Pledging to improve your eating habits in the coming year? You’re not alone. Eating healthier is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions among Canadians.
Of course, as many of us have learned, achieving this goal is easier said than done.
The good news is a slight shift in perspective may yield better results. While it can be tempting to try to overhaul your entire diet, that’s not always the best approach to sustained progress. “For some people, the all-or-nothing approach works,” says Kristen Yarker. She is a registered dietitian based in Victoria, British Columbia. “But for most of us, we’re much more successful when we choose something small.”
These 3 popular resolutions might be holding you back. Here’s what to replace them with for better long-term results:
Skip: Cutting out all sugar
Cutting out sugar entirely ignores the fact that food brings us pleasure. Depriving yourself of all the sweets you enjoy could negatively affect your mental health over time.
Instead, choose moderation.
“The reality is that most people do eat far too much sugar,” says Yarker. “So there should be a focus on eating less sugar. But you don’t need to go to absolutes to be healthy.” So rather than absentmindedly noshing on chocolate while you work, save sweets for special occasions. Like a New Year’s fête or a birthday. And when you do indulge, be sure to truly enjoy your treats.
Skip: Avoiding restaurant meals altogether
The urge to cook more meals at home is a noble one. After all, homemade meals do tend to be easier on your wallet and waistline than restaurant fare. Resolving to not eating out at all, however, can set you up for failure. “Whenever we say we’re never going to do something again, it makes us want to do it,” says Yarker.
Instead, set an attainable goal.
If you typically grab lunch 5 days a week, try switching to a homemade meal 3 of those days. “It’s not that you’re getting rid of eating out,” Yarker explains. “You’re adding the habit of bringing your own lunch.”
After a few months of success, try upping it to 4 or 5 days a week.
Skip: Launching into a drastically different diet
If you’re considering a diet that’s a vast departure from the way you eat now, think twice.
“Often people say to me, ‘I’m in a rut. I know I’m not eating healthy,’” says Yarker. “And it is tempting to try a whole new diet. But if you’re making brand-new recipes for every meal, it becomes overwhelming and you’re likely to fall off.”
Instead, take it slow.
Incorporate aspects of your desired diet into your meal plans. For example, you could try out one brand-new recipe each week. It could be a vegan meal for Meatless Mondays or a paleo-friendly skillet dinner. This allows you to shift your diet slowly, without abandoning all your old favourites. “You’ll build up your repertoire of meals. Then maybe you can move up to 2 days a week or more,” says Yarker.
The bottom line? Small changes make for big results
“Stick to one small change. That will build up your confidence so you can make another one,” says Yarker. “That one-step-at-a-time approach ends up being more successful. Even if it doesn’t seem as exciting as some of the big, sweeping changes.”
Simple resolutions help you eat more healthfully. This could be packing a veggie snack to get in one more serving of vegetables a day. Or resolving to turn off the TV when you eat.
These small changes also foster a healthier relationship with food that can make you happier overall. And isn’t health and happiness the real key to a brighter new year?