It's the beginning of a brand new year, and you probably have some things you'd like to see yourself accomplish. The calendar's flip often ushers in a new period of commitment (or recommitment) to personal goals, whether that's exercising more, eating better, giving back, being more responsible with our finances or all of the above.
If your intention this year is to improve your diet, you are not alone. Exercising and sticking to a healthier diet are the two most common goals this year according to a recent YouGov.com poll.
While the beginning of a new year is an exciting time to set our long-term priorities, it can also be overwhelming to attempt a complete overhaul of our behaviors and routines. When setting wellness goals for the new year, make sure to keep things simple, streamlined and wholesome. Don’t worry about strict rules with lists of do's and don’ts.
Focus on the key fundamentals:
- Limiting added sugars and white carbs.
- Emphasizing lean proteins.
- Incorporating tons of vegetables, and some fruits (mostly berries).
- Using plant-based fats when possible.
- Finding what works for your lifestyle, taste, budget and schedule.
There are also a couple of specific things you can do to maximize the impact of these general nutritional changes.
Making positive nutritional changes goes far behind improving our physical appearance. Losing weight and eating more healthfully have both short and long-term effects on our overall health. Your diet plays a role in everything from your ability to lower your personal cancer risk to improving heart health and cognitive abilities.
As registered dietitians, we have many tools at our disposal to help you maximize your goals and get the most out of your health commitment. Below, I've outlined different nutritional steps you can change in addition to modifying your diet.
Work with a registered dietitian on an individualized plan for you.
As a registered dietitian myself, it’s no surprise that my top recommendation for sustained, lasting improvements is to work one-on-one with a registered dietitian who can tailor a nutrition plan to suit your needs!
Measure your metabolism with REE or resting energy expenditure.
An REE or resting energy expenditure test is a breathing test that measures oxygen in and carbon dioxide out and calculates a metabolic rate to determine how many calories you burn in a resting state. The results provide a baseline calorie range that your registered dietitian will use to factor in calories burned through both rigorous and non-purposeful exercise as well as daily movement. The Ochsner Fitness Center Nutrition team offers REE tests and interested parties can email email@example.com for more details. Prices typically start around $50.
Measure body fat with BIA or bioelectrical impedance
Measuring your body composition encompasses measuring total body fat as well as lean mass (muscle mass, skeletal mass and water). Many fitness centers use InBody bioelectrical impedance analysis to track body composition. While not as precise as dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry or DEXA analysis, it is cost-effective and still shows the trend of body composition over time. The Ochsner Fitness Center Nutrition team also offers InBody analysis. Prices typically start around $15 — email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Keep a food log.
The National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept this weight off for at least a year, says that food journaling is one of the most common behaviors among successful weight losers. Journaling doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a quick note of meals or snacks. This increase in awareness of habits can translate to a change in behaviors, which is essential for losing weight and more importantly, keeping the weight off.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jan. 4, 2018. For more details on tips to keep your New Year resolutions on track, check out my original article on WGNO.