New year, new nutrition goals
As we approach the end of January, we often leave our New Year’s resolutions in our wake. What started as a committed effort to exercise more or eat “better” can end with disappointment as we realize we bit off more than we can chew (no pun intended).
But resolution or not, it’s never too late to make healthier food choices – no matter the time of year.
“I think resolutions are overrated – why wait for a year to make them?” says Dina Daniello-Santiago, a registered dietitian with Manitoba Blue Cross’s Employee Assistance Program.
“When we break a resolution, it often leads to disappointment and frustration. Instead, think about setting realistic goals.”
While it’s tempting to change your whole diet, Daniello-Santiago outlines some more realistic and sustainable nutrition goals to reach toward in 2023.
Rethink “good” and “bad” foods
It’s easy to think of food in contrasting terms – vegetables are “good,” while sweets are “bad.” But looking at foods as “bad” and cutting them out completely may be unnecessary.
“When trying to eat better, start thinking about foods you can add in – rather than foods to remove,” Daniello-Santiago says. “Get on track with incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your day. Without a doubt, the combination of fat and sugar make unhealthy foods both addictive and easy to over consume. However, avoiding them entirely may not be beneficial. Enjoying your favourite treat occasionally is a much more healthful and sustainable approach for most people.”
You may also want to avoid so-called “diet” foods, she says.
“These foods typically have their fat content reduced dramatically and are most often labelled as ‘fat-free,’ ‘low fat,’ ‘fat-reduced,’ or ‘low calorie,’” she says. “To make up for the lost texture and flavour from fat, often sugar and other ingredients are added. Which in turn means than many ‘diet’ foods end up containing more sugar and possibly even more calories than their full-fat counterparts.”
Watch your pace
Being mindful of what we eat is important – but we should also be mindful of how fast we eat.
“We live in such a fast-paced world that we don’t even have the time to stop and actually taste our food,” Daniello-Santiago says.
Hormones control your appetite, how much you eat, and how full you get – but keep in mind that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive these messages. If you notice you’re often “overstuffed” after a meal, slowing down can help give your brain the time it needs to perceive that you’re full.
We’ve all heard how important staying hydrated is, but it can still be easy to forget. If you’re trying to drink more water, having a glass or bottle close at hand is a convenient, visual reminder to drink more. Some bottles even have measurements and a schedule printed on the side, so you know how much you should be drinking each hour.
On top of keeping you healthy, staying hydrated can also affect how you eat, Daniello-Santiago says.
“Several studies have shown that drinking water can help with weight loss and maintenance by reducing your appetite and food intake if consumed prior to eating,” she says.
Shop with a list
We usually have at least a few key items in mind when we enter a grocery store, but preparing a detailed and extensive list can help us get out faster – and help us avoid buying items we probably don’t need. And with grocery prices increasing, being prepared can also help us spend only what we need to.
And in busy households, the person that does most of the shopping doesn’t have to be the only one making the list. You can share a grocery list with others on both Android and Apple phones – so they can add (and remove!) items in real time.
“Another key rule that is easy to follow is to never go grocery shopping hungry – your hunger and cravings will likely lead to grabbing more processed, low-nutrient foods,” Daniello-Santiago says.
Plan your meals and snacks
It’s classic advice to plan your meals, but it’s classic for a reason.
“There is no getting around it – in order to eat better, you need to plan for it and make it a priority,” she says. “Set aside time to pack your lunch and snacks for the next day. Even prepping your breakfast in advance can be a time saver and a game changer for those who never have time for the most important meal of the day.”
Keeping a notepad or whiteboard on the fridge can be a simple, visual reminder of what you’re having this week. (And as a bonus, it’ll reduce the number of times you hear “What’s for dinner?”)
Keep things fluid
It’s important to remember that a goal is not a law – you shouldn’t punish yourself if you break it.
“Will you potentially slip? Yes,” Daniello-Santiago says. “But the real goal is to understand that and have an action plan in place. Breaking your resolution or goal does not mean you give up – stay positive. It’s a chance to learn what works for you or how to handle challenges. It’s okay to change your goals too.”
If you’re wanting to learn more about improving your diet, she recommends talking to a healthcare professional, like a registered dietitian, who will guide you on your journey to healthier eating.
Counselling support from Manitoba Blue Cross
If you’re looking to improve your nutrition with a registered dietitian, we can help. Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get nutrition counselling support. Begin the process here.
Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.