Did you put better nutrition on your list of New Year’s resolutions? You can absolutely achieve that goal. But you’ll want to set yourself up for success.
The problem: “Most people have unrealistic expectations,” says Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and author. “They decide this is the year they’re going to completely change everything about their diet,” Sass says. “That’s just too hard to do.”
Willpower isn’t the issue. “Willpower is about depriving yourself, and nobody gets excited about that. Besides, depriving yourself is depressing and leads to bingeing,” Sass says. ” Focus on the positives — you feel better, have more energy, when you eat healthy.”
Nutrition Goals: What Actually Works
When making dietary changes, “start small,” Sass says. “Set a few realistic goals. In the long run, you’ll have better self-esteem and more self-confidence because you’ll actually stick with them.”
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Make time for breakfast “Skipping breakfast gives you the munchies later on and slows your metabolism down,” says registered dietitian Heidi Reichenberger.She advises starting the day with yogurt and fruit or whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
- Don’t skip any meals or snacks. “Try not to let more than five hours go by without eating. Waiting too long can zap energy, and can lead to overeating later,” Sass says. “Eat a (healthy) snack between lunch and dinner, maybe right before leaving work, so you will be less likely to grab snack foods once you get home.”
- Include a total of 30 minutes of activity every day. “It doesn’t have to be all at once,” Reichenberger says. If it takes 10 minutes to walk from the bus stop, get off at the next furthest stop so you get a few more minutes walking. And walk it briskly — you can lose some weight, improve your cardiovascular system, and sleep better.
- Drink fewer sodas and other sweetened drinks, like iced tea. A big bottle of a juice-based drink can contain 300 calories — and those calories add up. Drink water instead. Or mix juice and water, so you’re not drinking something so heavily loaded with sugar.
- Meet your goal. Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables,. Convenience makes you more likely to choose them when you’re hungry.
- Keep frozen veggies in the fridge. They are easy, quick, and rich in nutrients. Take them to work for a quick lunch you can heat in the microwave. Season with black pepper, herbs, lemon juice, or a red wine-and-balsamic vinegar dressing.
- Pack healthy snacks. Think of things like hummus, yogurt, cut-up veggies, and string chees. Bring them to work, school, or other activities. That way, you’re prepared amd will save money.
- Upgrade your salad. Add whole grains to boost the fiber, so you’ll feel full.
- Fix pasta dishes with veggies and lean protein (like canned tiny shrimp, tuna canned in water, precooked chicken breast, or soy crumbles). Adding protein and veggies to pasta allows you to cut back on the amount of pasta (which is high in carbohydrates) while still feeling full.
- Go for variety. You don’t want to eat the same fruits and veggies all the time. You want a wide array of colors and types. For instance, choose a variety of fruits instead of buying one large bag of the same fruit. “After the third or fourth day of apples, you’ll likely be sick of them,” Sass says “Mixing up a few different types of apples, one pear, one banana will keep you from getting bored.”