Before you think about what resolutions to make for 2018, let’s take a moment to revisit your resolutions for 2017. Did you resolve to quit sugar? Lose 30 pounds? Exercise 5 days a week?
How did that go for you? Did you follow Whole30 last January, only to eat alllllll the candy come Valentine’s Day? Did you even make it through all 31 days of January without a single bite of sugar or drop of alcohol?
According to the most commonly cited statistic, only 8% of people actually achieve what they set out to do in their New Year’s Resolutions.
Why do so many fail?
Well, the biggest reason is that the goals we set for ourselves are not realistic or specific enough. We may set a goal to “lose weight” or “eat healthier,” without laying out a plan for how we’re going to get there. Or we may resolve to follow whatever the latest, hottest diet is, only to beat ourselves up when we can’t follow it. (Here’s a hint why: diets don’t work.)
So, instead of coming up with a list of unrealistic, unachievable goals for 2018 or following an impossibly restrictive diet, and then feeling guilt and shame for not achieving your goals, consider one of these small, actionable goals that you can start incorporating now for long-term success!
1. Cook more meals at home
Cooking your own meal pretty much guarantees that it’s going to be healthier and less processed than anything you’d get for takeout. But don’t go overboard…committing to meal planning 5 nights a week right off the bat is likely to end with your local takeout joint on speed dial. So start where you are…if you’re only cooking one night a week or not at all, add one night a week. And keep it simple! There’s nothing “wrong” with heating up a packet of frozen rice and adding some canned beans and steamed vegetables for a complete meal. Or make a veggie omelet for dinner. If you’re ready for something more adventurous, try a meal delivery service like Sun Basket. Most of the recipes take less than 30 minutes to make, and you save time on shopping. You can sign up for 2 or 3 meals a week.
2. Order healthier takeout
Let’s be realistic here. Nobody—not even dietitians—cooks dinner every single night. In my house, we usually end up ordering in one or two nights a week. But that’s no excuse to throw your healthy eating out the window. It sometimes takes a little creativity in ordering, but most menus include options for fresh vegetables and quality proteins. Asian restaurants, in particular, make eating healthy easy. From a Chinese restaurant, I’ll resist the urge to order the fried sesame shrimp and instead order steamed shrimp and mixed veggies with sauce on the side and then add my own avocado or dash of olive oil for a healthy fat. From a Japanese restaurant, I’ll order a sashimi platter and split a “fun” roll and have seaweed salad on the side. Vietnamese is a regular for us, and I’ll get a big bowl of veggie pho or grilled shrimp & rice noodles. Mexican food is also surprisingly healthy, when you don’t order the cheese-covered enchiladas! I’ll usually do grilled fish tacos or a bean “burrito bowl” on brown rice or greens. Takeout pizza is a little more challenging to make healthy, but splitting a small veggie-loaded pizza and having a big green salad is an option. So, explore beyond your “usual” takeout options next time you order!
3. Eat more plant-based meals
There’s no denying that eating plant-based is better for us and for the environment. Try incorporating more meatless meals into your life. Meatless Monday is a good place to start. When transitioning to a plant-based diet, I recommend that clients start with meals they like that are already meatless: lasagna and chili are good examples of this. Or you could check out a new recipe each week, like my Lentil-Walnut-Flax “Meatballs.” The website Forks Over Knives also has a great catalog of plant-based meals for inspiration.
4. Try one new food every week
Most of us tend to stick with the basics…apples, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, pasta. But when was the last time you had a kumquat or rutabaga or teff? When I was a kid, I used to beg my parents to buy new fruits and veggies at the market. Now that I’m grown and have my own money, I just have to remember to do it! Which isn’t hard, these days, as the markets are packed with new foods every day! At the moment, I have a pomelo in my fridge that I picked up at Trader Joe’s, and I’ve been eyeing the kiwanos in my local market. Eating a wide variety of foods gives us a broad range of phytonutrients that are specific to each plant. And the more diverse our diet, the more diverse our gut microbiome—which is a good thing! So, next time you’re in the market, pick up a new fruit, veggie, or whole grain to try!
5. Be active every day
Being active doesn’t have to be restricted to going to the gym (which is crazy busy in January, anyway). Find some way to incorporate more movement into your day-to-day life and activities. On days when I’m working at the grocery store, I’m on my feet all day. But on days when I work from home or see clients at the office, I have to get a little more creative when it comes to movement. I’ll take a walk at lunch, do some stretches or squats or planks between clients. I’ll sign up for a spinning class or barre class after work, and then I have to go. I always keep a set of gym clothes & sneakers in my car, just in case I find myself somewhere with time to kill. And I like to plan weekend activities that have movement built in, like a hike or bike ride or yoga class with a friend, instead of meeting for coffee or a meal. We’re pretty psyched that my man just got the okay to try surfing and paddleboarding from his knee doctor, just 3 months after his knee replacement. So, you know what we’ll be trying this summer! Each day, ask yourself, what have I done to be active today? A Fitbit tracker may help motivate you to meet your goals.
6. Drink more water
Do you find yourself getting tired in the afternoon? Do you usually end up reaching for caffeine? Next time, try downing a glass of water instead. Hydration is key to keeping everything in your body flowing properly, and we often forget to drink enough, especially during the winter. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning when you wake up, before your coffee and breakfast. Bring a reusable bottle with you everywhere you go—preferably glass, so you avoid BPA and other hormone disruptors found in plastics.
7 Prioritize sleep
I know…this one’s easier said than done. But getting enough sleep can make a world of difference when it comes to your health and your mood. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, take a good look at your bedtime routine—are you using electronics too close to bedtime? Getting yourself all riled up watching the nightly news? Maybe try relaxing with a book and some chamomile tea to let your body know it’s time to start winding down instead. Put some lavender oil in a diffuser or humidifier in the bedroom to help soothe you. If you’re still having trouble, try a sleep app—I swear by Glenn Harrold’s Relax and Sleep Well.
8. Add protein to every meal and snack
Instead of telling you to cut carbs, I’m going to suggest you add protein. Protein will help you stay full longer and will stabilize your blood sugar and keep your insulin level lower. So, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have pancakes for breakfast or spaghetti for dinner or popcorn for a snack…I’m going to tell you to add some protein powder to those pancakes (or eat an egg on the side), to add some shrimp or turkey to that spaghetti, and to eat a cheese stick or a handful of nuts with that popcorn. This one simple change is the one that makes the biggest difference for my clients.
9. Add a veggie to your brekkie
Only 9% of Americans eat the daily amount of fruits & vegetables recommended by the USDA. And those recommendations are modest. Studies have shown that the biggest health benefits are seen with 8+ servings of fruits & veggies a day. How does your intake compare? One way to up your number is to add a serving (or two!) of veggies to your breakfast, which is kind of a “forgotten meal” when it comes to vegetable intake. An egg omelet or scramble is an easy way to get in more veggies. You can prep small containers of onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, etc., at the beginning of each week, and then just toss them in as you go. Add salsa, avocado, and black beans, and you’re up to around 3 servings of veggies just with breakfast! Don’t forget to think beyond the omelette, though…it’s just as easy to throw some veggies in your morning smoothie! Cucumbers, carrots, spinach, kale, beets, and pumpkin all make great additions to a smoothie blend.
10. Eat fish 2 times a week
Swap meat out for fish at least 2 times a week to reap the benefits of its anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. For the highest omega-3 content, choose fatty fish, like wild salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Not quite ready to start cooking fish yet? You can buy canned sustainable fish or save your fish eating for nights when you eat out.
11. Pack your lunch
Want to save money and benefit your health? Packing lunch is the way to go. If you don’t mind repetitive lunches, make one big batch of something on the weekend and pack it into 4 meal prep containers (I love these, for only $22 for 5!) That still gives you one day a week to grab lunch with your coworkers, etc. Every Sunday while I’m cooking dinner, I take the time to pack our lunches, which are usually salads with protein on top (keep the dressing separate to avoid sogginess) or roasted veggies & proteins. Keep an eye on the blog for my easy meal prep recipes coming in January.
12. Don’t skip meals
The number one problem my clients have when it comes to weight loss is letting themselves get too hungry and then binging on whatever’s around. When we’re not properly fueled, it’s waaaaaayyy to easy to eat those cookies in the breakroom or our kids’ leftover Goldfish or pick so much while we’re making dinner that we’re then not hungry for the healthy dinner we prepared. So eat real meals, with protein, fat, and fiber, every 4-6 hours. Not much of a “meal” person? Use the same principles for snack-based meals. A common on-the-go “snack lunch” for me is a handful of nuts (healthy fats), berries (fiber), and hard-boiled eggs (protein).
13. Practice gratitude
Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude are happier. So, no matter what’s going on in your life, try to find one thing that you are grateful for every day. It’s nice to do this before bed, as you’re reviewing your day in your mind. Maybe you are so hung up on those last 10 pounds you “need” to lose that you’ve forgotten to thank your body for what it does for you every day. Be grateful for your lungs that breathe air for you, your legs that carry you, etc. If the idea of “gratitude” doesn’t work for you, try asking yourself, “what is one thing that went well today?” or “what is one thing I accomplished today?”
14. Practice self-care
Take the time to take care of you. Some days self-care looks like bubble baths and pedicures; other days it looks like washing your dishes and brushing your teeth and paying your student loans. A lot of the time, for me, practicing self-care means saying “no” to something that, even though I may want to do it, may not be good for my mental health. What does self-care look like for you?
15. Take steps to reduce your stress
This goes along with #14, but has an enormous impact on your health. It is nearly impossible to lose weight or get pregnant or whatever your health goals are if your cortisol levels are constantly raised from being under chronic stress. Dedicate a few minutes each day to stress reduction, whatever that may mean for you. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, a walk…whatever works, as long as you do it!
16. Eat mindfully
Decide intentionally what you are going to eat. Then, eat it mindfully, being observant of how it looks, smells, tastes, its texture and temperature, and how it makes you feel. If you usually eat in front of the TV or computer, try shutting the electronics off for one meal a week and focus on your food, who you are eating with, etc. You’re more likely to notice when you’re actually satisfied and full when you’re paying attention to your eating.
17. Connect with people
I’m an off-the-charts introvert, so this is a tough one for me, but even I know it’s not good to go weeks without real human connection. Make an effort to connect with friends or family at least once a week, for a shared meal or activity. I never regret it when I do make the decision to see people I care about who love me unconditionally and give me renewed energy!
18. Keep track of successful meals
Ever make a recipe and love it, but then forget all about it? Keep a running list of the meals you make and how well you and your family liked them. Then when you’re struggling for meal planning ideas later, you’ll have a go-to list of smashing successes to choose from, and will be less likely to just make “the usual” or order takeout!
I hope these ideas help you focus your New Year’s Resolutions this year toward steps that will actually make a difference in your life and your health. Of course, if you’re ready to really change your thinking around eating, consider working with a registered dietitian. Click here to book a free consult with me to see if we’d be a good fit!
Happy & Healthy New Year!
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