TORONTO – Eat more fruit and vegetables. Hit the gym every day. Cut down on sugar, salt and processed fare. New Year’s resolutions are hard to maintain, especially when they’re unsustainable. General goals are lofty, so it’s easy to fail.
Global News asked a handful of Dietitians of Canada experts from coast to coast for their tips on hitting the health reset button in the new year.
Remove distractions so you can eat mindfully: Try to eat your meals at the dining room table at home and in the lunchroom at work — without distractions, according to Saskatoon dietitian Brook Bulloch. If this is a foreign concept to you, you might want to start with one or two meals a week and go from there.
“Savour the flavour of your food and pay attention to the texture, taste and color of your food. You can also ask yourself whether you truly enjoy the food you are eating,” she suggests.
Avoid fad diets that forbid entire food groups: If you create strict rules — don’t eat fried food, give up sugar, cut out all carbohydrates, for example — you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Don’t start with a laundry list of changing either. Instead, make one change to your diet and commit to it for a couple of weeks before adding another change, says Andrea Miller, a Durham, Ont. dietitian.
“You could try switching from white rice to brown rice. Or you could try packing a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack – instead of searching for a sweet treat when at work or school. These small changes will add up in the long run,” Miller told Global News.
Track your goals and make them count: Your goals should be SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, according to Angel Ong, a Montreal-based dietitian.
That means you can’t get away with “Eat healthy in 2015” generic objectives. Instead, say “I will eat at least two servings of vegetables each day in January.”
Use free smartphone apps to help you track your progress. She suggests eaTracker, but others are also popular: MyFitnessPal, PactApp, Fitocracy and Day One have also been recommended by experts to Global News.
Create a healthy eating environment at work: You spend at least 40 hours a week at work, where you’re tempted by a coworker’s birthday cake, pizza lunches and morning donuts with coffee. These temptations could sabotage your attempt at carving out healthy habits, says Kate Comeau, a Halifax-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada.
“Studies suggest that when snacks are visible and accessible, we eat more. Help your coworkers and yourself by sticking to healthy snacks or less frequent treats,” she said.
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Other experts told Global News that when you’re hitting vulnerable parts of your workday — that 3 p.m. lull when you’re craving a snack for example — create a new habit, such as taking a 10-minute walk during that time of the day.
Give meatless meals an honest try: You could be convinced that you need meat in each of your meals, but keep in mind that legumes, such as beans, lentils and pulses are also great sources of protein.
Legumes are also sources of soluble fibre, which can lower harmful cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol) and they maintain even blood sugar levels, according to Toronto-based dietitian Christy Brissette.
Legumes are also packed with iron. A Canadian study released in 2014 suggested that just a single serving a day of these pulses can cut down on bad cholesterol by as much as five per cent over the course of six weeks and decrease your risk of heart disease.
Use measuring cups or a food scale to help you learn portion sizes: You may have relied on your hands to help you navigate portions – a fist is about a cup, a palm as a rough guide to 3 ounces of meat. Vashti Verbowski, a Vancouver-based dietitian, is calling on consumers to pull out the measuring cups and food scales to help them understand how much they’re eating.
“The larger the portion we serve ourselves, the more we tend to eat. If you want to lose or maintain your weight this year, revisit your portion sizes. Find out what a ‘usual’ portion size looks like for you, then scale your portions down,” she advised.
If you usually pile up two cups of potatoes or rice on your place, for example, aim for one cup instead. Fill the space with non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots, bell peppers, green beans or broccoli.
Get in the kitchen: If your 2014 was spent at the drive-thru, with take-out menus, and eating out of Styrofoam boxes, try to get back in the kitchen, says Waterloo-based dietitian Andrea D’Ambrosio.
“We have become increasingly dependent on ultra-processed food, convenience foods and restaurant meals. This year, choose to cook your own food more often,” she told Global News.
Start small – promise to cook up a meal once a week and match a large batch so there’s extra that you can freeze or take to work. When you prepare your meals at home, you control how much salt, fat and sugar is in your diet.