By Breana Lai, M.P.H., R.D.
Many of us vow to get healthier as a New Year’s resolution, but if you’re trying to do so by completely overhauling your lifestyle, you’re probably setting yourself up to fail. Instead, try making resolutions you can actually stick to — and ditching those that are unattainable. Here’s help!
Three resolutions to make
1. Eat more fiber. Research suggests that eating more fiber-rich foods — such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — might boost weight loss and help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Nutrition guidelines recommend that women eat 25 grams of fiber per day and men get 38 grams. (A half-cup of black beans has 8 grams; an apple has about 5 grams.) To increase your fiber intake, choose whole fruits, switch from white to whole-wheat bread and pasta, add beans to your diet and aim to include vegetables in every meal.
2. Cook dinner at home. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the average meal at an independent or small chain restaurant contains 1,128 calories, 2,269 mg sodium and 16 grams saturated fat. That’s more than half the average daily calorie recommendation for most Americans, exceeds the recommended sodium allowance, and contains more than 80 percent of the recommended daily limit for saturated fat. By cooking at home, you can make healthy versions of your restaurant favorites, but with much healthier levels of calories, saturated fat and sodium.
3. Exercise 30 minutes per day. Most adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity — e.g., brisk walking — every week, and muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week. That’s totally doable if you take a 30-minute walk during your lunch break and focus on strength activities on the weekend. Exercise can help control your weight, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and increase your chances of living longer — and, remember, you can also split it into two 15-minute segments and enjoy the same benefits.
Three resolutions to ditch
1. Losing 10 pounds in 1 week. When you lose weight, you lose muscle, bone and water — not just fat. Weight loss and weight-cycling increase bone turnover and bone-fracture risk. Healthy and sustainable weight loss is slow and steady — approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week. Temporary changes may lead to quick weight loss, but without a long-term commitment, the fast weight loss may just lead to future weight gain.
2. Cutting fat out of your diet completely. Fat is an essential component of your diet: It’s needed for energy and for many body functions, such as cell growth and hormone production, and it helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Plus, fat adds flavor to meals and — because it takes longer to digest — keeps you feeling fuller longer. Choose healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olives, avocados, nuts and seeds over solid fats, such as butter, lard and margarine.
3. Banning dessert. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods — or feeling guilt when you do eat them — is counterproductive and may inhibit weight loss. Instead of thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” think of them as “sometimes” vs. “all-the-time” foods. Or try choosing the healthiest option of your favorite treat, and eating it sparingly. For example, eat a small piece of dark chocolate. You’ll enjoy the benefits of heart-healthy antioxidants in the dark chocolate while you get your sweet-treat fix.
EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.