
Mindful eating is on the rise. Now more than ever, families are paying close attention to the health benefits of real food. Thanks to the internet, there’s unlimited education available about how real food makes a difference in:
- Boosting immunity
- Preventing illnesses
- Healing disease
- Generating energy
Meal planning has shifted from what sounds tasty for dinner to what health benefits a meal offers. This change has made purposeful eating more common. Real food delivers a variety of benefits—vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and micronutrients that keep families healthy and prevent illness. One of my favorite healthy cookbooks that makes meals for the entire family is “Trim Healthy Table.”
New Year, New Diet with These 20 Foods
Probiotic Foods – Gut health is vital for proper digestion and immunity while regulating our moods and sleep. Our bodies rely on healthy bacteria to keep our digestion moving. Some foods promote healthy bacteria while others reduce it. Eating probiotic foods help restore balance and ensure our bodies function their best. If you want to supplement with probiotics, here is the brand that I take, along with eating a lot of probiotic foods. It’s all about getting a ton of biodiversity in the gut microbiome!
- Yogurt and Kefir are excellent foods for gut health. Yogurt offers probiotic benefits but also packs a punch of high protein, vitamins, and minerals. Yogurt is generally enjoyed by all ages and can be a standard staple for most families. We use yogurt for dessert, sometimes mixed with fresh berries. Kefir is thinner than yogurt and can be used in smoothies or as a drinkable snack. You can even use Kefir in savory dishes. You can even make dairy-free homemade yogurt.
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut or tempeh are also excellent sources of probiotics. Fermented foods can be used as a condiment or added to dishes like salads or soups. Some children may need to acquire a taste for fermented foods, but many kids love the dill taste of pickles rather than tart sauerkraut.
- Kombucha is a tart, fizzy fermented tea drink. It is growing in popularity and can be found in local groceries and whole-food-based eateries. Kombucha comes in a wide variety of flavors and has a range of health benefits, including fighting cancer and boosting liver health.
Fiber-Rich Foods – Fiber helps our bodies regulate sugar, digest food, and maintain a healthy weight. Fiber helps us feel full longer and keep us regular. Real food is an excellent source of fiber and eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables—especially with their skins left on, adds to healthy daily fiber intake.
- Avocados are an excellent source of fiber. Though you wouldn’t want to eat their skin, the creamy texture of avocado tends to be a winner with all ages. I use avocados for a wide variety of dishes at home, including guacamole and topping for salads. Avocado is high in vitamin C, potassium, vitamin E, magnesium, and B vitamins. You can also add avocado to smoothies because their mild flavor blends in easily with bolder flavors like banana or berries. Make is easy by buying them ripe and freezing them for smoothies!
- Apples are an excellent source of fiber. They are incredibly versatile too. Try making applesauce from scratch to serve alongside protein and veggies at dinnertime. You can also pair apple wedges with almond butter and raisins for a healthy and nutritious snack.
- Wild rice is a complete food because it contains all nine essential nutrients. It is also high in fiber. Rice is versatile and can be used as a side dish or in soups, stews, and casseroles. Living in Minnesota, wild rice is abundant, and it’s one of the staples in our home. I grew up eating it regularly and enjoy adding it to our menu. Two of our favorite recipes using it: creamy mushroom wild rice, and chicken wild rice soup.
Antioxidant Foods – Antioxidants reduce harm to cells caused by free radicals. Choosing foods for their antioxidant benefits helps prevent diseases, including cancer. Plant-based diets are excellent for consuming antioxidant foods. 2021 is already seeing a dramatic increase in plant-based eating. While not everyone is ditching meat altogether, many people adopt a flexitarian eating style, becoming more open-minded to eating plant-based meals two or more times per week.
- Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, are excellent sources of phytochemicals that combat cancer and heart disease. Consuming grapes and drinking 100% pure grape juice is great for all ages. Try freezing grapes for a healthy and crunchy snack. Coming in close to grapes are plums and prunes, which nearly equal in antioxidant benefits.
- Dark green veggies are some of the most potent antioxidant foods on the planet. There’s a wide variety of vegetables that fight cancer and other diseases. Spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli are high in vitamins C, E, A, and calcium. I use spinach in smoothies, which gives them a vibrant color. Broccoli is delicious raw, steamed, or blended into soups.
Immune-boosting foods- We are better able to resist infections when we have a healthy immune system. Eating real food boosts our immune system, makes it easier to avoid illnesses, and recover faster when we get sick. In the new year, adopting a new diet high in immune-boosting foods will give your family the upper hand against colds and the flu.
- Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are high in vitamin C, one of the chief immune-boosting vitamins. Citrus fruit is easy to find in the winter months and tastes delicious. Snacking on oranges is a kid-friendly treat, and it’s easy to add fresh citrus to salads.
- Ginger is a beautiful food that boosts immunity and gives food an infusion of flavor. Ginger is used in a wide variety of regional dishes and helps fight inflammation. Ginger comes in many preparations, including fresh, pickled, powdered, or candied.
Along with the food resolutions for a new year, a new diet, there are food-related trends that began in 2021 that are worth attention.
Breakfast Really IS the Most Important Meal of the Day
Since more families are home in the morning rather than rushing out for an early commute, breakfast is reclaiming its role as the most critical and enjoyable meal of the day. Families aren’t saving great foods for the weekend when they have more time. You can start your day off right with real food. Finding breakfast ideas for kids is easier when you have the time and energy to make healthy food. Oats, eggs, and healthy breakfast muffins are replacing cold cereal and energy drinks. But, we DO love this healthy cold cereal in a pinch (use coupon code REALFOODRN to save some money on your order too!).
From Field to Fork, Shopping Local Makes Good Sense
2020 made all of us keenly aware of the need to support and help sustain small businesses. Finding locally sourced foods does more than boost the regional economy—it keeps you healthier. Sourcing foods from local providers help build immunities and ensures foods are incredibly fresh. Local honey (or medicinal honey, like manuka) can help reduce seasonal allergies, while foods grown or raised ethically and without chemicals and antibiotics are healthier for your family. In many cases, it’s possible to have a personal relationship with the people providing your food. How cool is that? If you don’t have access to high quality local food, Azure Standard is a food delivery that we get monthly and it’s the next best thing!
2021 is sure to become a memorable year for placing health at the forefront of our minds and using food to stay healthy. I am excited about the possibilities and sharing more knowledge from both a nurse and mother’s perspective. I love connecting with my tribe! Be sure to connect with me on Instagram (especially in my stories) and Facebook, where I share my family’s favorite real food recipes!