Nutrition Tip: Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution
As you think about the upcoming year, I’m going to encourage you not to make your annual New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Instead, make small changes to your diet that will improve your health overall. Small changes can add up, and they are more likely to be sustainable than following a fad diet or drastically reducing calories for fast weight loss.
Here are some tips to get you started on a healthy 2021.
1. Eat more plants. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, and high in nutrients and fiber. Aim for five or more servings each day. Start small at first –– try just adding one more serving than you usually eat. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are best but not always possible. When buying canned fruits or vegetables, look for vegetables canned without added salt and fruits that are in juice without added sugar or syrup. Don’t like veggies? Sneak them in. Add a handful of spinach and some fruit to your morning smoothie. Finely chop or puree extra vegetables to put in casseroles or sauces.
2. Eat less. Just eat a slightly smaller portion than you usually do. Your meat portion should be about the size of your palm. Fill half your plate with salad, vegetables and fruit.
3. Drink more water. Most of us should be drinking about half our body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should try to drink 90 ounces of water each day. Sometimes thirst can be disguised as hunger, making us reach for a snack when we just need more fluid.
4. Eat breakfast. Did you know that 78 percent of people who have been successful with weight loss and weight maintenance report that they eat breakfast every day? Eating breakfast helps reduce hunger throughout the day, thus decreasing the chances of overeating. Breakfast is also an excellent opportunity to add another fruit or vegetable serving.
5. Choose good carbs. Low carb and Keto diets remain popular, but your body needs good carbs to function properly. What do good carbs look like? Think whole grains, such as oatmeal and whole wheat bread, plus all fruits and vegetables.
6. Reduce your sodium The easiest way to do this is by eating more fresh food and less packaged and processed food. The top six sources of sodium in our diet are bread and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, canned soups, and burritos or tacos.
7. Eat at home more. When you cook from scratch, you control the ingredients and the portions. Even french fries or cookies made at home are better for you than what you would buy.
8. Shed the sugar. Added sugar is a major source of calories but not much else as far as nutrition goes. Top sources of sugar in our diet include sodas, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks (not 100% fruit juice), dairy desserts, and grains such as waffles, sweet rolls and sweetened cereals. Read labels to check for added sugar; it sneaks into many savory foods, including tomato sauces, breads and salad dressings.
9. Increase daily activity. Gym workouts are great, but increasing your daily movement is just as important. Make a point to simply walk more. Think of ways to be more active, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walk while talking on the phone, park further away than usual, or do some light stretches or exercises while watching television.
10. Above all, be realistic. Don’t set goals for weight loss that are unattainable. A good goal is to lose 10 percent of your current weight. Slow and steady weight loss is more likely to stay off than weight lost quickly on a fad diet. Remember that weight is not the only measure of health. A better diet and more exercise might not result in your ideal figure, but it will help lower your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, improve your blood glucose numbers and increase your strength. Plus, it will make you feel better!
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.