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Small changes and goals can all add up to a healthier year in 2018

After the feasting and indulgence of the holiday season, it’s understandable that eating better and exercising more are two of the most common resolutions people make at this time of year.

But vague, large-scale goals like these often lead to disappointing results with only 58 per cent of people sticking to them by end of January, according to a 2017 survey.

To be more successful, psychologists like Dr. John Norcross of Scranton University recommend you set specific, realistic goals with concrete action steps and either declare those goals to others or write them down. He also cautions that you should be prepared for minor slips and setbacks and not to let them derail you. Successful resolvers have the confidence to stick to their goals and resume working on them when temporarily sidetracked.

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Keep these recommendations in mind when it comes to setting goals for eating and living healthier. Set yourself up for long-term success. Avoid unrealistic targets, fad diets, cleansing, fasting or detoxing schemes, diets that avoid entire food groups or that rely on “superfoods” or an array of special supplements. Focus on small, incremental steps that you can incorporate into your everyday routine. Start wherever you are today with confidence and determination.

Here are some specific action steps to implement some of the healthy eating recommendations from leading chronic disease organizations in Canada. Remember, be realistic — pick and choose only a few suggestions from the list. Write them on your fridge, calendar or meal planner and work on them until they’ve become a habit. As you successfully incorporate one item into your daily routine, add another. Building on small successes will be much more rewarding than planning too much at one time.

Here are a few important points to keep in mind.

Eat more vegetables and fruits

  • Eat one additional serving of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Have a serving of fruit every breakfast. If you don’t eat breakfast, that’s a good challenge in itself; start every day by having a piece of fruit and work up to having three food groups at breakfast.
  • Pack a fruit or veggie snack whenever you’re in the car for more than one hour.
  • Bring a salad, vegetable platter or fruit dessert to potlucks or parties.
  • Fill half your dinner plate with vegetables every day.
  • Taste a new fruit or vegetable once a month.
  • Add fresh or frozen spinach, kale or dark greens to soups, stews or casseroles.
  • Choose dark-green lettuce or leafy greens instead of iceberg lettuce.
  • Prepare and cut fresh veggies so they’re always easily accessible for snacking.

Eat more whole grains and high-fibre foods

  • Choose whole grain breads, pitas or tortillas for sandwiches, wraps and quesadillas. If 100 per cent whole grain is too much, start with 60 per cent whole wheat.
  • Use whole wheat flour, oats, wheat germ and bran in baking recipes. In most baking recipes, you can substitute half of the white flour with whole wheat flour without changing anything else.
  • Eat a bowl of air-popped popcorn as a snack instead of chips or crackers.
  • Make a new recipe using oats every month (overnight oats, hot oatmeal, pancakes, granola, oat bread, oat snacks, etc.).
  • Try a new whole grain recipe at least once a month. Try quinoa, buckwheat, wheat berries, hulled barley, amaranth, wild rice, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, millet, etc.
  • Pick breakfast cereals made with whole grain, bran or oats and that are high in fibre. The first ingredient listed should be a whole grain.
  • Check the “% Daily Value” on nutrition fact labels and choose whole grain foods (crackers, cereal, baked goods, granola bars, bread) with 15 per cent of fibre per serving.
  • Add nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, hemp, or chia) in baking, on top of salads or as the basis of snacks.

Choose a variety of lean protein sources

  • Eat one high-protein, vegetarian meal per week. If this is too much for your family, try once a month, if you’re already doing this add a second or third meal per week. Try lentil or bean soup, three-bean chili, frittata, quiche, chickpea curry, pasta and beans, etc.
  • Eat fish once a week (especially salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, halibut).
  • Add beans, peas and lentils to salads, soups and main entrees.
  • Try a new pulse recipe once a month. Look for black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, mung beans, broad beans, red lentils, green lentils, split peas, chickpeas, etc.
  • Eat eggs more often. One whole egg a day does not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. If you have diabetes limit whole eggs to four per week.
  • Limit the size of meat portions to the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand; that’s roughly equal to 75 grams or three ounces.
  • Make a meal using tofu or tempeh once a month.

Reduce sugar, salt and overly processed foods

  • Cook one additional meal from scratch per week. Avoid using packaged sauces, soups or mixes.
  • Reduce the number of meals you eat out per month by one or two. Fast-food and high-end restaurant food typically has more salt, sugar and fat than home-cooked meals.
  • Make a habit of reading the “% Daily Value” on the nutrition facts label and choose foods with five per cent or less of sodium, trans fats and saturated fats.
  • Switch to water or milk instead of pop, fruit beverages, Kool-Aid or juice. If this is a real challenge, take small steps by choosing water or milk every other time, once a day or whatever target works for you.
  • Buy additional fresh, frozen or canned fruit for snacking instead of buying chips, cookies or packaged snack food.
  • Make homemade muffins, cookies and granola bars (using oats and whole grains when possible) to replace store-bought baked goods, packaged cookies or granola bars. Home-baked goods usually contain less sugar, fat, salt and preservatives, use better-quality ingredients and come in better portion sizes.
  • Reduce sugar in baking recipes. In most recipes, you can use one-third less sugar without any other modifications.
  • Use herbs, low-salt spice blends and citrus to flavour food instead of salt.
  • Replace bottled salad dressings with homemade dressings and vinaigrettes.
  • Make sandwiches with oven-roasted chicken, beef, pork, tuna, salmon, eggs or nut butters instead of processed deli meats.
  • Prepare homemade freezer meals and snacks to have on hand for busy days.
  • Make a weekly meal plan and buy groceries accordingly. This helps avoid impulse buying and lets you plan healthy meals and snacks.

Choose and use fats wisely

  • Grill, steam and bake food instead of deep-frying.
  • Use soft margarine or canola or olive oil instead of hard margarine.
  • Choose canola or olive oil instead of corn oil or vegetable oil.
  • Choose eggs with omega-3 fatty acids.

Adopting several small changes and incorporating them into daily routines will go a long way to helping you achieve your goal to eat and live healthier in 2018.

I’m looking forward to joining you on that journey and providing more recipes and tips throughout the year.

About the author

Contributor

Getty Stewart is a professional home economist, speaker and writer from Winnipeg. For more recipes, preserves and kitchen tips, visit www.gettystewart.com.

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