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Eating well is a common New Year’s resolution but it’s easy to lose steam.
Making small changes to your eating habits can make a big difference in achieving good nutrition.
Talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your diet.
Every year, millions of people make a New Year’s resolution. One of the most common? Eating healthy. Unfortunately, as the weeks tick by, our motivation can begin to wane. The good news is that you don’t have to give up if you’ve slipped up. It can be easy to get back on track to good nutrition. The secret: think small.
Big changes can overwhelm our bodies and brains. Instead, break down your big goal of “eating better” into smaller, more meaningful changes. Not sure where to start? Here are a few of our favorite healthy eating habits.
Personalize your plate
Our bodies need healthy foods to be at their best. But the calories, vitamins, and nutrients you need could be different from what a friend, spouse, or sibling needs. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced “MyPlate” to help you figure out what your plate should look like for your health.
As you continue to work toward eating a well-balanced diet, spend some time learning about MyPlate and why personalizing your plate can keep you on track to achieving your health goals.
Meal prep ensures success
It can be easy to shrug off the idea of meal prep. After all, who wants to spend a chunk of their weekend in the kitchen? The reality is that time spent preparing healthy, delicious, and nutritious meals mean you have great options on hand when lunch or snack time rolls around during the rest of the week.
There’s no need to create (or recreate) complex recipes. In fact, our nutritionists recently shared their 10 tips to meal prep like a pro! (Spoiler alert: The key is to make it work for you – your calendar, your budget, your preferences.)
Swap in healthy snacks
The 3 p.m. sugar crash can make even the most disciplined person crave something sweet or savory to tide them over until dinner. Instead of reaching for processed foods, like chips, opt for a healthy snack instead. Here are a few healthy and delicious ideas:
- Apples and nut butter
- Plain popcorn
- Mixed nuts
- Fresh veggies and hummus
Beat stress eating
It’s a fact of life that we will face stress from time to time. And when those typical daily stressors are compounded by bigger issues – like living through a global pandemic – it can make stress feel even more intense. That stress can impact just about every area of life: How you sleep, how you feel, and, of course, how you eat.
Stress can make you feel not hungry, or it can make you crave some of your favorite comfort foods. This is stress eating. One of the biggest challenges with this unhealthy habit is that we’re not aware we’re doing it: You didn’t realize you worked through lunch (again) until you’re rummaging in the pantry for something, anything quick! Or you “reward” yourself with ice cream for dinner after a tough day juggling kids and work.
The good news is that there are effective ways to manage the habit. If stress is a trigger that derails your healthy eating plans, commit to finding ways to beat stress eating.
Drink more water
Whether you want to eat better to lose weight or just feel your best, drinking more water is a simple change that can help you achieve your goals. When you reach for water, instead of a sugary soft drink or juice, you’re filling your body with a calorie-free and refreshing drink.
There are also studies that suggest drinking water before or after meals can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. That is particularly true for middle-aged and older adults.
If you’re ready to boost your hydration, try one (or a few) of these simple tips:
- Figure out how much water you need. Depending on where you live, what you do and your overall health, it can range from 64 ounces to 125 ounces. Check this handy guide to get an idea of what’s best for you.
- Measure water intake with a water bottle. Keep track of how many times you’ve filled it up each day.
- Set a reminder. Make a goal that works with your lifestyle – like refilling a water bottle every hour or taking a few drinks every 30 minutes. Whatever that may be, write it down on a piece of paper or set an alarm on your phone or computer.
- Start your day hydrated. Drink one glass of water when you first wake up. (Yes, even before that cup of coffee.) You’ll be on your way to meeting your water intake goal. And some studies suggest you’ll feel more awake and ready to face the day when you’re well hydrated.
Focus on fiber
Fiber is an important nutrient – and many of us aren’t getting enough of it. Not only is fiber key for your digestive health, but it also helps you feel full longer. Research has also shown that fiber plays an important role in controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels. If you want to eat more fiber as part of your healthy eating plan for 2022, try these simple tips:
- Snack on raw fruits and veggies
- Add beans or peas to pasta or salad
- Pop some popcorn (just skip the salt and butter)
- Sprinkle chia seeds on yogurt
- Leave the skin on apples, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes
Set yourself up for success
It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of making changes to your eating habits. That’s when it’s important to remember to start small. Pick just one of the items on this list and work on that for a week or two – or even a month. Then, when it becomes second nature to reach for that water (or whatever your first goal may be), you can move on to the next habit you want to conquer.
And, as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before making big lifestyle changes. Together, you can make a plan that addresses any chronic conditions you may be managing, like diabetes or high blood pressure, to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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