It’s the time of year when everyone pledges to become happier, healthier, and more productive. New Year’s resolutions are a great first step to achieving your potential in the upcoming year, but we all know that they’re often easier said than done.
For 2018, it may help to think about resolutions in a whole new way.
We tapped Aramark Healthcare and K-12 registered dietitians (RDs) Mariela Aguilera, Amber Jay, Amy Siverling, and MaryJo McLoughlin (from left in photo) for fresh, practical ideas—plus tips for keeping the momentum going long after you’ve swept up the New Year’s Eve confetti.
5 RESOLUTIONS WORTH TRYING
Add it up. Instead of cutting food from your New Year’s resolution plan, add new foods that are good for you each week. This habit helps keep boredom at bay, and more wholesome foods mean less room for the other stuff. “Be adventurous!” Amber encourages. “Try a new fish, such as tuna, mackerel, herring, or trout—all packed with heart-healthy omega-3s.” Or, “Next time you stir-fry, switch out the meat for marinated tofu or a vegetable.”
Color your plate. Mariela wants you to move beyond just apples, tomatoes, and lettuce. “There’s a whole world of fruits and vegetables out there,” from brightly colored and dark leafy greens to blue and purple foods like blueberries and plums—all loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Low in calories, fruits and veggies are also high in fiber, which leaves you feeling fuller and less likely to turn to less healthy foods.
Pull up a chair. When you dine on the go, you tend to eat more quickly and overeat more easily. “Pledge to take a seat when you eat and you’ll be amazed at the difference,” advises MaryJo. Not only will you eat more slowly and often less food, but you’ll also have a moment to enjoy your company, which is especially important for families.
Skip pesky added sugars. The average American consumes over 20 teaspoons of sugar per day, though the American Heart Association recommends we eat much less. “Some sugars occur naturally in healthful foods and beverages—fruit and milk, for example—but the real culprit is sugar added during processing,” Amber explains. “It comes with no nutrients, only empty calories.” With a growing awareness for the amount of sugar in processed foods, there are now lots of choices with less, so look for lower sugar versions of your favorite foods. Can’t pass up the sweet stuff? Try cutting portions in half.
Get moving and buddy up. Logging hours at the gym isn’t the only way to add exercise to your day. Even a 20-minute walk at lunchtime can yield results sooner than you think! Or try a fun new step or dance class with a friend. MaryJo’s go-to? Housework! “It’s actually a great way to burn calories,” she says. Strap on your fitness tracker and watch the steps add up.
5 WAYS TO STICK WITH RESOLUTIONS
Choose one thing. Tackling several lifestyle changes all at once can often be too much. Mariela suggests picking one area to begin. For example, if you aim to cut back on junk food, ditch your usual afternoon snack of chips or a candy bar for whole-grain pretzels and a serving of dark chocolate. Master that, then move on to your next goal.
Make it a habit. “Focus on making changes that turn into routines,” recommends Amber. Trying to get in those five fruits and veggies a day? Include one in every meal and snack and soon you’ll hardly need to think about it. “Throw sliced peppers into your scrambled eggs, add a half cup of berries to your oatmeal, or load up your sandwiches with cucumbers and avocado.”
Keep it real. An unrealistic resolution has a high chance of being abandoned before the year is out. If you want to eat more whole grains, but find it difficult to give up the refined kind, take things down a notch. First substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your cookie, muffin, and pancake recipes. “Work your way up, and you’ll get there before you know it,” Mariela assures.
Try small steps. “As with any goal, dividing resolutions into small, manageable steps is key. Focus on behaviors you can track daily or weekly,” offers Amber. If want to eat healthier, figure out what you are going to eat three days at a time, then make your list and hit the grocery store. Rinse, repeat!
Be flexible. Life happens, and it can spoil even the best intentions. “Expect that plans will change. You’ll have occasional setbacks,” says Amy. “Don’t let it become an excuse that unravels all your progress.” Adjust if you need to, get back on track, and move on.
Regardless of your 2018 intentions, remember the road to wellness is a lifelong journey. Set aside time each day to renew your goals, celebrate your good choices, and be proud of all you’ve accomplished.
Cheers to your health!
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.