As a registered dietitian, my patients are full of healthy eating resolutions come January 1st. And I get it—this is a chance for a completely fresh start. But achieving your goals doesn't have to be boring or restrictive. In fact, it shouldn't be.
To help you start your new year with a bang, I checked in with 27 of my registered dietitian colleagues to get their best out-of-the-box-tips for healthy eating. Here is their advice on how to make 2017 your healthiest year yet . Hint: there are no diets involved, and that's for a reason: You're much more likely to make healthy eating part of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle when you don't feel restricted and when it fits into your life naturally. Registered dietitians know this—we know how hard it can be to do total overhauls, and we also know how unrealistic that is as an expectation. The key to healthy eating , in the new year and also all year long, is to make it an enjoyable and easy-enough experience that makes you feel good and becomes self-reinforcing. These tips should hit the right notes. Here's to a new year of healthy eating and feeling great!
1. Kick the strict, boring diet to the curb.
New Year’s resolutions often equate to adopting a strict diet, and boredom is one of the top reasons that we ditch those meal plans after a few weeks or months. Instead, focus on eating more healthy foods that you enjoy, and then mixing up those foods every week or so. Don't like kale? Leave it. Add in some spinach or romaine instead. This prevents boredom and helps you look forward to eating your meals and snacks. —Lauren Minchen, NYC-based RDN and founder of Lauren Minchen Nutrition and Golda Bar
2. Start a recipe club with friends.
Similar to a book club, start a recipe club with friends. Assign dishes (appetizer, salad, main meal, dessert) and meet once a month to enjoy good food and swap recipes. You can even focus on different types of meal plans each month (vegetarian, gluten-free etc.). Collect all of the recipe cards you make throughout the year and create a recipe book to give to friends and family over the holidays. —Malena Perdomo , MS, RD, and certified diabetes educator consultant, writer, cookbook author, spokesperson
3. Strategically leave healthy snacks around.
Create a healthy snack bag with non-perishable items and leave it in your car. Include healthy breakfast bars, nuts like almonds, and dried fruit as well as a bottle of water. This will ensure you always have a healthy snack wherever you go, and you won't be tempted to stop by a drive-through or convenience store when you get hungry. —Emily Cope, MS, RDN at EmilyKyleNutrition.com
4. At home, keep your freezer stocked with frozen fruit.
With less variety of fresh fruit during the winter months, eating frozen fruit is a great way to have your favorites year-round, and to make sure you get your recommended daily servings. Often times frozen fruit can be more nutritious than fresh fruit since it’s packaged shortly after being harvested. Throw a handful into your hot oatmeal or layer them with yogurt for a parfait—just make sure there isn't any added sugar. One of my favorite things to do is defrost ¼ cup of frozen berries, mash them up with the natural juices, and use as your own homemade ‘jam.’ —Maxine Yeung, a California-based RD, CPT and owner of The Wellness Whisk
5. Set SMART goals.
One very successful method for getting my clients to achieve their goals is using the SMART strategy. A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, and time specific. For example: I am going to go to the gym at least three times a week for the first month, and during the second month my goal is to make it to the gym at least four times a week. You got this! —Hadis Ghoghaie Schertzer , RDN at Genesis Healthcare
6. And create goal checkpoints.
At the beginning of the year, schedule monthly, or weekly alerts on your phone to take 15 minutes to assess goal progress. Use these reminders as opportunities to reflect and to make any adjustments so that you keep moving forward. —Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition
7. Focus on what you can eat, not what you cannot.
Instead of spending time and energy excluding foods you think are "bad," redirect your efforts to including more nutrient-rich foods and you will automatically crowd out the less healthy options. Start by trying to add one fruit and one vegetable to your daily intake. —Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of Nutrition Starring You
8. Replace sugary drinks with water or seltzer.
Sugary beverages include sodas as well as iced tea, lemonade, juices, etc. Try drinking more water or seltzer instead—you can even add slices of your favorite fruit such as lemons, limes, oranges, berries, cucumbers, and even fresh mint. —Marie Keogh, MPH, RD, CDN, CLC, NYC-based dietitian at Mount Sinai Queens and Forest Hills Wellness
9. Make your food gorgeous.
Eating healthier starts with making healthy food more appetizing and worthy of display! Try storing produce in see-through containers in your fridge or in a pretty fruit bowl on the counter. Not only do we typically eat more of what we can see, but if it looks good, it can be one less barrier to making healthy happen. —Carlene Thomas RDN, LD, recipe developer, food stylist, and creator of Healthfully Ever After
10. Sit down and make a plan for the week.
Set aside 30 minutes each week to sit down with your calendar and plan the week ahead. Schedule your workouts, plan your meals, and make your shopping list. A little bit of planning on the front end not only saves you time throughout the week by cutting out the guesswork, but it also sets an intention for success. —Sarika Sewak MPH, RDN, Los Angeles-based dietitian and creator of Little Legumes Nutrition
11. Focus on eating a healthy, protein-rich breakfast.
Eat a breakfast rich in protein to help you feel full longer and have the energy you need to power through your day. Aiming for 25 to 30 grams of protein before noon can be easily accomplished—and equally delicious—when you pair a glass of milk with your eggs and avocado toast, or with your favorite fruit-topped overnight oats. Aim for protein sources that are also rich in other nutrients such as milk (8 grams of protein per cup plus nine other essential nutrients), nuts like almonds and pistachios are packed with protein, healthy fat, and fiber, or eggs (they’re also rich in lutein, choline, and certain B vitamins). —Holley Grainger, MS, RD, blogger at Holley Grainger Nutrition
12. If you have kiddos, get them involved in the kitchen.
Once a week, cook a meal with your children. Start from fresh, real foods. You'll be sharing precious time with them, teaching them about eating well, and enjoying a lovely meal together. —Katja Leccisi , MS, RDN, author of How To Feed Your Kids: Four Steps To Raising Healthy Eaters
13. Eat fish 2-3 times per week.
Most Americans aren’t eating enough seafood, which means they’re missing out on all the important benefits including improvements in heart health . Seafood can be enjoyed as part of a salad, in a taco, or even in your favorite pasta dish. —Kristen Smith , Atlanta-based registered dietitian specializing in weight management and family nutrition
14. And enjoy a cooked vegetable dish as a main course twice a week.
This is probably the single most important thing you can do to increase your intake of vegetables. Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes, and herbs. Common vegetables to use are green beans, peas, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli. Accompany with cheese and a slice of whole wheat bread. —Elena Paravantes , RDN, Mediterranean diet consultant, HuffPo columnist and health editor at Olive Oil Times
15. Make being healthy a friendly contest, with rewards.
Put that new 2016 calendar to use by creating a fitness attendance contest among the people in your home, whether they are your spouse, roommate, or family. Come up with a system for marking on the calendar each time an individual completes a workout. The person who does the most workouts at the end of the month earns a prize, and aim to make the reward non-food related, such as a massage, manicure, or shopping spree. In the event of a tie, have a silly tiebreaker such as seeing who can do the most burpees in one minute or can hold a plank the longest. —Mandy Unanski Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, creator of Nutrition Nuptials
16. Be mindful of portions.
Sometimes when we exercise or lose a little bit of weight, we want to indulge in a high-calorie treat because we feel we’ve “earned it.” This can be a slippery slope that can interfere with your plans to eat healthy. Instead, be mindful of your portions and find other ways to reward yourself like getting yourself a massage, a new outfit, or just relaxing with a friend. —Atheer Yacoub, MS, RD, CDN, research dietitian at Columbia University, and director of operations at the nutrition scheduling service bekuju.com
17. And that includes loading your plate with lots of vegetables.
Try to fill half your plate with colorful seasonal fruits and vegetables, and then split the rest between lean protein and whole grains. This is a simple way to easily achieve variety, portion control, and helps to maximize your meal’s nutritional bang. —Vandana Sheth , RDN, CDE, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
18. Try your best to think ahead.
If you know you're going to have a busy day, prepare a smoothie first thing in the morning. Be sure to include the fruits or vegetables that might not be convenient to eat later in the day. When your schedule has you crazed and you're tempted to eat whatever sweets are around, you can simply have sips of your nutritious and delicious smoothie. By the end of the day, you've consumed extra fruits and veggies without going overboard on the sweets. —Jillian O'Neil , New York City-based registered dietitian
19. Make exercise a habit.
Let’s say you have a 30-minute lunch break, yet only use 15 minutes of it for eating. Head outdoors for the remaining 10-15 minutes and go for a power walk! If you can make this happen three or four workdays each week, you will quickly be tacking on almost a full hour of exercise! Small steps can make a big difference. —Jessica Corwin , MPH, RD, food and nutrition educator at Good Food For Kids
20. And wear that fitness tracker you received as a gift.
Wearing a fitness tracker may encourage you to get in some extra steps. Even if the step counts are not 100 percent accurate, pedometers have been shown ) to motivate and increase physical activity. —Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition
21. Consider the “fork trick” to prevent overeating.
Use your non-dominant hand when you eat. It naturally slows you down because you have to try and steady your food to get it to your mouth. And eat until you’re comfortably full. In other words, stop eating at the start of feeling full. —Lisa Musician , RD, LDN, founder and president of Food Allergy Dietitian, Inc
22. Eat organic when possible.
Think critically about where your food comes from: Ask yourself who produced it and under what conditions? Eating well in the new year isn’t just about calories and nutrients. It’s about the impact our food and farming choices have on our larger society and planet. I choose for myself, and recommend to others, organic food because it meets my criteria for helping to protect my family’s health, farm worker health, and that of the planet. —Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD, host of nationally syndicated Food Sleuth Radio
23. And don't forget to be smart about eating out.
When eating out, preview the menu online ahead of time so you know what options will be available when you get there. That way you can make a healthy selection before you arrive and can avoid getting caught up with any in-the-moment temptations. —Annette Schottenfeld, MBA, RD, CDN, president of Nett Nutrition, Inc .
24. Treat yourself to some new gym gear.
My advice…Treat yourself! Put all those gift cards to good use and hit up the post-holiday sales for new gym gear . Whether it's a killer pair of powerlifting shoes, eye-catching graphic leggings, or a fresh new yoga mat, you're sure to be inspired to go out and accomplish your athletic endeavors. You deserve it. —Nicole Rodriguez , RDN, NASM-CPT featured contributor at greensuperfoods.us
25. Then wear that gear often!
Schedule your exercise like it is an important appointment or date. If I have a class to go to, it is in my schedule! So when I have yoga on Wednesdays at 8 AM, seeing it on my schedule reminds me to set aside clothes the night before. And try scheduling different types of exercise (like yoga, Zumba, walking with friends, etc.) throughout the month to help prevent boredom. —Emma Fogt MBA, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND
26. Go ahead and splurge every once in awhile.
Embrace and enjoy your favorite indulgence, whether it's chocolate cake, French fries, or a glass of wine. Instead of trying to ban them from your healthy kingdom, plan to enjoy them in moderation. Can you commit to enjoying French fries only once per week (instead of daily)? Then you're already making healthy changes for the New Year! —Carolyn O'Neil , MS RDN author of The Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon
27. And finally, remember…perfection isn't the goal.
Instead, create an intention each morning when you get up and have it be one that is easy and doable. You can be healthy 80 percent of the time and that still counts as perfectly healthy! —Chere Bork, MS RDN owner of Savor Your Life Today
For more tips and tricks for nutritious living from Jessica, check out her website, Food Heaven Made Easy .
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