Many New Year’s resolutions are goals of eating healthier and getting in better shape. However, starting those habits can be tricky.
The first week may go well, but a busy schedule or slip-up can often upend those lofty expectations. Setting some more realistic goals may be key to achieving what most set out to do after Jan. 1, says Nicole Johnson, a dietitian with Hy-Vee based in eastern Iowa.
“Use confidence levels,” Johnson said. “Think between one and 10 how confident you are that you’ll be able to make this goal. We always want to shoot for a confidence level of seven.”
Johnson said building in leeway to a healthy resolution is also important. Making a resolution to eat five servings of vegetables a day or work out 30 minutes per day is a great goal, but isn’t always realistic. When building those habits, a missed day can feel like a failure, which can psychologically deter someone from continuing on the path.
“If we can say five days out of the week, or four or three, do whatever you feel most confident in doing,” she said. “A lot of times people are aiming to be perfect, and you don’t need to be perfect to be healthy.”
When looking to change up a diet, fruits and vegetables are a good addition to a dinner plate, Johnson said. There is much discussion about whether to eat vegetables raw or cooked to get the best nutrients, but she said it ultimately shouldn’t matter too much.
“It’s whatever is pleasing to you,” Johnson said. “There’s benefits to them either way. I would encourage people to try things they think they don’t like too, because taste buds change and you may not realize you enjoy them.”
She said roasting vegetables has become a popular option.
Meat can also be a good part of a balanced diet, but Johnson said to keep an eye on portion control. When eating out at a restaurant, many burgers come in a half-pound patty, but suggestions point toward a 3 or 4 ounce serving as more optimal. She also suggested watching for more lean cuts when buying meat at the grocery store, looking at the 90 or 93% lean cuts of ground beef.
Johnson advised following the MyPlate guidelines from the USDA as a starting point for a healthy diet. Half of the dinner plate is fruits and vegetables, a quarter for grains and a quarter for protein with a serving of dairy. By following this method, she said people can eat healthier, and they don’t always have to give up some of their favorite foods.
“A lot of times people think they have to take out pizza or spaghetti,” she said. “They can fit that into a healthy meal plan, but you have to include fruits and vegetables with it.”