Better Nutrition in the New Year

Article from Lindsay Martin, MS, RDN, LDN 

Another year has come and gone and it is time to, once again, set those health goals for the new year. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re experiencing frustration and even disappointment that you didn’t achieve the health goals you thought you would have achieved over the past year.

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions center on losing weight and eating better. In the fast-paced world we live in, when it comes to weight loss and control, we want results – and we want them fast. With the dieting messages that surround us, it can be very tempting to resort to fad diets to get the ‘promised’ quick results. However, any diet or eating plan that emphasizes a particular food or eliminates a food or food group should raise a red flag, as it goes against the central principles of healthy eating and good nutrition: balance, variety, and moderation.

Furthermore, fad diets are often too low in calories and can result in tiredness and irritation, making them hard to sustain in the long-term. The notion of fad diets is that they are something to go ‘on’ and then go ‘off.’ When people go off these diets, they, more often than not, regain the weight and blame themselves for not having enough discipline, willpower or motivation when, in reality, the real problem was that they were going about it the wrong way.

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them and/or ever seriously consider them as achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.

When you consider what nutrition or weight loss goals you want to achieve, it’s important to remember that the word diet comes from the Greek word ‘diaita.’ This means a way of life so actually, diet really refers to the way we eat throughout our lives. A diet is something permanent and something that can include all foods – in moderation. Think of the changes you want to make as something permanent and a lifestyle – not something that you will do for only one or two months.

When it comes to setting nutrition goals, keep in mind that small changes can lead to big rewards. Pay more attention to how you are currently eating. Keep a food journal for at least 3 days so you can analyze your typical eating patterns. Are you drinking water? Are you including fruits and vegetables? How many servings each day? Are you eating breakfast? Do you tend to snack right before going to bed?

Once you see where you can make changes, pick a place to start. It will be much less daunting to focus on one or two dietary changes than trying to do a complete overhaul. Plus, when you realize that you were able to make a few small changes, you will be more motivated to continue incorporating healthier eating habits. When it comes to better eating, the most successful people are not the ones who decide to give up all desserts or never eat their favorite foods again. Those are the people who are unable to maintain their changes in the long-term. Successful people start small and build upon their accomplishments.

Here are some ideas for a first change you can make toward healthier eating in the new year:

  • Eat breakfast. Try to incorporate healthy, convenient foods like high-fiber cereal, oatmeal, eggs, fat-free or low-fat yogurt, and fruit. You want your breakfast to be low in sugar but high in other nutrients that will keep you full like fiber and protein.
  • Switch from drinking regular soda to water. You can flavor your water with slices of fresh fruit or use Drink 4D packets to help give more nutrients and flavor to your drink.
  • Aim for half a plate of fruits and vegetables at each meal. This will help you reach your 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables that are recommended each day.
  • Switch your bread from white to whole grain. Look for those kinds of bread containing 3 grams of fiber or more per slice.
  • Switch from regular pasta to whole grain pasta. You may need to cook whole wheat pasta a little bit longer to soften it up.
  • Switch from whole milk or 2% milk to 1% or skim milk.
  • Aim to drink more water– half of your body weight is how many ounces of water per day to drink. And drinking more water throughout the day may curb your appetite and keep you from drinking beverages that are high in sugar.

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