The new year is seen as a chance for new beginnings, but so many resolutions tend to fall off the wagon within the first few months. Our resident dietitian Melissa Meier offers up 21 goals that are easy to stick to for a healthier 2021.
Lose 30 kilos! Run a marathon! Give up booze for good! Do you have a big goal like these in mind for 2021? You go girl. But before you go hell for leather on the first of January, here’s my advice: break your endgame into smaller, more achievable milestones.
Think of it this way: if you’re trying to lose weight, ‘eating better’ is a pretty ambiguous thing to aim for. Why not try drinking more water? Or eating more veg? Or only having dessert once or twice a week? Over time, this will add up to sustainable, healthy practices that are just second nature – and you won’t find yourself back in the same predicament come next December 31.
To give you a helping hand with breaking those B-I-G hopes and dreams into smaller, more achievable goals, here are 21 healthy habits I’d encourage you to build into your routine in 2021. Not all of them, and certainly not all at once – take what will work for you and your health will certainly be better for it by this time next year.
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21 healthy New Year’s resolutions for 2021
1. Forget the ‘all or nothing’ mindset
Trying to be perfect will get you nowhere. Remember: all foods fit in a healthy diet, so there’s no need to feel guilty for eating them.
2. Drink more water
Morning, noon and night. Carry a water bottle with you and choose it over calorie-rich, sugar-laden soft drinks, energy drinks and juices.
3. Eat. More. Veg
Boring, I know – but they’re just so damn good for you and nobody eats enough. Incorporate veggies into all of your main meals (yes, even breakfast) and your between-meal snacks.
4. Switch to wholegrains
Wholegrains contain all three natural layers of the grain, as opposed to refined grains which contain only one, so they’re far more nutrient-dense. Swap white bread for brown bread, white rice for brown rice, white pasta for brown pasta. You get the idea.
5. Love carbs
They’re not bad for you. In fact, they’re an essential component of a healthy meal because they provide you with energy and help to balance your blood sugars. Focus on low-GI and/or wholegrain carbs like rolled oats, wholegrain bread and sweet potato.
6. Cut back on processed snacks
They’re usually far from real food and contain eye-watering amounts of added sugar, salt and/or saturated fat.
7. Try a new fruit or vegetable
Each and every week. The more variety in your diet, the better, because different foods provide different micronutrients.
8. Focus on colour
As per point seven. Eat a rainbow of fruit and veg so you get the full complement of disease-fighting antioxidants our fruit and veg supply has to offer.
9. Buy smaller plates
The average plate size has increased over the last few decades, which makes plating up a sensibly-portioned, calorie-controlled meal hard. Smaller plates = a trick up your sleeve to help you cut back on over-sized portions without noticing.
10. Ignore bogus fad diets
They’re called ‘fads’ for a reason – they come and go, but never stick around because they’re unsustainable and unrealistic (and often based on nutrition nonsense).
11. Incorporate some plant-based meals
Meat isn’t innately bad for you, but most people eat far too much. Throw a few vego meals into your weekly repertoire to help strike a better balance.
12. Introduce legumes
They’re packed with plant-based protein, low-GI carbs, gut-loving fibre and are oh-so-good for you. Try to eat lentils, chickpeas and beans every single week.
13. Check your calcium intake
With the skyrocketing popularity of plant-based ‘mylks’ on offer, it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people’s calcium intake has reduced – which is a worry given that many of us don’t get enough in the first place. If you’re not into dairy, it’ll pay to check that your alternative is fortified with calcium, or make the switch to one that is.
14. Season differently
Salt is packed with sodium, which is bad for heart health. Instead of turning into salt bae, infuse your meals with flavour from fresh herbs, spices and chilli.
15. Cut back on booze
You don’t have to give it up for good if you don’t want to – but the less you drink, the better. At a minimum, include two alcohol-free nights per week.
16. Ignore your favourite wellness guru
Of course, they mean well, but often their advice is not grounded in science. You wouldn’t go to a plumber for legal advice, so why go to anyone other than a dietitian for nutrition advice?
17. Cook at home more
You’ll likely eat less salt and saturated fat, and you’ll probably plate up a far more sensible portion, too.
18. Don’t waste money in health food stores
You can build a perfectly healthy diet on the cheap staple foods your local supermarket supplies. Goodbye spirulina powder, acai bowls and collagen supplements, hello savings.
19. Stop restricting yourself
It’s ok to eat chocolate. And the hot chips. And the ice cream. But instead of eating them every single day or wiping them off the menu for good, focus on enjoying them as a treat occasionally and in moderation, when you really feel like them.
20. Stop counting calories
For good health, the quality of your diet is far more important than the number of calories you put into your body. Focus on eating the right balance of healthy foods, and the right calorie intake will follow.
21. Try mindful eating
Listen to your body rather than eating just because it’s mealtime. Put down your phone, sit at the table and turn off the television. You’ll get far more out of the eating experience and learn to better regulate your intake and appetite.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.