Resolve to have a healthier diet in 2021

Goodbye 2020. No offense, but we will be so glad to see you go.

By April Lisante
Posted 12/31/20

This week marks the end of a very long, very dismal year, a year that was nothing we hoped it would be.

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Resolve to have a healthier diet in 2021

Goodbye 2020. No offense, but we will be so glad to see you go.


This week marks the end of a very long, very dismal year, a year that was nothing we hoped it would be.

Our stress levels, our patience, our finances and our social skills have all been sorely tested. We came face to face with a pandemic, lost jobs, had children crammed into the house all day for schooling and then went through a tumultuous national election. Graduations, holidays and birthdays were just a few of our lost once-in-a-lifetime occasions. Now, most of us will be in the house for New Year’s Eve, instead of dancing somewhere, toasting with friends or headed for a quick getaway.

 So many of us are awaiting 2021 in the hope it will renew our spirits, our health and our prospects for a happier existence. We want to usher in the new year with new resolutions and new hope.

While our gut instincts for 2021 are to resolve to hop the first plane to Tahiti, plan a giant, maskless house party or sit for a fabulous three-course meal indoors – oh wait, maybe those are mine -  there’s a more important resolution.

Experts say our main priority should be learning how to fortify our immune systems for the weeks and months ahead until a COVID-19 vaccine arrives. Diet, stress, exercise and age can all contribute to our immune system health, and while we might not be able to control our ages or our stress levels, we can take control of our diet and exercise plans, experts say.

The secret to boosting immunity in our cells right now could already be in our refrigerators. Medical experts say there are eight super important things we can add to our diets to boost how our cells protect us, from vitamins A, C, D, and E to iron, folic acid, selenium and zinc. Most of these can be found in basic everyday foods, if we make a resolution to start eating them.

That is because one of the keys to boosting immunity lies in the anti-inflammatory properties of these foods. The first step to cutting out inflammation from our cells is cutting out white flours and sugars from our diets, the next step is changing what and how we eat.

“One of the most serious reasons we have problems is inflammation,” said Patricia Morris, a registered dietician, nutritionist and certified diabetes educator in Flourtown. “We need to eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as we can. Get rid of the rolls, and white flours and snack on whole grains.

“And look for color. Every day we should try to have fruits and vegetables with greens, oranges, reds. I always tell my patients, a bag of Skittles doesn’t cut it for color.”

Losing weight is the typical New Year’s resolution for many, but in 2021, eating better food and dropping some pounds actually makes the most sense. Doctors report that obese COVID-19 patients have suffered more severe symptoms than those who are at their ideal weights.

Research also shows that as we age, our T cells aren’t as good at providing immunity protection. Some research since the onset of COVID has also shown younger patients who’ve had the virus may be more immune to a second bout thanks to heartier T cells that recognize the virus a second time around and fight it.

So what should be in our refrigerators and pantries? It doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to stock what is needed.

Foods like kale and other dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans like garbanzos. Yogurt tops the list when it comes to getting both zinc and vitamin D, and seafood is recommended for selenium as well as iron. Salmon, oysters and crab are secret weapons when you want more selenium or zinc, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

The health properties of nuts and beans, as well as nut butters, can not be stressed enough. Nor can the benefits of healthy fats like avocados and olive oils, Morris said. Even for vegetarians, these are all winners.

By now, I’m sure there are skeptics who feel like revamping their cooking routines or preparing meals with all this in mind will be time consuming, but Morris says that there are ways to buy partially prepared options, like mini veggies, to save time. She also says cooking at home rather than grabbing take-out can actually consume less time.

“If you don’t want to live in the kitchen, look for mini peppers or mini carrots. Throw it all in a pot and make a soup with the vegetables,” said Morris, who offers nutritional counselling services to combat everything from obesity to glucose intolerance issues. “People say they don’t have time but preparing and packing a lunch is less time consuming that ordering food, driving to get the food, picking it up and bringing it back.”

 There are also other ways we can boost immunity. Herbal supplements and vitamins can help, but Morris cautions against popping vitamins and supplements as a fail-safe replacement for healthy foods.

“Your body will always choose the naturally occurring vitamins from foods first,” Morris said. “We do not get the same benefit from a vitamin pill as we do eating the food.”

diet, health