Healthy isn’t what it used to be. I don’t mean that in the whiplash-inducing way all the click-bait headlines out there would have you think.
Despite the seeming back and forth, there is remarkable consistency in core dietary advice. You could comfortably hang your resolution hat on two of the biggest: eat more vegetables and less added sugar.
But there have been exciting shifts in what it means to eat well, shaped by modern culinary style and bona fide nutritional science. They’ve been building for years and now have a definite form. This is a change that is real, compelling and refreshing.
Healthy eating has emerged re-branded from a stodgy, finger-wagging “should” to a cool, on-trend “want to.”
Harnessing the momentum of this fashionable, new healthy could re-energise your efforts to eat better in the new year and beyond, inspiring a way of eating that’s good for you with – yes, more vegetables and less sugar – but also a fresh, updated perspective, one that’s as hip and appealing as it is good for you.
Here are seven facets of what’s healthy and how to make the most of them.
The new healthy is…
Not afraid of fat
There is a body of evidence that fats – especially those from whole foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado and fish and healthy oils – are good for our nutritional well-being, benefiting our heart health, blood sugar and weight, to name a few. Just ignore the rampant butter-is-back headlines. Even if saturated fat is not the demon it was once thought to be, it is healthier to replace animal fat with that from plants. Hello, avocado toast.
Protein is practically synonymous with healthy today, a trend that’s inspiring a more balanced plate than that of the bagel-for-breakfast days of yore.
Along with the movement toward plant-based foods, the new way of eating has led to a rediscovery of powerfully nutritious beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, as chefs and home cooks interpret them with modern culinary prowess.
Take advantage of all that but avoid getting ensnared in the more-is-better mentality and falling prey to marketing tactics that leverage grams of protein for health points.
Include some protein at each meal or snack but remember: protein-fortified cookies are still cookies.
Refined sugar has never been billed as healthy per se, but there is a greater awareness and scientific evidence of its detrimental health effects. The food community and marketplace have stepped up with exciting savoury options where there were once only sweet, such as with energy bars and yoghurt flavours.
There has also been a healthier shift to using fibre- and nutrient-rich whole foods such as dried and fresh fruit as sweeteners in baked goods, bars and smoothies.
Healthy means looking beyond the grams and percentages on the nutrition-facts label to the ingredients in a product. People want to know what’s in the food they are buying and how it was produced. Demand for simpler ingredient lists have compelled many manufacturers to remove artificial colours and flavours and other additives.
Good for your gut
We know that the good bacteria in our guts are key not only to digestive health but to overall wellness, and the foods that support the microbiome are hotter than ever with ancient, probiotic-rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt and kefir making a modern comeback.
There are more exciting varieties of these “living” foods available in the regular supermarket.
Healthy today breaks the old-fashioned mould of the divided plate and instead is built in layers, arranged in bowls, piled into jars or whirred into a to-go cup.
It’s packed with produce, compel-
lingly colourful and has a freestyle sensibility.
And, of course, to get traction in this Instagram-ready world, it’s ready for a close-up.
Analysis by Ellie Krieger, iol