It's the time of the year when we resolve to improve ourselves. Eating a healthier diet is at the top of the list of popular New Year's resolutions, but even with the best of intentions and ironclad willpower, your quest to make nutritious food choices throughout the year can quickly be derailed. Stress, eating out and lack of time are just a few challenges, and let's face it: it's not easy saying yes to an apple and no to chocolate cake for dessert.
Kendra Busalacchi, a registered dietitian affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says don't give up. It's possible to keep your resolution and to shed some pounds with a few simple tricks.
"To stay on track, it's important to set realistic goals," she says. "List the eating habits you'd like to change and just select one or two to work on. Don't think you have to change all your eating habits right away."
She recommends making S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Specific and measureable to eliminate confusion about what you're working toward; achievable and realistic so you're not overwhelmed; and time-bound to give you enough time so you don't get discouraged.
"Small, meaningful changes are easier to stick with and can help you lose weight in the long haul," she adds. For example, she advises to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, and if you're eating grains, try to eat whole grains. Replace sugary drinks, such as sodas and sports and fruit drinks, with water, fruit-infused sparkling waters or unsweetened teas.
When pressed for time, plan ahead. Make healthy batch meals to freeze for later, double dinner meals to use for lunch the following day, and plan out meals for the week ahead of time. Keep healthy snacks easily accessible such as a fruit or veggie bowl on the kitchen counter. Pre-portioned trail mixes, nuts, low-fat Greek yogurts, low-fat cottage cheese, tuna and hard-boiled eggs are also good choices to keep within reach.
In addition, don't discount time for physical activity. Besides being good for you, exercise burns calories and relieves stress. Try mini sessions throughout the day and keep it simple — when at work, take the stairs or go for a brisk walk during your lunch break.
Here are a few other tips to keep you healthy all year long:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat more whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, rolled oats or quinoa
- Avoid sugary drinks
- Choose fish or skinless chicken, and foods with unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils, nuts and avocados
- Avoid foods high in saturated fats such as red meat, butter, cream, tropical oils and whole-fat dairy