The start of a new year is a great time to make changes and resolve to be a better you. We all have good intentions when we think about making positive changes for our futures, but sometimes we set goals that are little overzealous. One of the best ways to ensure successful new year’s resolutions is to establish realistic goals. The following is a list of ideas of easy changes you can make right now for better health.
• Set small, attainable goals. For example, if you want to beginning walking around the block five times a week, begin a walk around the block twice a week. Increase slowly to walking twice around the block three times a week. Then maybe increase that to four times a week until you’ve reached your goal. Take a few weeks to get used to each milestone; don’t increase your goals too quickly. Enjoy the satisfaction of reaching each goal – you’ve earned it.
• Set a schedule. Some of us can achieve more when we have a set schedule. If you need structure to stick to a routine, then use it. Try setting an alarm on your phone for reminders to complete tasks on different days.
• Get an exercise partner. If exercise is difficult for you, find a partner to support you. Being held accountable by someone else can be a strong motivator. You can both motivate each other to continue on the road to health.
• Use smaller plates. If one of your goals is to decrease your calorie intake, consider using small plates. The bigger plate you use, the more likely you will overeat simply because you filled the plate up and feel the need to finish it all. You can cut calories almost in half by simply using a smaller plate. And if you eat slowly and mindfully, you will realize that a smaller portion of food can actually fill you up!
• Memorize the Plate Method. No matter what size is right for you, the contents of a meal should be a priority! For most people, the plate method is an easy guide for a very healthy meal plan. Half of your meal should vegetables, one fourth should be protein, and one fourth should be whole grains/starches. Have some fruit for dessert and you’ll be feeling good about the meal you just had.
• Make your plate a rainbow. One of the easiest ways to make sure you have some variety with your meal is by simply looking at your plate. Is there a variety of color and texture? For example, chicken nuggets, fries, cookies are all bland “white” foods. Instead of fries, add a salad or a side of green beans; instead of a cookie, add an orange or some grapes. Try to make a colorful meal every time.
• Try a new fruit or vegetable every month. Including a variety of food within your diet is important. Plus, broadening your tastes can be fun! Find recipes with foods you or some of your family members have never tried and try them out. You might just find a new family favorite!
• Eat at home more often. In addition to saving money, you’ll be eating better ingredients overall. Restaurants tend to include high amounts of salt, sugar and bad fats in the recipes. And when you do eat out, remember to use the Plate Method!
• Drink more water. If you like sugary drinks, try gradually replacing them with water or tea. For example, if you drink two soda pops a day, start by switching one of those out for a tea. Once that becomes routine, remove another soda during the week, and continue until you no longer drink soda on a regular basis. Water is so good for you anyway – it cushions joints, helps bowel regularity, regulates body temperature, and removes waste products.
• Get more physical activity. Exercise promotes weight loss, increases metabolism, eases constipation, boosts energy, lowers blood sugar and pressure, bolsters your more mood, and increases lean muscle mass. Resistance exercises, like weight lifting and strength training help keep your bones strong, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures.
I hope these tips will help you stay on track with your resolutions this year by helping you set realistic goals. Your goals should be specific, attainable and timely. Set one small goal at a time. Good luck!
-- Erin Plumberg is a Clinical Dietitian at St. Mary’s Medical Center and can reached at 816-655-5597.