Setting healthy nutritional goals

Published in the PRG winter edition 2020

By Shauna Schultz, RD

With the New Year, diet and weight-related resolutions are looming. While most are set with good intentions, seeing them through is another story. If this sounds like you or someone you know, maybe it’s time to reframe New Year goals. Don’t get me wrong, changing habits and setting goals are great, but many of us go about it the wrong way. Changing behaviors is not about willpower, it takes time and effort, and occurs in steps.  Use the following strategies to set yourself up for success.

Understand the Why

Identifying the “what” is easy: maybe it’s “to lose weight” or “to eat healthier.” But it’s the why that drives motivation and keeps you moving forward. Why do you want to lose weight? Maybe it’s to keep up with your grandchildren or join your friends on weekly hikes. Search for the why that you can connect with deep down, not something that is superficial.

Be Smart About the How

Jumping in headfirst without a clear, specific set of strategies is a common mistake. Spend time writing down how you will make changes by examining your current habits and identifying small steps you can take that are realistic. It’s tempting to change too much at once, but this almost always results in ditching the plan. So, let’s say you want to eat healthier – this a broad statement. How can you eat healthier? It might be to take your lunch to work or fill half your plate with vegetables at dinner.

Be Inclusive

Who wants to always focus on excluding? Restriction typically leads to feeling deprived and increased cravings. Focus on what to include instead – make a list of the ways you can nourish your body. Crowd out the not-so-healthy foods, and feelings of deprivation, while fueling your body and mind by including the healthy foods. Try out Meatless Mondays to eat more plant foods, have a square of dark chocolate with almond butter after dinner, a bowl of vegetable soup with lunch, or a piece of whole grain toast with avocado and tomato for a snack.   

Know Your Environment

Changing habits successfully requires a healthy environment – the healthy choice must be the easy choice. If you would like to eat fewer sweets, remove sweets from your home or office and have an alternative on hand. Let your friends and family know you are making changes and tell them how they can support you. And, pay attention to cues that trigger unhealthy choices, such as a mid-morning trip to the coffee shop or visiting the drive-through on the way to soccer.

Bite by bite, or meal by meal, it’s an individual matter. But you might just discover that changing habits can benefit the whole family!

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