TORONTO – So your new year’s resolution to give up on carbs, isn’t working, huh? How about heading to the gym every day and swapping out all your sweets for vegetables?
We’re ambitious and well-intentioned, but sometimes our goals get ahead of us. Canadian dietitians say that a few weeks after putting these limiting resolutions to the test, we quickly learn how unsustainable they are.
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A general “get healthier” goal is also lofty – so generic, it’s easy to fail. Instead, Global News asked a handful of experts, including several Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month spokespeople from coast to coast, for their tips on hitting the health reset button in the new year.
Tackle one at a time: Too many goals at one time could set you up for failure. Instead, Jennifer Sygo, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic Canada, suggests that you prioritize your goals and phase them in one at a time. Start with packing your lunches for a week and once you have the hang of it, add a new goal like eating more vegetables.
Re-establish a routine: After the holidays, it’s hard to refocus. Try to take stock of health habits that worked well last year – maybe it was working out in the morning before work, or making sure half of your dinner plate was covered in vegetables. “Get back into these habits that worked and you’ll regain confidence right away. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many things at once,” Sygo said.
Get active (and think outside of the box): Start scheduling some time for exercise, whether it’s 20 minutes, half an hour or even an hour a day, according to Carrie Regan, a registered dietitian at Oshawa’s Lakeridge Health. January is the busiest time of the year at the gym, but she says you don’t necessarily have to head there. Instead, she suggests YouTube, with special channels like Blogilates and Body Rock TV. That way, you can work out in the comfort of your living room, without the stress of commuting or paying gym fees.
Once a week planning: Designate one day each week to plan meals and do grocery shopping. That way, you’re less likely to grab take-out or make impulsive purchases at the grocery store. You can also plan meals for lunches so you’re preparing them instead of heading to the cafeteria.
Double the recipe: Making a second batch of breakfast or dinner can save you time and energy the next day when you’re looking for a quick fix before heading out for the day or if you’re packing lunch, Helene Charlebois, a registered dietitian in Ottawa, says. She uses pancakes as an example: reheat the extra batch in the toaster and top them with almond butter or sliced bananas for breakfast.
Eat your breakfast: Your body fasts while you’re asleep, Regan says. “When you wake up you need to re-energize,” she explained. Research has even suggested that people who eat breakfast are more likely to lose weight and keep it off compared to those who skip their morning meals. Regan says this might have to do with having less willpower after a hungry morning.
Eat your veggies: Raw, cooked or steamed and lightly seasoned with pepper or herbs, vegetables are low in calories, high in fibre and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Keep a journal: Many of the experts weighing in suggested that Canadians take up food journaling. “We underestimate how many calories we eat and overestimate how much exercise we do. (Keeping a journal) helps to keep us accountable,” Regan said. A quick summary of the day’s intake and output could help point out if you’re grazing on too many snacks right before dinner or if you’re using up calories on sugary drinks. You can also use an app, such as My Fitness Pal or Lose It.
Swap the processed foods for fresh fare whenever you can: This isn’t an easy rule to abide by, but Regan suggests that you can try to reach for fresh produce, fresh meat and fresh poultry whenever possible. At the same time, stay away from the processed, sugary convenient treats as often as you can.
Clean out the pantry for potential slip-ups: There might be some leftover sweets from Christmas or indulgent gifts you haven’t gotten around to yet. Think twice before you decide to keep these temptations around your home, Sygo warns. “It’s sad to see these things go in the garbage but your choices are in the garbage or in you,” she said.
Main course salads: Try making a dinner salad, according to Vanessa MacLellan, a registered dietitian in St. John, N.B. “Interesting ingredients can turn a container of baby spinach and turn it into a great meal,” she suggests. Dress your greens up with nuts, protein, fruits, beans and other vegetables. Her recommendation? This spicy jerk chicken salad.
Dust off the slow cooker: Alison Caron, a Montreal-based registered dietitian, suggests pulling out the slowcooker. She makes winter-ready stews with beef, pork or dried legumes with root vegetables, herbs and spices, that simmer for hours in a flavourful broth. One-pot recipes, like stir fries, also make for easy dinners, says registered dietitian Shannon Crocker. She recommends a Thai turkey stir-fry that’s an easy one-pot recipe.
Stock up on cooking tools: That could mean new knives, a non-stick pan, an instant-read thermometer or a blender. “A few good kitchen tools can make cooking a lot easier,” Kristyn Hall, dietitian in Calgary, suggested as her tip.
Read more about Nutrition Month here.