Thinking about your New Year's resolutions? If you're like many people, getting in shape is probably near the top of your list. Whether your goal is to lose weight or eat more veggies, it's important to take steps you can follow long-term. Otherwise, you may end up just making the same resolutions a year from now, having made no progress.
Summit Health registered dietitian Madalyn Vasquez, RDN offers several strategies for enjoying a healthy lifestyle all year round.
Have an action plan
Determine three major things you are trying to accomplish and when you want to accomplish them by. "Be very specific about what you are trying to do," says Vasquez, who uses the SMART acronym when setting goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Reachable within a specific Time frame.
SMART Goal Examples:
If you are working on increasing your water intake…
“I will keep a full glass of water on my nightstand and drink it each morning before I get up.
If you want to eat more fruit…
“I will add fruit to my breakfast at least three mornings per week.”
Start with small changes and build up from there. Slowly incorporate a healthier lifestyle into your day-to-day routine rather than vowing to immediately eliminate all carbs, exercise every day, and stop eating out.
"Look for changes that are going to be sustainable in the long run," Vasquez says. "Drinking more water throughout the day or planning ahead so you don't skip breakfast or have more time to grocery shop are the kinds of goals that can lead to habits. That's what is going to bring about real behavioral change rather than just being a two- or three- month solution."
Focus on adding to your diet, not subtracting
The key is in not viewing food as being good or bad, but rather being aware there are some foods you should eat more often than others. "That doesn't mean you can't get pizza one night a week, as long as you stay mindful and intuitive about the choices you're making," says Vasquez.
Consider whether you're missing key food groups from your diet. Are you eating the recommended daily servings of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains? "Getting enough fiber is important for achieving weight loss and reducing the risk of conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes," she says. She also suggests thinking about different ways in which you can prepare your favorite foods at home, such as grilling, roasting, or using an air fryer.
Be mindful of portion sizes
Ideally, half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, a quarter of it should be a source of protein, and the remaining quarter can be some sort of starch or grain. The My Plate Method can help you plan your portions.
Watch what you drink
Are you drinking enough water to stay hydrated throughout the day? If you're frequently reaching for juices, sodas, or sports drinks, consider that they can contribute added sugars to your diet. Also be mindful of sugars you may be adding to your tea or coffee, such as honey or syrup.
Get moving in ways that feel fun for you
Try not to view working out as a punishment or solely a means for losing weight.
Instead, look at the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week as a way to feel better throughout the day, relieve stress, and increase overall energy, says Vasquez.
And don't be afraid to get creative. "You don't have to stay in the gym for two hours every day to see results," she says. "You can go to the park, walk your dog, or do yoga at home. Studies have shown that even a 15-minute daily routine can make a difference."