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Secrets of Healthy Eating Unveiled

Tips for Keeping Motivated

Start the new year right with these healthy eating tips.

By Karen Angelo

Making resolutions is the easy part. Keeping them is the challenge.

Many think of the new year as a chance to start with a clean slate, evaluate our lives and commit to making changes. These promises, or resolutions we make to ourselves, often involve improving our health.

One of the most common resolutions - eating healthier and losing weight – is also one of the hardest to stick to.

Asst. Prof. Mindy Dopler Nelson of the Clinical Laboratories and Nutritional Sciences Department studies effective weight management interventions to prevent diseases. A new faculty member in the nutritional sciences program in the School of Health and Environment, Nelson shares tips for keeping motivated to eat healthy all year long:

  • Set small goals to improve the chances of success. 
The reason many people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions is because they set ideal unrealistic goals, not practical achievable goals. The secret is to build flexibility into your goals to prevent the feeling of defeat when circumstances change. For example, instead of setting a goal to “never eat chocolate again,” a more practical goal would be “to eat chocolate on special occasions,” as long as every day isn’t a special occasion. Another example is to eat decadent foods in smaller portions. It is the all-or-nothing thinking that is a set up for failure. If you don’t reach your ideal goal, you may blame your inability to succeed on a lack of motivation, but the problem was probably the goal itself.

  • Decide what eating healthy means for you. 
When deciding what to eat, you should consider your current health. For example, if you have insulin resistance or diabetes, you may be more successful in weight loss and improving lipid profiles (such as lowering triacylglycerides) by limiting refined or processed carbohydrates and reducing total carbohydrate intake to less than 50 percent of your total caloric intake. 
If you are healthy and want to lose weight, experiment with the distribution of your calories. Some people lose more weight reducing their carbohydrates while others lose more weight reducing their dietary fat. Carbohydrates should be rich in fiber and low in added sugar. While protein is very satisfying, select lean cuts, except for special occasions. If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), skip the table salt and try some of the spice blends available at the supermarket. Read the ingredients to make sure that salt isn’t among the first five listed. 

  • Eat more of what grows from the soil. 
Eat more vegetables and fruit and less of manufactured foods with multiple “unknown” ingredients. During the winter, fruit choices do not have to be limited to fresh. Add thawed frozen berries to a bowl of hot oatmeal or unsweetened canned fruit to Greek or plain yogurt to increase variety. 
When raw apples lose their appeal, instead of making apple pie, remove the core and sprinkle slices with cinnamon and bake. They can be eaten warm alone or added to oatmeal or mixed into yogurt. For staying power, add some almonds or walnuts. You can also add vegetables to soup to make it chunky, which can be very satisfying. 

  • Eat more lean proteins and grains. 
Beans combined with fiber-rich grains are quite filling. Instead of the usual rice, pasta or potato, try quinoa, whole wheat couscous or bulgur. A tasty way to prepare them is to brown them in a dry skillet and add broth (one part grain to three parts broth) and simmer about 15 minutes until tender. Quinoa is an ancient grain that is high in protein and usually needs rinsing before cooking. 
Don’t be afraid to experiment. These grains taste great alone or when added to sautéed vegetables. 

  • Make a game plan. 

  • Know that small steps add up to big changes. 
For each time that you slip, assess how you would have done it differently and commit that you will do it the next time. Remember why you are doing this and remind yourself that you are worth it.
Asst. Prof. Mindy Dopler Nelson offers tips on how to eat healthy all year.