New Year, new you! You’ve left all those cookies and cocktails from the holidays behind you, and now you’re ready to jump headfirst into a healthy lifestyle.
“Following a healthier eating plan is an admirable goal at any time of year. But towards the beginning of the year and after the holidays, people tend to make resolutions that are drastic and difficult to keep. Making a lasting lifestyle change is easier when it’s done through a series of small changes,” explains Lynn Nichols, outpatient dietitian for the Diabetes Management Program at Riddle Hospital.
When it comes to making a difference, no change is too small. Nichols offers a few ideas below to help get you on the right track for big changes.
Small change: I will drink more water.
There is a constant debate about the pros and cons of coffee. An increasing number of studies show that both regular and diet soda can wreak havoc on your health. But water? There’s nothing wrong with a few extra cups of water. In fact, drinking water can aid your weight loss efforts.
“Drinking water throughout the day and substituting water for sugary beverages is one of the best and easiest things you can do for weight loss and for your health,” explains Nichols. “It helps you stay hydrated throughout the day, and drinking it before a meal can prevent you from overeating or confusing dehydration for hunger.”
Small change: I will have three servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
We all know we should be eating fruits and vegetables, but it can be hard to squeeze in the recommended amounts. According to the recommendations set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), adults age 30 and over should be eating 1 ½ cups of fruit per day and 2 ½ cups of vegetables.
Instead of vowing to eat the recommended amounts every day, promise yourself to eat three servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Mix berries into your morning yogurt, add some broccoli to your stir-fry, or have a sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon as a side instead of a dinner roll.
Small change: I will write down what I eat.
Instead of posting photos of what you eat on social media, try writing down what you eat! Logging your daily meals in a small notebook or on a mobile app can help you keep track of what you’ve eaten every day. You might discover trends in your eating patterns. Always reaching for a snack after dinner? Find yourself especially hungry in the mornings? It might be time to adapt your eating habits.
Small change: I will pack my lunch.
When it’s lunchtime at the office, you’re eager to get away. But eating out at the newest spot, no matter how healthy it seems, can take a toll on your wallet and your waistline.
“Even at restaurants that are healthy or that display their calories on the menu, you’re likely getting more than you bargained for,” explains Nichols. “The best way to ensure you’re eating a healthy meal is to pack your lunch.”
Although you won’t be leaving the office, Nichols says it’s important to try to leave your desk or work station for lunch whenever possible. Eating mindlessly in front of your computer or while scrolling through your cell phone can cause you to eat your food too quickly, and leave you looking for a snack later.
Small change: I will identify serving sizes.
“The typical recommended serving of pasta is about ⅔ cup, but most of us pile much more than that on our plates,” says Nichols. “One of the keys to weight loss is knowing how much is truly in a serving size. Most people don’t realize that they’re eating at least double a serving of their favorite foods, because we have such a skewed expectation of portion size.”
Next time you’re snacking or preparing a meal, take a peek at the nutritional label for how much is in one serving, and the nutritional values associated with it.
Small changes: I will give myself a treat.
Sweet tooth? Salty tooth? Regardless of what your cravings are, don’t deprive yourself of them. Telling yourself that you aren’t allowed to eat something will likely only result in a binge later on, so allow yourself smaller portions of your favorite treats, limit them to once or twice a week, or look for low-calorie versions of similar snacks.
Main Line Health offers nutrition experts that are registered, licensed dietitians. As members of the American Dietetic Association, they stay up to date on the latest nutrition research that may have an impact on your health and well-being, and can offer an individual nutrition plan to fit your lifestyle. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s nutrition services.