Ringing in the new year often means ringing in a new diet (along with a bunch of other resolutions). But our high hopes and good intentions often fade within a few weeks, leaving us feeling like failures. Research has repeatedly shown that crash diets and fad diets simply do not work when it comes to long term weight loss. In 2019, let’s take a different approach to make this your healthiest year!
According to Sacha Uelmen, Director of Nutrition at the American Diabetes Association, “The best way to improve your health is by creating healthier habits. And the best way to create habits is through small steps that happen slowly and gradually.” It’s tempting to take a moment of motivation, like the start of a new year, to commit to a bunch of changes all at once. But don’t spread your motivation too thin! “It’s best to focus on one goal at a time, and once that goal becomes a habit, move on to the next goal” says Uelmen.
This year, instead of putting all your goals in one “New Year’s Resolutions” basket, spread them out over the course of the year, so you can focus on achieving (and sticking to!) one goal at a time. To help you get started, here is our guide to a full year of healthy living—12 things you can do in 2019 to build healthier habits.
Looking for ongoing motivation? Sign up here for the Diabetes Food Hub newsletter and get monthly tips, recipes, nutrition advice, and more.
Here are some ideas that might help you get going, but feel free to personalize these goals and make them work for you. Start with a goal that you know you can achieve in the first month. Start easy and celebrate victories along the way!
Eat More Veggies. Isn’t it great to start out the year eating more of something? Everyone, whether they have diabetes or not, should eat at least 3-5 servings of vegetables every day. Try one of these goals to get you started:
- Increase your veggie intake by at least one serving per week
- Choose a veggie that you’ve never tried, or that you don’t usually like; try cooking it a few different ways until you find a recipe that you really like
- Try a new vegetable recipe each week – how about this recipe for Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper Relish?
Remember! Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, corn, and some winter squash, are high in carbs and can raise blood glucose, so eat these in moderation.
Track Your Blood Glucose. Your eating pattern should be tailored to your preferences and how your body reacts to different foods. Instead of radically changing your diet this month, commit to closely tracking your blood glucose and taking notes about the effects of different foods, stress or physical activity, and time of day. You can try picking a specific meal, like breakfast, and monitor the changes to your blood glucose before and after that meal. Knowing all the different factors that can raise or lower your blood glucose will help you decide what’s best for you going forward.
Go Lean. Protein is an important part of every diet, but some animal protein sources are high in saturated fat. There are lots of ways to cut back on saturated fat, like swapping lean ground turkey for ground beef, or trying a plant-based protein such as tofu. Try out this recipe for Sensational Chicken Burgers.
Get Physical. Ok, this one isn’t food-related, but physical activity is just as important as healthy eating. Start with small steps (literally!) by finding ways to add more physical activity to your day—take the stairs whenever possible; set an alarm to walk for a few minutes every hour; if you have a fitness tracker or pedometer, set a step goal and stick to it; or go for a quick walk after dinner. You can also be active while sitting by doing things like arm raises and seated leg lifts during commercial breaks. There are lots of small ways to be more physically active; find something that works for you this month!
Rethink your Drink. Want to cut out added sugar and calories—stop drinking them! There are lots of options for making smarter beverage choices, including smaller serving sizes, diet varieties, or, best of all, just drinking more water.
JuneChoose Whole Grains. Whole grains are packed with fiber and nutrients that can help with managing blood glucose, especially compared to refined grains. This month, swap refined grains like white bread, pasta, and rice for their whole grain varieties (look for “100% whole grain” on the label). Or, try a new whole grain like farro, wheat berries, bulgur or quinoa.
Eat Even More Veggies. We’re halfway through the year—have you maintained the habit you started in January of eating more servings of veggies? Try adding even more servings this month!
Eat More Fish. The ultimate in lean protein! Fish are also loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Try incorporating fish into at least one meal each week this month. Try out this recipe for Budget-Friendly Salmon Burgers.
**Fish can be expensive, so if cost is an issue, try less expensive things like canned tuna or salmon, or frozen fish filets. When fresh fish is on sale, buy a bunch and freeze it for later.
Get Cooking. Cooking at home means more control over portion size, ingredients, and cooking methods, plus it’s usually cheaper than eating out. This month, commit to one whole week of making all of your meals at home. The more you cook, the easier it gets - After a week of cooking all your meals at home, you’re sure to feel more confident in the kitchen, and you may even start to have fun! Check out these articles on meal planning to help you get started.
Go Meatless. Eating more meatless meals can help you cut back on saturated fat and make more room for veggies. You don’t have to go full vegetarian—try having one meatless meal a day, or try “Meatless Mondays,” where you don’t eat any meat for one day a week. Browse our vegetarian recipes for inspiration.
Celebrate your success! Instead of stressing about staying healthy over the holidays, take a look back on your year of healthy living and celebrate your progress! Making gradual changes means it may be hard to notice how much progress you’ve made. How are you doing now compared to the beginning of the year? Have you remembered to stay active during the cold winer months? Where have you been most successful, and what led to that success?
Choose your own adventure! You’ve made a lot of progress over 11 months, and you’ve taken stock of your progress—you know best where you want to go from here! If you're having trouble picking a goal for December, look back and see which month was the most challenging and start there. Choose a goal to finish out the year strong, and start thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2020!