New Year – Lasting Resolutions
A New Year – a time for new beginnings and New Year resolutions. With diet-related resolutions being top of the list for many people, Dr. Catherine Logan, Nutrition Manager in the National Dairy Council, provides practical advice for successful changes which can last.
Take the Time this New Year
With the start of a fresh, new year, take some time out to consider your diet and eating habits. Sounds simple, but the reality is there are many factors influencing what we eat.
Despite the best of intentions, you may be coming across barriers which make healthy options difficult. Identifying these barriers can help you prepare to deal with them. On a positive note, once you identify underlying causes or contributors to unhealthy habits – simple, appropriate changes can make a huge difference.
Identifying the Barriers
A useful starting tip is to keep a food diary for a week – make sure the days you keep this diary represent your typical routine. Write a note of all the foods and drinks you consume and any other information which might be helpful in understanding your dietary habits and identifying what is getting in the way of you enjoying healthier options.
The morning rush is often a barrier to having a breakfast. This New Year commit to making time for breakfast each morning. Porridge made with milk or a high-fibre ready-to-eat breakfast cereal with warm milk are great ways to start these cold mornings. Seasonal fruit salads with natural yogurt or wholegrain toast are other great breakfast foods. Or, why not simply whiz up a smoothie using your favourite fruit and yogurt or milk.
If healthy food choices are not convenient or available to you during the working day, prepare by bringing a packed lunch to work which also includes healthy snack options.
Be prepared when it comes to dinner too. Ensure fresh and healthy options are available throughout the week by making a list before going shopping.
Know the Facts
Here in Ireland, the Food Pyramid provides healthy eating guidelines and is designed for adults and children over the age of five years. As part of a balanced diet, the Food Pyramid recommends three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group per day, with this recommendation increasing to five daily servings for those aged 9-18 years. Low-fat options are advised and examples of one serving include a 200ml glass of milk, a 125ml carton of yogurt or 25g of cheddar-type cheese.
At this time of year, fad weight loss or ‘detox’ diets are all too common. These diets tend to be extreme and unbalanced. Getting to know the healthy eating guidelines will help you to make the necessary dietary changes which can benefit your health in the long-term.
A Balancing Act
Weight loss and weight maintenance are popular New Year’s resolutions. A nutritionally adequate diet is still important, however, even when trying to lose or control weight. A healthy, balanced diet and a physically active lifestyle remain the cornerstone for effective weight management.
Dairy is often misunderstood when it comes to body weight management. The fact is that the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group can easily be included in a weight loss or a weight maintenance diet. This food group offers a range of choices with lower-fat options remaining important sources of nutrients. In addition, they are a convenient, tasty, readily available and affordable source of nutrition.
Dairy offers many nutritional benefits for various life-stages. Milk, yogurt and cheese are important sources of calcium which is needed for the growth, development and maintenance of bones, as well as being sources of protein which contributes to the maintenance of muscle mass.
These foods are easily enjoyed as a snack ranging simply from a carton of yogurt to a glass of milk or from a milk-based smoothie to a yogurt-based dip with vegetables bites. They are also versatile and flavoursome ingredients in cooking and baking.
Physical activity is central to a healthy lifestyle. The National Guidelines on Physical Activity provide guidelines and advice regarding physical activity – for adults, these guidelines state at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity on 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week), with further and more specific guidelines for weight management – see www.getirelandactive.ie
Good intentions are high at this time of year, but it is important to be realistic. Gradual and effective changes, which can become new habits, are recommended for long-term success.
Don’t underestimate the power of support and encouragement from family and friends either. This doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. Other family members are likely to benefit if healthy changes are introduced into the home; while your inspiration may be the motivation friends are waiting on.
Summary: Healthier Diets – Tips for Lasting Success
1. Try keeping a food diary to track your dietary habits and to identify barriers to healthy eating. Make positive changes which will help you follow a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle. Remember to be realistic, with gradual but effective changes being key to long-term success.
2. Follow healthy eating guidelines – familiarise yourself with the food pyramid and other reliable sources of information from qualified professionals.
3. If trying to lose weight, beware of fad diets which tend to be extreme and unbalanced. A healthy, balanced diet and a physically active lifestyle is the recommended approach for effective weight management.
4. Be it diet or exercise – planning, organisation and preparation can help ensure the healthy option is also the easy and convenient option.
5. Support and encouragement from family and friends can be a key ingredient when it comes to diet and lifestyle changes. This does not have to be a lonely journey. You may even inspire others!