27 Healthy Eating Tips From Registered Dietitians For A Very Healthy New Year
As a registered dietitian, my patients are full of healthy eating resolutions come January 1st. And I get it—this is a chance for a completely fresh start. But achieving your goals doesn’t have to be boring or restrictive. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
1. Kick the strict, boring diet to the curb.
New Year’s resolutions often equate to adopting a strict diet, and boredom is one of the top reasons that we ditch those meal plans after a few weeks or months. Instead, focus on eating more healthy foods that you enjoy, and then mixing up those foods every week or so. Don’t like kale? Leave it. Add in some spinach or romaine instead. This prevents boredom and helps you look forward to eating your meals and snacks.
2. Start a recipe club with friends.
Similar to a book club, start a recipe club with friends. Assign dishes (appetizer, salad, main meal, dessert) and meet once a month to enjoy good food and swap recipes. You can even focus on different types of meal plans each month (vegetarian, gluten-free etc.). Collect all of the recipe cards you make throughout the year and create a recipe book to give to friends and family over the holidays.
3. Strategically leave healthy snacks around.
Create a healthy snack bag with non-perishable items and leave it in your car. Include healthy breakfast bars, nuts like almonds, and dried fruit as well as a bottle of water. This will ensure you always have a healthy snack wherever you go, and you won’t be tempted to stop by a drive-through or convenience store when you get hungry.
4. At home, keep your freezer stocked with frozen fruit.
With less variety of fresh fruit during the winter months, eating frozen fruit is a great way to have your favorites year-round, and to make sure you get your recommended daily servings. Often times frozen fruit can be more nutritious than fresh fruit since it’s packaged shortly after being harvested. Throw a handful into your hot oatmeal or layer them with yogurt for a parfait—just make sure there isn’t any added sugar. One of my favorite things to do is defrost ¼ cup of frozen berries, mash them up with the natural juices, and use as your own homemade ‘jam.’
5. Set SMART goals.
One very successful method for getting my clients to achieve their goals is using the SMART strategy. A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, and time specific. For example: I am going to go to the gym at least three times a week for the first month, and during the second month my goal is to make it to the gym at least four times a week.
6. And create goal checkpoints.
At the beginning of the year, schedule monthly, or weekly alerts on your phone to take 15 minutes to assess goal progress. Use these reminders as opportunities to reflect and to make any adjustments so that you keep moving forward.
7. Focus on what you can eat, not what you cannot.
Instead of spending time and energy excluding foods you think are “bad,” redirect your efforts to including more nutrient-rich foods and you will automatically crowd out the less healthy options. Start by trying to add one fruit and one vegetable to your daily intake. —
8. Replace sugary drinks with water or seltzer.
Sugary beverages include sodas as well as iced tea, lemonade, juices, etc. Try drinking more water or seltzer instead—you can even add slices of your favorite fruit such as lemons, limes, oranges, berries, cucumbers, and even fresh mint.
9. Make your food gorgeous.
Eating healthier starts with making healthy food more appetizing and worthy of display! Try storing produce in see-through containers in your fridge or in a pretty fruit bowl on the counter. Not only do we typically eat more of what we can see, but if it looks good, it can be one less barrier to making healthy happen.
10. Sit down and make a plan for the week.
Set aside 30 minutes each week to sit down with your calendar and plan the week ahead. Schedule your workouts, plan your meals, and make your shopping list. A little bit of planning on the front end not only saves you time throughout the week by cutting out the guesswork, but it also sets an intention for success.
11. Focus on eating a healthy, protein-rich breakfast.
Eat a breakfast rich in protein to help you feel full longer and have the energy you need to power through your day. Aiming for 25 to 30 grams of protein before noon can be easily accomplished—and equally delicious—when you pair a glass of milk with your eggs and avocado toast, or with your favorite fruit-topped overnight oats. Aim for protein sources that are also rich in other nutrients such as milk (8 grams of protein per cup plus nine other essential nutrients), nuts like almonds and pistachios are packed with protein, healthy fat, and fiber, or eggs (they’re also rich in lutein, choline, and certain B vitamins).
12. If you have kiddos, get them involved in the kitchen.
Once a week, cook a meal with your children. Start from fresh, real foods. You’ll be sharing precious time with them, teaching them about eating well, and enjoying a lovely meal together.
13. Eat fish 2-3 times per week.
Most Americans aren’t eating enough seafood, which means they’re missing out on all the important benefits including improvements in heart health. Seafood can be enjoyed as part of a salad, in a taco, or even in your favorite pasta dish.
14. And enjoy a cooked vegetable dish as a main course twice a week.
This is probably the single most important thing you can do to increase your intake of vegetables. Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes, and herbs. Common vegetables to use are green beans, peas, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli. Accompany with cheese and a slice of whole wheat bread.
15. Make being healthy a friendly contest, with rewards.
Put that new 2016 calendar to use by creating a fitness attendance contest among the people in your home, whether they are your spouse, roommate, or family. Come up with a system for marking on the calendar each time an individual completes a workout. The person who does the most workouts at the end of the month earns a prize, and aim to make the reward non-food related, such as a massage, manicure, or shopping spree. In the event of a tie, have a silly tiebreaker such as seeing who can do the most burpees in one minute or can hold a plank the longest.
16. Be mindful of portions.
Sometimes when we exercise or lose a little bit of weight, we want to indulge in a high-calorie treat because we feel we’ve “earned it.” This can be a slippery slope that can interfere with your plans to eat healthy. Instead, be mindful of your portions and find other ways to reward yourself like getting yourself a massage, a new outfit, or just relaxing with a friend.
17. And that includes loading your plate with lots of vegetables.
Try to fill half your plate with colorful seasonal fruits and vegetables, and then split the rest between lean protein and whole grains. This is a simple way to easily achieve variety, portion control, and helps to maximize your meal’s nutritional bang.
18. Try your best to think ahead.
If you know you’re going to have a busy day, prepare a smoothie first thing in the morning. Be sure to include the fruits or vegetables that might not be convenient to eat later in the day. When your schedule has you crazed and you’re tempted to eat whatever sweets are around, you can simply have sips of your nutritious and delicious smoothie. By the end of the day, you’ve consumed extra fruits and veggies without going overboard on the sweets.
19. Make exercise a habit.
Let’s say you have a 30-minute lunch break, yet only use 15 minutes of it for eating. Head outdoors for the remaining 10-15 minutes and go for a power walk! If you can make this happen three or four workdays each week, you will quickly be tacking on almost a full hour of exercise! Small steps can make a big difference.
20. And wear that fitness tracker you received as a gift.
Wearing a fitness tracker may encourage you to get in some extra steps. Even if the step counts are not 100 percent accurate, pedometers have been shown) to motivate and increase physical activity.
21. Consider the “fork trick” to prevent overeating.
Use your non-dominant hand when you eat. It naturally slows you down because you have to try and steady your food to get it to your mouth. And eat until you’re comfortably full. In other words, stop eating at the start of feeling full.
22. Eat organic when possible.
Think critically about where your food comes from: Ask yourself who produced it and under what conditions? Eating well in the new year isn’t just about calories and nutrients. It’s about the impact our food and farming choices have on our larger society and planet. I choose for myself, and recommend to others, organic food because it meets my criteria for helping to protect my family’s health, farm worker health, and that of the planet.
23. And don’t forget to be smart about eating out.
When eating out, preview the menu online ahead of time so you know what options will be available when you get there. That way you can make a healthy selection before you arrive and can avoid getting caught up with any in-the-moment temptations.
24. Treat yourself to some new gym gear.
My advice…Treat yourself! Put all those gift cards to good use and hit up the post-holiday sales for new gym gear. Whether it’s a killer pair of powerlifting shoes, eye-catching graphic leggings, or a fresh new yoga mat, you’re sure to be inspired to go out and accomplish your athletic endeavors. You deserve it.
25. Then wear that gear often!
Schedule your exercise like it is an important appointment or date. If I have a class to go to, it is in my schedule! So when I have yoga on Wednesdays at 8 AM, seeing it on my schedule reminds me to set aside clothes the night before. And try scheduling different types of exercise (like yoga, Zumba, walking with friends, etc.) throughout the month to help prevent boredom.
26. Go ahead and splurge every once in awhile.
Embrace and enjoy your favorite indulgence, whether it’s chocolate cake, French fries, or a glass of wine. Instead of trying to ban them from your healthy kingdom, plan to enjoy them in moderation. Can you commit to enjoying French fries only once per week (instead of daily)? Then you’re already making healthy changes for the New Year!
27. And finally, remember…perfection isn’t the goal.
Instead, create an intention each morning when you get up and have it be one that is easy and doable. You can be healthy 80 percent of the time and that still counts as perfectly healthy!