New Year's resolutions: Tips for making an effective plan to eat healthier

“In my practice I hear people say, ‘This year I’m going to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds.’ That’s not specific enough."

Vancouver dietitian and clinical practice lead Nina Hirvi suggests making specific and achievable goals

Vancouver dietician Nina Hirvi says people shouldn't make resolutions about losing a certain number of pounds, but should make specific, achievable behavioural changes instead — such as eating four cups of produce a day, for example. (Getty Images)

Those who are making resolutions to eat and live healthier in 2016 should follow a well-known business acronym and make specific, achievable goals, says a Vancouver dietitian.

"In business we follow S.M.A.R.T goals," said dietitian and clinical practice lead Nina Hirvi, referring to the acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

"In my practice I hear people say, 'This year I'm going to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds.' That's not specific enough," she said.

"People fail because they make lofty goals, they have high expectations of themselves. Because people don't think it through, they fail to succeed, which causes frustration."

Make specific behavioural changes

Hirvi recommends that people make changes that are specific to them, and to start small.

"If you're a person who eats out five times a week, [decide] 'I'm going to practice eating out twice a week. I'm going to bring my lunch from home so I don't eat out'," she said.

"It can be as little as shopping twice a week, making sure that every day you're having four cups of produce."

When it comes to portion control, and limiting overeating, Hirvi recommends:

  • being mindful about what one is eating, i.e. eating slowly.
  • putting the knife and fork down between bites to slow down.
  • rating one's hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 before eating i.e. 3 at the beginning, 7 at the finish.
  • planning and preparing meals in advance, to prevent overeating if one is tired and indecisive at the end of the day.

Hirvi said she also understands that fruits and vegetables can sometimes be more expensive than junk food, but said to consider it a worthwhile "investment."

She recommends looking for fruits and vegetables that are in season, as those will be more reasonable, and also consider eating more legumes.

"They are the powerhouse of nutrition really, they are high fibre, have a little bit of carbohydrate, tons of folic acid, a decent amount of protein, and they are really inexpensive," she said.

"So they give you the benefit of a lot of plants and fruits and vegetables, but they're in the bean form, they're in an even more complete package," she said.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver dietitian offers tips on how to make healthy eating resolutions that are less likely to fail


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