Healthy New Year's Goals You Can Actually Accomplish - Simple Advice From a Nutritionist

Let’s Have a Round of Applause for the New Year’s Resolution!


Image Courtesy Elvert Barnes CC 2.0

It’s one of my very favorite times of the year. The ushering in of a new year marks a time of renewal, reflection, and resolutions. Some people dread it, but many of us embrace the New Year’s resolution and make earnest efforts to improve our well being, often through dietary changes. However, the statistics on resolutions are grim—80% of us fail to keep our resolutions. This can lead to negative feelings and abandonment of the practice altogether. I am going to challenge you to treat each year as a fresh start. Don’t worry about the possibility of failure, but rather, embrace success and make it a reality.

The holidays are a busy time, no matter what your background or cultural traditions. There may be parties, get-togethers, activities, gift-buying and socializing. We tend to give a backseat to healthy eating and exercise. Rich, high sugar and high fat food is everywhere and it is just too easy to succumb. I have no problem with the indulgences of the holiday season, but as a dietitian, I can’t help but be excited and optimistic as many people have nutrition-centered resolutions each January. I would like to propose a post-holiday nutrition challenge but I need to set some ground rules first.

  • This is a judgment-free reboot. There is absolutely no judgment! If you ate cake frosting for breakfast every day last year, you cannot beat yourself up about it. Forget the past. If you stop and start this challenge fifty times, you cannot beat yourself up about that either.

  • This challenge does not have a strict timetable. The road may be bumpy. There may be starts and stops. The goal is to keep moving and improving. Don’t get discouraged. Optimism is a must.

  • This challenge does involve a tiny bit of journaling. Reflection is an imperative when embarking on a dietary change, or any big change. Take the time to think about what worked, what didn’t and how you plan to move forward. Buy a fancy journal or a $1 notebook and put your pen to paper.

  • This is not about the scale. Remove the scale from your resolutions permanently!

Okay…Here it is. I have no magic pills or potions. There is no shortcut. The best diet is one that contains a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Resolve to DOUBLE your fruit and vegetable intake this year. You can do this slowly, over six months, or you can do this overnight. It doesn’t matter. Just do it. If you make this one change, without consciously changing anything else, your health will improve.

The first step is to make a list of all of the fruits and vegetables you like. Making note of which ones are in season is a good idea as they will be fresher, more likely to be local and more affordable. List your favorite vegetable and fruit centered recipes. Omit recipes that add refined sugar or fats like butter. Do an internet search if you want. There are tons of simple, easy recipes out there.

The next step is to purchase these foods and make them accessible to you and your family. Buy two fruit bowls if you need to and fill them with apples, bananas and oranges. Clean some grapes and put them in a bowl in the fridge so they are ready for a passerby who is craving a snack. Buy your favorite dip and pre-cut vegetables. Place the vegetables where you will see them and use them. (We’ve all found mushy, spoiled vegetables in the back of the refrigerator. Avoid this by keeping them front and center). Make a giant pot of vegetable soup on the weekend. Plan for times when you are out and the temptation to buy junk food. Put a pear, a fruit cup or some dried apricots in your purse, in your desk at work and in your car.

When eating out, order fruits and vegetables. I have never been at a restaurant that did not have them in some shape or form. And I have never been at a restaurant that did not honor a reasonable request, like “Please omit the butter from my vegetables” or “May I have the salad dressing on the side?” Swap fries for salad, cake for the berry parfait. There are lots of ways to eat well while dining out.

Fresh is ideal but frozen, dried and canned foods are okay too. Just buy them and work toward doubling your intake. What you will find is that these yummy, healthy foods will crowd out the unhealthy processed stuff. You will have less time and less need for those foods when your stomach is filled with fruits and vegetables. Your taste buds will change and your will crave these foods. Junk foods will lose their appeal.

Once a week, set aside twenty minutes to journal your experience. What did you enjoy? What could make you more successful? How do you feel? It may take some time, but I guarantee that you will notice a difference. If you are so inclined, share your experience and inspire others!

Happy New Year and Happy Resolutioning!