A new year is upon us and once again the time has come for New Year’s Resolutions. Making goals can be a rewarding or loathsome experience based on your ability to achieve them. By making extreme resolutions you could be setting yourself up for failure. It might not be feasible to exercise every day or never eat another cookie. Instead try making small changes and staying committed to those changes. By devoting yourself to something that doesn’t seem like that big of a change for a whole year, you can make a huge difference in your health.
Here are a few ideas:
- Scale back on portion sizes: Instead of embarking on a full diet, cutting your portion sizes to 2/3 or 3/4 of what you would normally eat can have a significant impact over the course of a year. It can be difficult to know what a normal serving size should look like as restaurants often serve big portions so consumers feel like they are getting a good deal. In reality, it’s a bad deal for the environment if you waste the food and a bad deal for your health if you overeat. More information on appropriate portion sizes can be found here.
- Limit consumption of processed foods: These foods tend to have more added salt, fat and sugar. Spotting processed foods at the grocery store is easier than it might seem. Avoid foods in boxes, bags or other packaging that list unfamiliar ingredients.
- Eat more meals at home: Meals prepared in the home tend to be lower in calories fat and sodium. It can be challenging to make a fresh meal every night but cooking food in large batches a couple times a week helps provide ample homemade lunches and dinners.
- Decrease soda consumption: Soda is a large, nutrient-void source of calories. Drinking too much can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and other obesity related diseases. It can be difficult to cut back if soda has become a part of your daily food routine. Try limiting the amount you drink each week until it becomes a treat enjoyed on special occasions.
- Cut back on alcohol: Similar to soda, alcohol is a large source of empty calories in many American’s diets. Alcohol doesn’t need to be completely eliminated from your diets. Instead put a cap on how many drinks you will allow yourself each week or each day. It will make the drinks you do consume that much sweeter. And remember, the Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women and two a day for men.
- Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables at every meal: USDA’s “My Plate” recommends making half of each meal fruits and vegetables. Doing so is one simple way to ensure you are filling up on nutrient dense low calorie foods instead of those that are high in calories but neglect to provide adequate vitamins and nutrients.
- Incorporate whole grains into your daily food routine: Try to switch the grains you eat on a daily basis to whole grains, substituting white rice for brown rice or buying whole grain bread instead of white bread. Experiment with baking with whole grain flour instead of white flour. If using all whole grain isn’t palatable to you, use half white and half whole grain. Consuming more whole grains provides more naturally occurring fiber and other vital nutrients.
- Eat less meat: Cut back especially on fatty processed meats like bacon, pepperoni and prosciutto. Instead, try replacing the meat in your favorite dishes with tofu or fish, both of which are high in protein but low in fat.
- Commit to being active, not to exercise: Setting out to exercise daily can be a daunting. While it is still good to hit the gym or go on a run a few days a week, signing up for a class like dancing, rock climbing or kick boxing ensures you get plenty of movement in an enjoyable way. Develop a new active hobby such as kayaking, biking, or hiking. Taking more walks, committing to taking the stairs, or parking at the furthest corner of the parking lot can all make a difference.
- Accept yourself as you are: Imagine how hard life would be if you had someone following you around constantly criticizing you every minute. That’s what happens sometimes when we are displeased with ourselves. If you accept and love yourself you will make achieving your new year’s goals that much easier.
Changes do not need to be extreme to matter. Only create new goals that seem sustainable for a lifetime otherwise you may eventually give up and reverse the positive progress you have made. Have a happy and healthy 2015!