Even if someone hasn’t looked at the calendar lately, the barrage of weight-loss commercials on the television is a pretty sure sign that the new year is upon us.
For many Americans, losing weight, getting in shape, and improving our health is a common resolution. Unfortunately, not only do those resolutions usually fail by the end of January, most of us can get caught up in fad diets and quick fixes that do nothing to actually improve our health. Instead of losing weight, many of us just end up losing money.
To sort through all of the rubbish, I turned to a number of Registered Dietitians to weigh in (puns intended). I asked them what practical advice they have for average people looking to eat healthier, shed some weight, and get in shape in the new year.
Here were some of my favorite answers:
If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year you’re going to try to eat healthier, I recommend starting with small changes instead of a lifestyle overhaul. A few key decisions can make a big difference in your health. First, I always tell people to strive to include more fruits and vegetables in their meals. Start with including a vegetable at each meal and a piece of fruit with snacks. Fresh, frozen, or canned are all good choices. The next suggestion is don’t drink your calories! Drink water instead and fill up on high-quality foods. The calories in lattes or coffee drinks, soda or juice can really add up and not satisfy you like eating a healthy meal will! — Kim Melton, RD. Find Kim: NutritionPro Consulting, Twitter
To have lasting and meaningful results, there is no quick-fix fad diet that will work long term. Most of us are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, so adding more of these with each meal or snack is a simple way to make a big impact. Research has shown that one of the most successful interventions to promote and maintain weight loss is to write down everything you eat, as it will make you a more mindful eater. — Danielle Bach Penick, MS, RD, CNSC, LDN. Find Danielle: Cancer Nutrition Blog, Twitter
You may have several goals for the year, but each day, set out to do just one thing. A little thing is great — do a little thing every day that you KNOW you’ll be able to accomplish. I’ve found that it’s the little daily successes that keep you on the journey, and learning to enjoy it. — Dr. Keith Ayoob, RD and Associate Professor Emeritus in pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Find Dr. Ayoob: Cut to the Chase Nutrition, Twitter
Most of us could do with eating more fruits and vegetables. Follow the advice of the Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate and make them half of your plate. — Leah McGrath, RD LDN. Find Leah: Ingles Market, Facebook, Twitter
Instead of focusing on weight loss, work on specific dietary habits; eating more vegetables, for example, is so important for good health but most of us struggle to get enough (including dietitians!). Over the past few years I have made a habit of bulking up my meals with frozen steamable vegetables — I add broccoli to a cup of creamy potato soup, cut green beans to rice dishes … the possibilities are endless. You’ll get more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to reduce your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease while improving your digestive regularity — and yes, you may even lose some weight, too! — Leia Flure, MS, RD, LDN. Find Leia: Facebook, Twitter
Don’t eliminate foods you love! Smart-swaps and planning lead to success. Evaluate recipes for little changes that can make big impacts, nutritionally. Remember: It should still be something you crave (so don’t go overboard). — Amanda Kruse, RD, CD. Find Amanda: Website, Twitter
Skip the smoothies and chew your food! If you have teeth and a small intestine, let your body do the digestion. Invest in convenient, nutritious food for quick meals instead of grabbing a shake or protein bar. Keep eggs for omelets or hard-boiled eggs as snacks. Stock canned beans for a meatless meal or soup. Use a variety of frozen veggies in casseroles, soups, or as side dishes. Buy seasonal fruit and veggies, nuts, or low fat dairy products for snacks. Satiety and gut health are key to weight management and good health. — Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD. Find Lisa: Sound Bites Nutrition LLC, Twitter
Pump up the volume — the veggie volume, that is, and start at breakfast! Add one serving to each breakfast for a month, then amp it up to two. If you have time to crack an egg, you have time to saute pre-bagged spinach to go along with it.
Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT. Find Nicole: Enjoy Food. Enjoy Life., Twitter
Farmer’s Daughter pro tip: All of these trained professionals are available on social media and more than willing to discuss health, fitness, and diet with people. Feel free to give them a like, share, or follow to help you keep all of your goals this year!
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.