UK HealthCare

Make those New Year's resolutions stick with simple nutrition changes

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The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Shorus M. Minella, registered dietitian at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 9, 2023) — New year, new you, right? It’s the time of year when we all make promises to ourselves to improve our health. It’s easy to say you’re going to swear off sugar, but you might find yourself giving into temptation after a week or two. Making big, sweeping changes can be hard to keep up. It might sound counterintuitive, but small changes can have the biggest impact. Here are some tips on how to make a new year’s resolution last all year — and beyond.

Reflect. You don’t have to keep a diary of everything you eat and drink, but pay attention to your eating habits. Do you go for sweets when you’re stressed? Do you find yourself snacking when you’re bored? By focusing on your behavior around those eating habits, you can find ways to substitute healthy habits.

Replace. You can’t always avoid or change a stressful situation, but you can change how you cope. If you find yourself eating when you are experiencing an emotion besides hunger, such as boredom or anxiety, try to find a non-eating activity to do instead.

If you snack when you’re bored, focus your energy on another activity, such as going for a walk or calling a friend. Instead of a sugary beverage, drink water instead. Instead of buttery garlic bread at dinner, have an extra serving of vegetables. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods — instead focus on making small substitutions whenever you can.

Reinforce. Habits take time to develop, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. One day of unhealthy eating isn’t going to derail your progress.

Setting big, unrealistic goals such as losing 20 pounds in two weeks can make you feel defeated and discouraged. Set some small, short-term goals. If your long-term goal is to lose 20 pounds, start with some smaller goals such as adding an extra serving of fruit or vegetables to one meal a day or go for a walk after dinner. You’ll be surprised how quickly these new habits will add up.

Reward. Celebrate your success! Recognize when you’re meeting your goals and be proud of your progress. Treat yourself to a non-food reward, such as a fun outing with friends. Rewards help keep you motivated on the path to better health.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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