As 2016 comes to a close and we're finishing off the last of the leftover turkey and sweet potato casserole, we start looking ahead to 2017. But while most New Year's resolutions have the best intentions, it's rare that they all end up sticking with us. In fact, less than half of resolution makers report success with carrying out their resolutions, according to a 2016 study by Statistic Brain. But have heart: New Year's resolutions can be attainable if we simply adjust our perspective and set the right goals. We talked to top dietitians about how to make lasting New Year's resolutions that can have a positive impact on your health — sans deprivation or fad dieting.
1. Focus on "Yes"
Sick of resolutions demanding that you cut out this or that? So is Tori Schmitt, a registered dietitian based in Ohio. "Focus on the foods you should be saying 'yes' to, not the ones you should be saying 'no' to," she says. "Zeroing in on the positive — such as enjoying healthy, delicious food rather than vowing to cut out desserts or snacks forever — may make you feel less restricted and less likely to overeat later." So go ahead and start dreaming about all the healthful, scrumptious foods you can (and should) eat.
2. Practice Body Positivity
In the past few years, body positivity has moved from relatively niche to totally mainstream. And you should keep this trend going strong in 2017, recommends Maggie Michalczyk, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist. This means nixing the inner running commentary on your perceived aesthetic flaws. "Instead of obsessing about the shape of your legs, tweak that thought into something positive about what your legs allow you to do," she says. "Thinking 'my legs let me run three miles today' or 'these strong legs completed that workout' will set into motion thoughts that will drive other healthy behaviors, including choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables."
3. Create a Weekly Meal Plan
Asking "what's for dinner tonight" makes it all too easy to grab some convenient (usually less-than-healthy) options, so New Jersey-based registered dietitian nutritionist Mandy Unanski Enright recommends setting aside time each week to create a menu. "Planning is the key to success when it comes to a healthy lifestyle," she says. "Start by making a dinner plan and the rest of the meals will fall into place." Inventory the ingredients you already have on hand, search for meals that fit them and then create grocery lists to pick up what you need. Cross off each day of the week as you finish it to stay accountable, she recommends.
4. Up Your Label Savvy
Sure, you've got the basics of labeling down pat: calories, protein, serving size and so on. But 2017 is a great time to take your knowledge of label lingo to the next level. Check out the ingredients list to avoid foods loaded with preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, MSG and hydrogenated fats, says Rebecca Lewis, registered dietitian at HelloFresh. And use the nutrition values to find out if a food is worth your investment. "There should be one gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbs," she says. "And the milligrams of sodium shouldn't exceed the total calories."
5. Give Your Gut a Workout
Challenging your digestive system is likely something you'd typically associate more with a New Year's Eve party than with a New Year's resolution, but it's a great goal for 2017, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. "Focusing on foods that are harder to digest keeps you fuller and more satisfied for longer periods of time," she says. "You'll eat less and will most likely be getting more nutrient density." She recommends swapping whole-wheat pasta for a bean-based alternative, topping your toast with a source of fat (like almond butter or avocado) instead of sugary jam and snacking on jicama, a veggie loaded with gut-friendly prebiotics.
6. Limit Sugar Intake
Let's face it: Eliminating sugar entirely just isn't realistic. But sugar is a major source of calories that doesn't provide much nutrition, so you should limit your intake in 2017, recommends Jackie Arnett Elnahar, a registered dietitian based in New York. Save your sugar splurge for sweets you really love by cutting down on "hidden" sugars, such as those found in juices, yogurt and condiments. The American Heart Association recommends that men and women limit their daily intake to 37.5 grams and 25 grams, respectively.
7. Spice Up Your Life
The right seasonings can take your healthy cooking from "blah" to next-level cuisine. Lisa Cohn, registered dietitian at miVIP Surgery Centers in California, recommends cooking with more spices in 2017. "Spices and herbs soothe and strengthen our bodies' systems and reduce the kind of inflammation common in chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancers," she says. She recommends ginger as an all-natural digestive aid and immune booster and mint for its anti-inflammatory properties.
8. Eat Mindfully
If you tend to stress eat or skip meals only to binge later, resolve to eat more mindfully in 2017. "At birth, we are hardwired with innate hunger and satiety cues," says Beth Witherspoon, registered dietitian nutritionist at Community Coffee Company. "Over time, some individuals lose track of listening for these cues and instead may eat when they are tired, stressed or bored." Not sure where to start? Listen for a grumbling tummy, pay attention to how you feel before and after eating each meal, and eat at the table without distractions from your TV, phone or laptop.
9. Portion Your Snack Foods in Advance
All the calorie counting and healthy eating in the world won't help you maintain (or lose) weight if you're eating larger-than-intended portions, so make this the year about portion control, recommends Bethany Diggett, registered dietitian nutritionist at The University of Kansas Hospital. "If portion sizes are hard for you to stick to, premeasure all snacks into their individual serving sizes and place them into snack bags," she says. "This will allow you to grab a single serving without being tempted to continue munching."
10. Think Beyond Your Diet
Dietitians know that the real path to success is a holistic approach to wellness that goes beyond diet alone. "A healthy life depends upon satisfaction (does the food you eat make you feel good?), sleep, activity and social fulfillment, among others," says Schmitt. "Pause and assess how you're feeling in each area of wellness, and work on those areas where you may be able to earn easy health gains."
What Do YOU Think?
What are your biggest health goals heading into the New Year? Would you make any of the resolutions listed above? Share your 2017 resolutions in the comments section below!