The start of a new year is a popular time for making resolutions to change up habits, often related to eating and exercise. But don't let the beginning of the year be the only time you make changes to your lifestyle. These 5 healthy food habits can be started at any time during the year, and can help you improve your health and your relationship with food.

1. Meal prepping

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Shelby Cohron

You've probably heard of meal prepping before, a practice in which you batch prepare and cook nutritious and tasty meals to have them readily available throughout the week. It's extremely popular in the health and fitness world and among generally busy people, as it has three main benefits: it saves you time, helps keep you on track with your diet goals and saves you money. Plus, there are tons of cheap and easy recipes for any and all meals you could want. 

2. Trying out new recipes

Hannah Cather

Spicing up your cooking by trying out new recipes is a simple way to introduce new foods, flavors and favorites into your routine. There are plenty of recipes available online (including on this very website) that are specially suited to all sorts of tastes and dietary restrictions. You can also save and organize online recipes to applications like Pocket or Instapaper for convenient offline access.

There are also thousands of published cookbooks that are themed and usually very aesthetically pleasing, whether you're interested in trying a vegan taco cleanse or want to make foods from Harry Potter. Plus, Spoon University has its very own cookbook, chockfull of over 100 cheap, reliable and easy recipes perfect for college students.

3. Reading (and researching) the nutrition facts and ingredients list

beer, wine
Jessica Peyton

On one side of any processed and packaged food, snack, or drink, you'll find a list of nutrition facts and ingredients. The nutrition facts offer a numerical breakdown of the serving size of the product and how many servings are in the total container, while noting the various nutrients ranging from fats to sodium to fiber. The ingredients list details the specific ingredients within the product. The closer the ingredients are to the start at the list, the more present they are in the food.

The nutrition facts and ingredients list are a surefire way to learn about what you're eating and what "stuff" it's made out of. While it's important to research and note everything within the nutrition facts, there are some specific things to pay close attention to, such as levels of protein, processed sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

It's also important to read and research the various ingredients present in your foods, particularly processed ones, as there are often a great deal of chemicals or trickster ingredients disguising as healthy ones. For example, artificial colorings like Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are present in an insane number of processed snacks and food products and have been linked to numerous health problems, including various cancers and severe allergy attacks. Other ingredients like (high fructose) corn syrup are also extremely popular and aren't so good to consume. Keeping an eye out for these, and doing research on other ingredients and where and how they are sourced is important for your health and the health of farmers, laborers and the planet

4. Tracking your food and consumption habits

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Jocelyn Hsu

Tracking how much, what and how often you're eating is an easy method to help you become more conscious of your food intake. Oftentimes, you'll find this process to be both interesting and educational as you learn things about your food habits you may otherwise have never realized. Tracking food is also extremely common among serious athletes and weightlifters as their diets are usually geared towards specific fitness goals. Try logging your food for a week or a month and reflect on the habits you notice or want to change for the future. 

Several strategies include keeping a food journal or log (and water tracker), in which you record your daily meals and snacks, and their respective ingredients and servings. Many people modifying their diet in regards to their lifestyle or fitness goals often also track their macronutrients, or macros, (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and aim for specific ratios. These journals or logs can be done hard-copy or online through various food applications like MyFitnessPal with over 5 million foods already in its system. If you are tracking your macros or need to be specific with your servings, it may prove helpful to invest in a food scale which can often be found for around $10. 

Just remember, tracking your food isn't meant to become obsessive or lead you to developing unhealthy or hurtful food habits. You should never feel anxious about how many calories or grams of fat you're consuming, instead remember that daily nutritional goals are just that, and that the main purpose of food tracking is to reflect on the sorts of foods you're eating and how those contribute to your overall goals. Tracking your food should be a process in which you learn more about yourself and your food habits, fostering a consciousness which can hopefully help you achieve a balance in your diet that makes you feel happier and healthier.

5. Leave behind food guilt

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Jocelyn Hsu

If there is anything that I want you to take to heart from this article, it's that you should never feel guilty about food. Being one thing besides water, sunlight and sleep that humans need to function and survive, you need to eat and you should never feel guilty about it

Of course it's essential to provide yourself with the proper nutrients and that you eat everything in moderation, but it's also 100% perfectly okay to order dessert or eat pizza or french fries if you want to. Much of the current culture surrounding food and dieting is geared towards making you feel guilty, and pressuring people to lose weight. Whether you are out with your friends or in bed watching Netflix, know that you can treat yourself to ice cream and that there's nothing wrong with that.

Remember, moderation is key, but there's never any need to feel guilty about what you eat. After all, the most important thing is that you work towards being healthy and happy, and if eating a cupcake makes you feel happy, eat a cupcake. Life is hard enough without being mean to yourself about food. And if other people try to guilt you about your diet or what you're eating, ignore them.