Are your healthy eating resolutions already running out of steam? Forget the ‘New Year, New You’ approach. Instead, Nutritional Therapist Heather Leeson shares her tips for a more balanced approach to healthy eating this year. Or watch Heather explain more on Virgin Media weekend AM.
Why most healthy eating resolutions fail
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions related to healthy eating. And almost 95% of us might start well, but typically run out of steam before the end of January. So why, when we want to make healthier choices, do so many of us struggle to maintain these? For most, the problem is trying to make too many changes all at once or trying to implement a change that is just too much to take on. It’s unrealistic to think that we will be able to stick to this longer term, especially if the results we expect are not as easy or as quick to achieve as we would like. We are setting ourselves up to fail.
Stick to one or two goals only and keep them realistic
Instead of trying to achieve lots of goals or aiming for a goal that is unrealistic, try a more balanced approach. Stick to one or two goals and keep them realistic, specific and something you can keep up for good. Making one or two smaller changes that you can keep up for good is going to make a much bigger impact on your health than a more dramatic change that you can only maintain for a few weeks. So rather than ‘I am going to give up chocolate’ your goal might be to limit chocolate to only two days per week. Instead of giving coffee up altogether, set yourself a limit e.g. 2 cups of coffee by lunchtime.
Focus on one meal at a time
You don’t need to tackle your whole diet straight away. It is much easier and more achievable to tackle one meal or one habit at a time. Breakfast is a great place to start, as many of us eat the same thing for breakfast almost every day. And of course, having a good breakfast sets you up well for the rest of the day. Or if snacking is a challenge for you, focus on swapping to healthier snacks instead.
Two other tips to help you achieve your goal(s)
Research shows that it’s also better to write your goals down, ideally somewhere you can see them daily, like beside your workstation or near the kettle. Then you can remind yourself of your goal daily. If you prefer to use your phone, there are lots of habit tracking apps that you can use to help you.
The other tip in helping you to achieve your goal is to make sure that your environment is working with you, rather than against you. So, if your goal is to eat more veg, then stock up on veg. If you want to limit treats to the weekend, don’t have them in the house and have healthier alternatives to hand. If you want to reduce caffeine, stock up on herbal teas or other options.
Aim for ‘most of the time’
It’s hard to change long entrenched eating habits. Build in a day off once per week. A balanced approach means doing the right thing most of the time, not aiming for perfection all of the time.
Choosing the right goal for you
Everyone will have different goals and health challenges, there is no such thing as a single goal that will suit everyone. But aiming to eat a diet higher in wholefoods and lower in processed foods is a great principle to start with. This might require a little more work or a few more minutes in the kitchen, but is worth the time and should end up saving you money as well as helping your health.
More than 60% of the food that we now eat fall into the ultra-processed category. Not just ready meals and junk foods, but also supposedly healthy foods like cereals, breads and yoghurts. Ultra-processing usually results in a decrease in nutrients or fibre and the addition of artificial ingredients designed to enhance shelf life or consistency of the food rather than our health.
If starting with your breakfast, look at the ingredient list of whatever you usually eat. If it contains ingredients that you would not have in your cupboard, swap for a less processed option e.g. replace processed breakfast cereal like Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes with porridge or a no-added sugar muesli. Or if you are having instant porridge, switch to porridge oats. Try pre-soaking them in water overnight to speed up cooking time in the morning. If you hate porridge, even switching to a less processed cereal like shredded wheat is a positive change.
If your breakfast is already based around wholefoods, consider switching to a less processed lunch or dinner, like making a veg soup or your own tomato-based pasta sauce. Or replace a store-bought sauce like sweet and sour with your own home-made version.
|MEAL||SWAP OUT||REPLACE WITH|
|Breakfast||Breakfast cereal||Porridge with fruit and seeds or overnight oats with chia seeds|
|Lunch||Sandwich||Easy carrot and lentil soup with slice wholegrain bread|
|Dinner||Sweet and sour chicken with ready made sauce||‘Fake away’ sweet and sour chicken with wholegrain rice|
|Snack||Fruit yoghurt||Natural yoghurt with chopped fruit|
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